Celebrate and party like a native Brit Part 1
If you compare the UK to Spain, one of the key differences is the way we treat holiday days, national celebrations, and community events. Due to a weaker religious feeling across the country, few Brits celebrate saints days, religious holidays or events connected to the Catholic calendar.
Instead, we tend to look back to a few historical events, and also make the most of some of the popular American holiday days too.
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23rd April – St George’s Day
On the 23rd of April every year, English citizens fly the English flag, and celebrate the killing of the mythical dragon by St George. Businesses stay open, and most people work on this day, but it still has quite a big impact.
There’s a sense of ‘England’ present on this day, when normally people talk about the UK, or Great Britain.
Since Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland have been part of the UK, the concept of ‘England’ is not a strong one. However this is one day that celebrates a mythical event, which represents the moral character of the English people (or so they would like to think).
St George was a late Roman soldier in Turkey, executed for being a Christian. He was visiting a town that sacrificed someone to a dragon living nearby, everyday! The day St George happened to be there, the princess of the region was chosen, and St George could not stand by and do nothing. He saved the princess, slayed the dragon, and made his name.
Across England, you’ll see the St George Cross (a white background with a red cross) flying from many houses, businesses and buildings. In typical British celebration fashion, there’s no real activity or gathering connected to this day, but people do have a lot of fun.
31st October - Halloween
Compared to St George’s Day, Halloween is a much bigger deal. In Spain and much of Western Europe, Halloween is a fun but small idea.
In the UK, we have taken the US style of dressing up, hosting big parties and going ‘trick or treating’ on the 31st October.
Kids dress up in extravagant costumes, and walk around their neighbourhoods knocking on doors.
People have big bowls of sweets and chocolates ready, and the whole community celebrates a spooky evening together. There’s a significant commercial element to this day as well, thanks to our US influences. House decorations, expensive costume rental and company events are normal and yearly occurrences.
People carve pumpkins and place candles inside, and there are often ‘best costume’ competitions all over every city and town.
5th November - Bonfire Night
This holiday is one of the best, and celebrates quite a strange historical event from 1605.
A catholic named Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up (explode) the House of Lords in London, angry about religious changes.
While it’s not typical to celebrate the attempted assassination of your government, in the UK, we like a bit of dark humour. People gather together and make large ‘bonfires’ (a large wood fire outside).
It’s very similar to the San Juan festival celebrated in Spain on the 23rd June. It can be one of the wildest and most exciting nights in the year. Fireworks, big open fires, smoke and sparklers all make Bonfire Night a really fun and unique celebration.
At some point in the night, a straw or material replica of Guy Fawkes will be placed on the bonfire and burned! In the last few years, people have also started to burn effigies of politicians or celebrities, making Bonfire Night look more and more like Las Fallas than ever before.
25th December - Christmas Day
Although lots of Europe celebrates Christmas (depending on religion), there seems to be a lot of difference in which day is the most important, what you do on those days, what you eat and when.
It’s one of the hard things about adapting to new cultures, and when these days feel different, it can be a culture shock.
In the UK, there’s no ‘Three Kings’ celebration on the 6th January, and the main Christmas celebrations take place on the day of the 25th December.
We normally have a huge lunch in the early afternoon, and it’s maybe the best single meal of the year. Surrounded by your close family (it’s not typical for Brits to gather the whole extended family), you dig into a whole turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, jam, loads of different winter vegetables and plenty of drinks too.
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