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Реферат: Customs and traditions of Great Britain

     Customs and traditions
English customs and traditions, first of all, concerns United Kingdom
political system. In Great Britain there is no written constitution, only
customs, traditions and precedents. After the English Revolution of Great
Britain is a constitutional monarchy headed by King (now Queen, Elizabeth the
second). Traditionally the Queen acts only on the advice of her Ministers.
She reigns but she does not rule.
Englishmen have traditions not only in political, but in social life. For
example, London, the capital of England, is traditionally divided into three
parts: the West End, the East end, and the City. The City is a historical,
financial and business center of London. The East End is the district
inhabited by the workers, and the West End is a fashionable shopping and
entertaining center. English people like to spend their free time in numerous
pubs where they can have a glass of beer and talk about different things with
their friends.
The English are traditional about their meals. They eat eggs and bacon with
toasts for breakfast, pudding or apple pie for dessert. Every English family
has five o'clock tea. A typical feature of an English house is a fireplace,
even when there is central heating in the house.
English people like domestic animals. Every family has a pet: a dog, a cat or
a bird.
Politeness is a characteristic feature of Englishmen. They often say "Thank
you", "Sorry", "Beg your pardon". Russian people, I think, have to learn this
good custom.
Englishmen have many traditional holidays, such as Christmas, St.Valentine's
Day, Mother's day, Easter and others.
     Some English customs   and  traditions are famous all over the world. Bowler
hats, tea and talking about the weather, for example. From Scotland to
Cornwall, the United Kingdom is full of customs   and  traditions. Here are
some of them.
     St. Valentine’s
St. Valentine's Day roots in several different legends that have found their
way to us through the ages. One of the earliest popular symbols of the day is
Cupid, the Roman god of Love, Who is represented by the image of a young boy
with bow and arrow. Three hundred years after the death of Jesus Christ, the
Roman emperors still demanded that everyone believe in the Roman gods.
Valentine, a Christian priest, had been thrown in prison for his teachings.
On February 14, Valentine was beheaded, not only because he was a Christian,
but also because he had performed a miracle. He supposedly cured the jailer's
daughter of her blindness. The night before he was executed, he wrote the
jailer's daughter a farewell letter, signing it, "from Your Valentine".
Another legend tells us that this same Valentine, well-loved by all, wrote
notes from his jail cell to children and friends who missed him. Whatever the
odd mixture of origins, St. Valentine's Day is now a day for sweethearts. It
is the day that you show your friend of loved one that you care. You can send
candy to someone you think is special. Or you can send "valentines" a
greeting card named after the notes that St. Valentine wrote from jail.
Valentines can be sentimental, romantic, and heartfelt. They can be funny and
friendly. If the sender is shy, valentines can be anonymous. Americans of all
ages as other people in different countries love to send and receive
valentines. Handmade valentines, created by cutting hearts out of coloured
paper, show that a lot of thought was put into making them personal.
Valentines can be heart-shaped, or have hearts, the symbol of love, on them.
In elementary schools, children make valentines, they have a small party with
refreshments. You can right a short rhyme inside the heart:
There are gold ships
And silver ships,
But no ships
Like friendship.
Valentine cards are usually decorated with symbols of love and friendship.
These symbols were devised many centuries ago. Lace symbolises a net for
catching one's heart. If you get a Valentine with a piece of a lace you may
understand that the person who sent it must be crazy about you. A symbol
should have several meanings, so some experts maintain that lace stands for a
bridal veil. A ribbon means that the person is tired up, while hearts, which
are the most common romantic symbol, denote eternal love. Red roses are also
often used as a love emblem. Valentine's Day grows more and more popular in
many countries of the world. Some people have already begun to celebrate it
in Russia. They try to imitate European Valentine customs and want to known
more about their origin. St. Valentine's Day is the day when boys and girls.
friends and neighbours, husbands and wives, sweethearts and lovers exchange
greeting of love and affection. It is the day to share one's loving feelings
with friends and family, but it is young men and girls who usually wait it
with impatience. This day has become traditional for many couples to become
engaged. That makes young people acknowledge St. Valentine's as the great
friend and patron of lovers.
     November, 5 is Guy Fawkes’s Day.
On the 5th of November in almost every town and village in England one can
see fire burning, fireworks, cracking and lighting up the sky, small groups
of children pulling round in a home made cart, a figure that looks something
like a man but consists of an old suit of clothes, stuffed with straw. The
children sing:" Remember, remember the 5th of November; Gun powder, treason
and plot". And they ask passers-by for "a penny for the Guy" But the children
with "the Guy" are not likely to know who or what day they are celebrating.
