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 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
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 Fawkess 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 streets.
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