The US and UK share many of the same holidays and most are celebrated in similar fashions, such as New Years, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas to name a few.
The UK also has a number of holidays that the US has carried over, such as St. Patrick’s Day and others that are rather unheard of in the United States, such as Boxing Day, Guy Fawkes Nights, Burns Night, St. George’s Day, St. David’s Day, St. Andrew’s Day and Pancake Day.
Boxing Day (December 26) is so-called because it is a time when tradespeople receive a Christmas box – some money in appreciation of the work they’ve carried out all year. Traditionally it is a time for visiting family and friends and indulging in more feasting, Boxing Day is a popular day for football matches and other sporting events.
Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday which falls 41 days before Easter) is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. It was the last opportunity to use eggs and fats before embarking on the Lenten fast and pancakes are the perfect way of using up these ingredients.
Some parts of Britain celebrate the day with pancake races. The oldest and most famous is held at Olney in Buckinghamshire. The race is run over 415 yards by women aged sixteen or older. They must flip their pancake in the frying pan at least three times during the race. The winner receives a kiss from the Pancake Bell Ringer –church bells were traditionally rung to remind parishioners to come to confession – and a prayer book from the vicar.
Guy Fawkes Day
November 5th is celebrated in Britain to commemorate the failure of Guy Fawkes and other terrorist conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Public firework displays are organized with effigies of Fawkes burned on bonfires, and smaller parties take place in back gardens throughout the land. The fifth of November is also called ‘Firework Night,’ ‘Bonfire Night,’ or ‘Guy Fawkes Day.’ In the days leading up to it, children traditionally take their home-made effigies, or ‘Guys,’ out into the streets and ask passers-by for ‘a penny for the Guy,’ using the money to buy fireworks.
The Armistice that brought an end to the fighting of the First World War was signed on November 11th 1918. Remembrance Day is commemorated annually in Britain on the Sunday nearest to November 11th. On Remembrance Day each year, The Queen lays a wreath on the Cenotaph to honor those who died in the First and Second World Wars and other campaigns.
Many public holidays in Britain are known as ‘bank’ holidays – so called because these are the days on which banks are legally closed. Most fall on a Monday. In England and Wales there are six bank holidays: New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, May Day (not necessarily May 1), Spring and Late Summer Holidays at the end of May and August respectively, and Boxing Day. There are also two national holidays on Good Friday and Christmas Day.
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