They have done this more or less every 5th of November since 1605. At that
time James the First was on the throne. He was hated with many people
especially the Roman Catholics against whom many sever laws had been passed.
A number of Catholics chief of whom was Robert Catesby determined to kill the
King and his ministers by blowing up the house of Parliament with gunpowder.
To help them in this they got Guy Fawker, a soldier of fortune, who would do
the actual work. The day fixed for attempt was the 5th of November, the day
on which the Parliament was to open. But one of the conspirators had several
friends in the parliament and he didn't want them to die. So he wrote a
letter to Lord Monteagle begging him to make some excuse to be absent from
parliament if he valued his life. Lord Monteagle took the letter hurrily to
the King. Guards were sent at once to examine the cellars of the house of
Parliament. And there they found Guy Fawker about to fire a trail of
gunpowder. He was tortured and hanged, Catesby was killed, resisting arrest
in his own house. In memory of that day bonfires are still lighted, fireworks
shoot across the November sky and figures of Guy Fawker are burnt in the
It is certain that Christmas is celebrated all over the world. Perhaps no
other holiday has developed a set of customs and symbols. This is the day
when many people are travelling home to be with their famillies on Christmas
Day, 25th December. The Christmas story comes from bible. An angel appeared
to shepherds and told them that a Savior had been born to Mary and Joseph in
a stable in Bethlehem. Three Wise Men from the East followed a wondrous star
which led them to the baby Jesus to whome they paid homage and presented
gifts of gold, frankicense and myrrh. To people all over the world, Christmas
is a season of giving and receiving presents. In Scandinavian and other
European countries, Father Christmas, or Saint Nicholas, comes into house at
night and leaves gifts for the children. Saint Nicholas is represented as a
fidly man with a red cloak and long white beard. He visited house and left
giftes, dringing people happiness in the coldest months of the year. Another
character, the Norse God Odin, rode on a magical flying horse across the ages
to make the present day Santa Claus.
For most British families, this is the most important festival of the year,
it combines the Christian celebration or the birth of Christ with the
traditional festivities of winter. On the Sunday before Christmas many
churches hold a carol service where special hymns are sung.Sometimes carol-
singers can be heard on the streets as they collect money for charity. Most
families decorate their houses with brightly-coloured paper or holly, and
they usually have a Christmas tree in the corner or the front foom,
glittering with coloured lights and decorations. The Christmas tree was
popularized by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who introduced one
to the Royal Household in 1840. Since 1947, the country of Norway has
presented Britain annually with a large Christmas tree which stands in
Trafalgar Square in commemoration of Anglo-Norwegian cooperation during the
Second World War.
There are a lot of traditions connected with Christmas but perhaps the most
important one is the giving of present. Familly members wrap up their gifts
and leave them bottom of the Christmas tree to be found on Christmas morning.
Children leave sock or stocking at the end of their beds on Christmas Eve,
24th of December, hoping that Father Christmas will come down the chimney
during the night and bring them small presents, fruit and nuts. They are
usually not disappointe! At some time on Christmas Day the familly will sit
down to a big turkey dinner followed by Christmas pudding. Christmas dinner
consists traditionally of a roast turkey, goose or chicken with stuffing and
roast potatoes. Mince pies and Christmas pudding flaming with brandy, which
might contain coins or lucky charms for children, follow this. (The pudding
is usually prepared weeks beforehand and is customarily stirred by each
member of the family as a wish is made.) Later in the day, a Christmas cake
may be served - a rich baked fruitcake with marzipan, icing and sugar
The pulling of Christmas crackers often accompanies food on Christmas Day.
Invented by a London baker in 1846, a cracker is a brightly colored paper
tube, twisted at both ends, which contains a party hat, riddle and toy or
other trinket. When it is pulled by two people it gives out a crack as its
contents are dispersed.
26th December is also a public holiday, Boxing Day, which takes its name from
a former custom of giving a Christmas Box - a gift of money or food inside a
box - to the deliverymen and trades people who called regularly during the
year. This tradition survives in the custom of tipping the milkman, postman,
dustmen and other callers of good service at Christmas time. This is the time
to visit friends and relatives or watch football.
At midnight on 31th December throughout Great Britain people celebrate the
coming of the New Year, by holding hands in a large circle and singing the
Should auld acquaintance be forget,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forget?
And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!..
