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FESTIVALS & TRADITIONS IN THE UK

HOLIDAYS & CELEBRATIONS

 VALENTINE'S DAYThough we know hundreds of years of history behind Valentine's day, the origins of the holiday are a mystery. Here's an educational documentary offered by the History Channel about this so much enjoyed celebration.

HOLIDAYS & CELEBRATIONS
  SAINT PATRICK'S DAY     
   
              Interactive St. Patrick's Day Exercises

About St. Patrick’s Day

 

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated each year on March 17th. In Ireland Saint Patrick’s Day is both a holy day and a national holiday. Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland as he was the one who brought Christianity to the Irish.

Saint Patrick & the Shamrock

According to the legend, Saint Patrick used a shamrock to explain people about God and the Holy Trinity. The shamrock, which looks like clover, has three leaves on each stem. St. Patrick told the people that the shamrock was like the idea of Trinity – that in the one God there are three divine beings: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The shamrock was sacred to the Druids. so St. Patrick’s use of it in explaining the Holy Trinity was very wise.

Saint Patrick & the Snakes

Legend also has it that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. Different versions of the story tell of him standing upon a hill and using a wooden staff to drive the serpents into the sea thus banishing them forever from Ireland.

One version says that an old serpent resisted banishment but St. Patrick outwitted him. Patrick made a box and invited the snake in. The snake insisted it was too small and the two argued. Finally, to prove his point, the snake entered the box to show how tight the fit was. Immediately, St. Patrick slimmed the lid closed and threw the box into the sea.

Although it is true that Ireland has no snakes, a more likely explanation is that, being an island and separated from the rest of the continent, Ireland was difficult for snakes to reach. Nevertheless, the stories of St. Patrick are rather a metaphor for his bringing Christianity to Ireland and driving out the Pagan religions.

Festivities & Parades

Although it began in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. People with Irish heritage remind themselves of the beautiful green countryside of Ireland, also known as The Emerald Island, by wearing green and taking part in various festivities.

  

Saint Patrick’s Day is usually celebrated with a parade. The one in Dublin is known to some as the Irish Mardi Gras. Nevertheless, the first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Today the New York City parade is one of the biggest.

Watch a funny video about St. Patrick 

 

 About Leprechauns

The Leprechauns are Irish fairies. They look like small old men standing a mere 2-feet tall and usually dressed like shoemakers, wearing a cocked hat and a leather apron.

According to legend, leprechauns are aloof and unfriendly, live alone and pass the time making shoes. They also possess a hidden pot of gold.

 

Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker’s hammer. If caught, he can be forced, with a threat of bodily violence, to reveal the whereabouts of his treasure but the captor must keep his eyes on him every second. If the captor’s eyes leave the leprechaun – and he often tricks them into looking away, he vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.

More about St. Patrick's Day on History Channel

  

EASTER IN BRITAIN

 

 

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,

how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable,

in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world,

the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—

                                 nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

                                                                                                                       (Hamlet - Act 2, scene 2)  

 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
 
 
  William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Useful links:
 
More on HOLIDAYS & CELEBRATIONS at  ELT4U Holiday Activities
 
HOLIDAYS & CELEBRATIONS

 Halloween Special Quiz

What do you know about Halloween? How did it start? What do people do? Try this quiz!

Read the sentences and decide if they are true or false.

 1. Halloween is traditionally celebrated on the night of 31st October, the night before All Saint’s Day.

 2. In England Halloween was called ‘All Hallow’s Eve’.

 3. On Halloween night all evil spirits stayed at home.

 4. Halloween is based on an ancient Celtic holiday and the name ‘Halloween’ means ‘Winter’s End’.

 5. In past times people put lamps or lanterns outside their houses to keep away evil spirits.

 6. People believed that witches, ghosts and goblins went around at night looking for a living body!

 7. On Halloween people dressed up as ghosts and witches so that the spirits would not steal their body!

 8. Nowadays people put pumpkins with faces in their houses.

 9. The pumpkin is sometimes called the ‘Jack-o-lantern’.

 10. ‘Trick or treat’ is a game children play at Halloween to play jokes (trick) or get sweets (treat).

Watch this Halloween Documentary to check your answers.  

 
 
 
  WELCOME TO HA-HALOWEEN!
JOKES

1. What do you get when you cross a vampire and a snowman? Frostbite... 

2. Why do witches use brooms to fly on? Because vacuum cleaners are too heavy... 

3, How do witches keep their hair in place while flying? With scare spray... 

4. What do you get when you cross a werewolf and a vampire? A fur coat that fangs around your neck...

5.What type of dog do vampires like best? Bloodhounds!

6.  Why don't skeletons go out on the town? Because they have no body to go out with...
 
7.  What do ghosts add to their morning cereal? Booberries... 

8.  What’s a vampire’s favorite holiday? 
Fangsgiving...
 
9.  Why do mummies have trouble keeping friends? They’re too wrapped up in themselves! 
 
10.What’s a mummie’s favorite type of music?  WRAP ! ! ! ! !    
 
Sing along this funny HALLOWEEN SONG !
 
 
THIS IS HALLOWEEN - Song from The Nightmare Before Christmas 
 
 
 

 HALLOWEEN TONGUE TWISTER

 Practise saying this tongue twister. How fast can you say it?

 If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?"

Click for more spooky Tongue Twisters 

 
 
 
 
Click to read some HALLOWEEN STORIES 

 


HOLIDAYS & CELEBRATIONS

 IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME!

 

Xmas Cloze Interactive Exercise

  

Xmas Expressions:

  • Merry Christmas!
  • Happy Christmas!
  • Happy New Year!
  • Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
  • Wishing you a prosperous New Year!
  • All the best for the coming year!
  • Seasons Greetings!
 

