Holidays and CustomsCategory: Customs + Festivals
Morris Dancers. Punch, Judy and Toby. Maypoles’ Decorations. Three Weeks Paid Holiday per Year. Bank Holidays. The Patron Saints Days
Imagine you are in a medium-sized English town. It is Saturday morning in April and the market place is fuil of noise. You hear the sound of music, at least one accordion, a drum, tin whistle and fiddle. As you come closer you see an interesting sight. There are some men dressed in white clothes but decorated in the strangest way with bright ribbons, flowers and small bells. They dance, leaping into the air, stamping their feet, and perform the most complicated pattern of movements. They perform morris dance and what they are doing is anything up to eight hundred years old. Now you are at the seaside. It is the end of July and the school holidays have just begun. There is a strange little red and white striped tent, and sitting in front of it on the sand, a whole crowd of little children laughing and shouting. They are watching a puppet theatre, Punch and Judy. Mr. Punch in his bright red clothes is, as usual, hitting Judy over the head with a stick, while Toby, the dog, patiently watches. These are just two examples of customs which, despite television and other social changes, are alive and well in England. There are many, many more, some of them so local that they are only known in the villages where they take place. Many villages have maypoles which are decorated in early summer and around which children dance.
In the matter of holidays the British are less well-off than other Europeans. Most people have only three weeks paid holiday per year, and the bank holidays put Britain at the bottom of the list of Common Market countries as far as public holidays are concerned. British “bank holidays” are New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Spring Bank Holiday, Summer Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Only when the U К joined the E.E.C. New Year’s Day became a public holiday. The patron saints days are not celebrated with a holiday. They are St. David’s Day (March 1st) in Wales, St. George’s Day (April 23rd) in England and St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th) in Scotland. Only Ireland, both North and South, has a holiday on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th.
Ghosts and Witches
Hallowe’en means ‘holy evening’, and takes place on 31st October. Although it is a much more important festival in the United States
than Britain, it is celebrated by many people in the UK. It is particularly connected with witches and ghosts.
At parties people dress up in strange costumes and pretend they are
witches. They cut horrible faces in potatoes and other vegetables and put a candle inside, which shines through the eyes. People may play difficult games such as trying to eat an apple from a bucket of water without using their hands.
In recent years children dressed in white sheets knock on doors at Hallowe’en and ask if you would like a ‘trick’ or a ‘treat’. If you give them something nice, a ‘treat’, they go away. However, if you don’t, they play a ‘trick’ on you, such as making a lot of noise or spilling flour on your front doorstep!
Guy Fawkes Night
In 1605 King James I was on the throne. As a Protestant, he was very unpopular with Roman Catholics. Some of them planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November of that year, when the King was going to open Parliament. Under the House of Lords they stored thirty-six barrels of gunpowder, which were to be exploded by a man called Guy Fawkes. However, one of the plotters spoke about these plans and Fawkes was discovered, arrested and later hanged. Since that day the British traditionally celebrate 5th November by burning a dummy, made of straw and old clothes, on a bonfire, at the same time letting off fireworks.
This dummy is called a “guy” (like Guy Fawkes) and children can often be seen on the pavements before 5th November saying, “Penny for the guy.” If they collect enough money they can buy some fireworks.