New Year's Eve is a more important festival in Scotland than it is in
England, and it even has a special name. It is not clear where the word
'Hogmanay' comes from, but it is connected with the provision of food and
drink for all visitors to your home on 31th December. It was believed that
the first person to visit one's house on New Year's Day could bring good or
bad luck. Therefore, people tried to arrange for the person or their own
choice to be standing outside their houses ready to be let in the moment
midnight had come. Usually a dark-complexioned man was chosen, and never a
woman, for she would bring bad luck. The first footer was required to carry
three articles: a piece of coal to wish warmth, a piece of bread to wish
food, and a silver coin to wish wealth.
Easter is a Christian spring festival that is usually celebrated in March or
April. The name for Easter comes from a pagan fertility celebration. The word
"Easter" is named after Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess og spring. Spring is
a natural time for new life and hope when animals have their young and plants
begin to grow. Christian Easter may have purposely been celebrated in the
place of a pagan festival. It is therefore not surprising that relics of
doing and beliefs not belonging th the Christian religious should cling even
to this greatest day in the Church's year. An old-fashioned custom still
alive is to get up early and climb a hill to see the sun rising. There are
numerous accounts of the wonderful spectacle of the sun whirling round and
round for joy at our Saviour's Resurrection. So many people go outdoors on
Easter morning hoping to see the sun dance. There is also a custom of putting
on something new to go to church on Easter morning.     People celebrate the
holiday according to their beliefs and their religious denominations.
Christians commemorate Good Friday as the day that Christ died and Easter
Sunday as the day that He was resurrected. Protestant settlers brought the
custom of a sunrise service, a religious gathering at dawn, to the United
Today on Easter Sunday, children wake up to find that the Easter Bunny has
left them baskets of candy. He has also hidden the eggs that they decorated
earlier that week. Children hunt for the eggs all around the house.
Neighborhoods and organizations hold Easter egg hunts, and the child who
first the most eggs wins a prize.
Americans celebrate the Easter bunny coming. They set out easter baskets for
their children to anticipate the easter bunnys arrival whi leaves candy and
other stuff. The Easter Bunny is a rabbit-spirit. Long ago, he was called the
"Easter Hare". Hares and rabbits have frequent multiple births, so they
became a symbol of fertility.
Christians fast during the forty days before Easter. They choose to eat and
drink only enough to feep themselves alive.
The day preceding Lent is known as Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. Shrove
Tuesday recalls the day when people went to Church ti confess and be shriven
before Lent. But now the day is more generally connected with relics of the
traditional feasting before the fast. Shrove Tuesday is famous for pancake
calebration. There is some competition at Westminster   School: the pancakes
are tossed over a bar by the cook and struggled for by a small group of
selected boys. The boy who manages to get the largest piece is given a
present. This tradition dates from 1445. In the morning the first church bell
on Orley is rung for the competitors to make pancakes. The second ring is a
signal for cooking them. The third bell set rung for the copetitors to gather
at the market square. Then the Pancake bell is sounded and the ladies set off
from the church porch, tossing their pancakes three times as they run. Each
woman must wear an apron and a hat or scarf over her head. The winner is
given a Prayer Book dy the Vicar.
Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lent. It is customary to vasit one's
mother on that day. Mother ought to be given a present - tea, flowers or a
simnel cake. It is possible to buy the cake, they are sold in every
confectionery. But it is preferrable to make it at home. The way Mothering
Sunday is celebrated has much in common with the International Women's Day
celebration in Russia.
Good Friday is the first Friday before Easter. It is the day when all sorts
of taboos on various works are in force. Also it is a good day for shifting
beers, for sowing potatoes, peas, beans, parsley, and pruning rose trees.
Good Friday brings the once sacred cakes, the famous Hot Cross buns. These
must be spiced and the dough marked with a cross before baking.
Eggs, chickens, rabbits and flowers are all symbols of new life. Chocolate
and fruit cake covered with marzipan show that fasting is over. Wherever
Easter is celebrated, there Easter eggs are usually to be found. In England,
just as in Russia, Easter is a time for giving and receiving of presents that
traditionally take the form of an Easter egg. Easter egg is a real hard-
boiled egg dyed in bright colors or decorated with some elaborate pattern.
Coloring and decorating eggs for Easter is a very ancient custom. Many
people, however, avoid using artificial dyes and prefer to boil eggs with the
outer skin of an onion, which makes the eggs shells yellow or brown. In fact,
the color depends on the amount of onion skin added. In ancient times they
used many different natural dyes fir the purpose. The dyes were obtained
mainly from leaves, flowers and bark.