 Xmas Tongue Twister

                                              Santa's sleigh slides on slick snow.
 

 
 
More XMAS JOKES

Santa Claus is a Jolly fellow! Imagine all that driving and still being able to say "Ho! Ho! Ho! 

Question: What do you call Santa's Helpers? Answer: Subordinate Clauses.

Question: Why is it so cold on Christmas? Answer: Because it's in Decembrrrrrrrrrr! 

Question: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Answer: Frostbite. 

Question: What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Answer: Claustrophobic.

 

 

 

NEW YEAR TRADITIONS IN THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD 

 

The New Year has been celebrated for thousand of years. Every culture has its own New Year festival.To find out about New Year festivals from the past and about some New Year festivals that are celebrated in Britain by people from different cultures,

click on Celebrating The New Year interactive exercises.

  British New Year

In England crowds of people gather in Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus as well as stand around to hear the chimes of London's Big Ben announce the arrival of the New Year. Everyone stands around with arms linked to sing Auld Lang Syne.

 

In England the custom of first-footing is important. The reason is that it is supposed to ensure good luck for the inhabitants of the house. The first-footer must be male, young, healthy and good looking. He must be dark-haired and he should be carrying a small piece of coal, money, bread, and salt. These are the symbols of wealth.

On New Year's Day children from England and Great Britain rise early to make the rounds to their neighbors singing songs. They are given coins, mince pies, apples and other sweets for singing. This must be done by noon or the singer will be called fools.

In England girls would drop egg whites into water. They thought it would form the first letter of the name of the man they would marry.

 

         The Scottish New Year is known as Hogmanay and both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day were also known as Daft Days. The first Monday in January is a holiday and is referred to as Handsel Monday.

 

The Scots prepare for the New Year by cleaning their houses. This was believed to have been a purification ritual. They would perform a ritual of burning juniper branches which they carried throughout the house so as to remove any lurking germs and diseases.

The food they would eat at New Year was Haggis, shortbread, scones, oatmeal cakes, cheese, whisky and wine as well as traditional New Year black buns.

The first person to rise in the morning used to take Het Pint spiced ale to those members who were still in bed.

On New Year's Eve they all link arms in a circle and sing the traditional New Year song Auld Lang Syne,which is based on a poem written by Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet.

After welcoming the New Year, all the people of the household would wait to see who the first person to enter the house after midnight will be, as this person would indicate whether they would have good luck or bad luck for the coming year. The first person must be a dark haired male, young virile, good natured and prosperous. He should not be empty handed and was supposed to bring with him a small gift such as a piece of coal, bread, salt as they were symbols of life.

On New Year's Day children from Scotland rise early to make the rounds to their neighbors singing songs. They are given coins, mince pies, apples and other sweets for singing. This must be done by noon or the singer will be called fools.

In some Scottish villages barrels of tar are set on fire and rolled through the streets. This is done to burn up the old year and to allow the New Year in.

 

     In Wales the boys of the village would meet at around 3 or 4 am on New Year's morning. They would go from house to house using an evergreen twig to sprinkle over the people and then each room of their house. This was believed to bring good luck.

On New Year's Day children from Wales rise early to make the rounds to their neighbors singing songs. They are given coins, mince pies, apples and other sweets for singing. This must be done by noon or the singer will be called fools.

      The Irish New Year festival is known as Samhain which meant summer's end and was celebrated on 31 October. The festival has survived as Halloween.

It was at this time they would hold their General Assembly. This was held in the out in the air parliament where the laws were renewed and accounts of events, details of births, deaths and marriages, were recorded.

This day was considered of great danger for it was when the spirits of the dead returned to earth. It was believed the spirits could do harm unless precautions were taken. The Celtic priests would go into the woods on New Year's Eve to gather bunches of mistletoe which they handed out to people to protect them from any harm. Also bonfires were lit to drive away evil forces. They also believed that it was safer to stay indoors as fairies were abroad on New Year's Eve.

In Ireland the girls would go to bed with sprigs of mistletoe, or holly and ivy leaves under their pillows so they would go to bed dreaming of their future husbands. They might also chant:

Oh, ivy green and holly red,
Tell me, tell me whom I shall wed!

In western Ireland the direction of the wind blowing at New Year would indicate the trend of politics in the coming year. If it blew from the west, it would flourish, if from the east, the English would have upper hand.

Also on New Year's Eve, if they ate a very large supper, they would have plenty of food for the coming year.

One custom that was practiced on New Year's Eve was to take a large loaf of Christmas bread or cake outside the house and hammer it against the closed doors and windows so as to drive out any misfortune and let happiness in.

The Druids gave a gift of twigs from the mistletoe, as this was a plant that was sacred to them as a magic source of fertility. It would bestow on the recipient a fruitful year in the number of children, as well as the amount of cattle and the amount of crop.

 

 American New Year

 American New Year's Customs such as Dance parties are thrown on New Year's Eve to see in the year. Times Square in New York City has a ball drop hosted by the television celebrity Dick Clark. This is broadcast all over the United States. At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve people will kiss or honk car horns. Paper blowers and whistles are blown. A soul food of black-eyed peas and rice called Hoppin' John is eaten by some. Other foods that are eaten at New Year are cake and champagne.

In the US they believe that black-eyed beans are lucky.

Many people watch the Championship football games in stadiums or on TV. They also gather in New York's Time Square to watch for the moment when a giant brightly colored electric apple is lowered to the ground at which time they start saying Happy New Year.

 Australian New Year

In Australia they celebrate the New Year on January 1. This day is a public holiday and many people have picnics and camp out on the beach.

They have parties that start on December 31 and at midnight they start to make noise with whistles and rattles, car horns and church bells to ring in the New Year. In Australia New Year is a day for outdoor activities such as rodeos, picnic races and surf carnivals.

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