At present Easter eggs are also made of chocolate, sugar, metals, wood,
ceramics and other materials at hand. They may differ in size, ranging from
enormous to tiny, no bigger than a robin's egg. Easter Sunday is solemnly
celebrated in London. Each year the capital city of Britain greets the spring
with a spectacular Easter Parade in Battersea Park. The great procession, or
parade, begins at 3 p.m. The parade consists of many decorated floats,
entered by various organizations in and outside London. Some of the finest
bands in the country take part in the parade. At the rear of the parade is
usually the very beautiful float richly decorated with flowers. It is called
the Jersey one because the spring flowers bloom early on the Island of
In England, children rolled eggs down hills on Easter morning, a game has
been connected to the rolling away of the rock from Jesus Christ's tomb then
He was resurrected. British settlers brought this custom to the New World. It
consists of rolling coloured, hardboiled egg down a slope until they are
cracked and broken after whish they are eaten by their owners. In some
districts this is a competitive game, the winner being the player whose egg
remains longest undamaged, but more usually, the fun consists simply of the
rolling and eating.
     Corn Dollies
Many countries seem to have had a similar custom to the British one of making
a design from the last sheaf of corn to be harvested. In Britain a corn dolly
is created by plaiting the wheat stalks to create a straw figure. The corn
dolly is kept until the Spring. This is because people believed that the corn
spirit lived in the wheat and as the wheat was harvested, the spirit fled to
the wheat which remained. By creating the corn dolly the spirit is kept alive
for the next year and the new crop. Sometimes the corn dolly is hung up in
the barn, sometimes in the farmhouse, and sometimes in the church. In Spring
the corn dolly would be ploughed back into the soil. There are many types of
corn dolly.
     The story of John Barleycorn
A story to the corn dolly is to be found in the folksong John Barleycorn.
Three men swear that John Barleycorn must die. They take a plough and bury
him alive. But the Spring comes and John rises through the soil. After a
while he grows big and strong, even growing a beard, so the three men cut him
down at the knee, tie him on to a cart, beat him, strip the flesh off his
bones and grind him between two stones. But at the end it is John Barleycorn
who defeats his opponents, proving the stronger man, by turning into beer.
     Harvest Festivals
In churches all over Britain there are services to thank God for the Harvest.
As part of these services local people bring baskets of fruit and vegetables
to decorate the church. The produce is then distributed to the poor.
The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic
Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1,
"All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in
honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer
officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the
Celtic New year.
One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who
had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living
bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope
for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were
suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the
Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of
October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them
cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish
costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as
possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.
Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires was
not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic tribes could
relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that was kept
burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach.
Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at the stake who was
thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson to the spirits.
Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth. The Romans
adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD,
Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the other Roman
traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor Pomona, the
Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which
might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on
Halloween. The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more
ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up
like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.
The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish
immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite
pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence
The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the
Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On
November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to
village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with
currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers
they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At
the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after
death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to
The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is
told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster,
tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in
the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the
devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him
down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven
because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he
had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light
his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-
out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the
immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful
than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin,
lit with an ember.
So, although some pagan groups, cults, and Satanists may have adopted
Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of
evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year,
and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many
churches have Halloween parties or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After
all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.
Fire has always played an important part in Halloween. Fire was very
important to the Celts as it was to all early people. In the old days people
lit bonfires to ward away evil spirits and in some places they used to jump
over the fire to bring good luck. Now we light candles in pumpkin lanterns.
Halloween is also a good time to find out the future. Want to find out who
you will marry? Here are two ways you might try to find out:
- Apple-bobbing - Float a number of apples in a bowl of water, and try to
catch one using only your teeth. When you have caught one, peel it in one
unbroken strip, and throw the strip of peel over your left shoulder. The
letter the peel forms is the initial of your future husband or wife.
- Nut-cracking - Place two nuts (such as conkers) on a fire. Give the nuts
the names of two possible lovers and the one that cracks first will be the
There are several unusual traditions:
     "Wrong side of the bed"
When people are bad tempered we say that they must have got out of bed on the
wrong side. Originally, it was meant quiet literally. People believe that the
way they rose in the morning affected their behavior throughout the day. The
wrong side of the bed was the left side. The left always having been linked
with evil.
     "Blowing out the candles"
The custom of having candles on birthday cakes goes back to the ancient
Greeks. Worshippers of Artemis, goddess of the moon and hunting, used to
place honey cakes on the altars of her temples on her birthday. The cakes
were round like the full moon and lit with tapers. This custom was next
recorded in the middle ages when German peasants lit tapers on birthday
cakes, the number lit indicating the person's age, plus an extra one to
represent the light of life. From earliest days burning tapers had been
endowed with mystical significance and it was believed that when blown out
they had the power to grant a secret wish and ensure a happy year ahead.