A while ago, we asked about gift giving traditions around the world. Nicola Holdsworth wrote to us from the UK telling us about British holiday and gift-giving traditions. Here’s what she wrote…
We give horseshoes for marriage, oranges form part of the Christingle celebration, usually with candles and ribbon. 21st birthdays are sometimes symbolized with the giving of a decorative key.
I asked Nicola about Christingle, because we don’t celebrate it here in the States. She wrote:
It’s part of the pre-Christmas celebrations. It’s mainly for school children, it’s usually an orange with a ribbon wrapped round the circumference, a candle stuck in the top and cinnamon seeds stuck into the orange round the outsides.
Here is a photo I found of a Christingle:
Nicole wrote about Easter traditions in the UK:
We also give Easter eggs. The Easter eggs are usually chocolate and vary in size, incidentally my boyfriend works at Nestle which is one of the companies that make them. We also do Easter egg hunts with mini eggs usually for younger children.
Nicole wrote about the anniversary traditions in the UK:
Each annual wedding anniversary has a different meaning and item attached to it i.e. 1st is paper etc.
Our anniversaries over here, they all have “names” and for each, a gift is given which relates to the “name”:
A few other traditions for you, there’s some English superstitions in there too, so your going to have to sift through cos I’ve included quite a lot!
Maypole Dancing- usually done in spring, it’s quite an old one which involves a tall pole and lots of long ribbons in various bright colours.
Scarecrow Festivals- done in autumn local groups i.e. schools and scouts build and decorate a scarecrow, they are then collected and arranged in fields round a path, people then pay for a map and walk round answering questions about each scarecrow i.e. what colour hat are they wearing or which road are they on, the money is then given to charity.
Bonfire Night – fire works and sparklers and hotdogs etc, also called Guy Fawkes night after he tried to blow up the houses of Parliament in London.
British Saints all have their own day:
St. David – Wales – March 1
St. Patrick – Ireland – March 17
St. George – England – April 23
St. Andrew – Scotland – November 30
I asked about St. George’s Day, and Nicola wrote:
St George’s Day is all based around St. George slaying a dragon, from what I can remember it’s a tale that said a village was living in fear of a dragon and young girls were being sacrificed to stop the dragon from eating the livestock. Then a prince came along, slayed the dragon and rescued the latest sacrifice who was the village leader’s daughter. So now around the time there is a parade usually organized by the scout movement, sometimes with floats and brass bands.
Nicola continued telling me about British traditions:
Remembrance Day – November 11th – in remembrance of soldiers killed in World War 1
Queens Birthday – London parade
Queen’s speech – Xmas day
Pantomimes around Xmas, all during November and December – local theatres put on pantomimes, usually with a man dressed as a comedy madam, a pretty damsel in distress and a dashing prince, lots of audience involvement and slapstick comedy. Aladin is one of the main panto’s that’s done along with Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White and Peter Pan. Here’s the link to the wikipedia page on Xmas Pantomime.
Here’s an old poster for a Christmas Pantomime:
I asked Nicola if she goes to the pantomimes or if it’s for kids and she said, “I go to at least one every year, I’m a cub scout leader so I take the kids to the local one.”
Here are more traditions Nicola wrote about:
Pancake Day – Shrove Tuesday – around Jesus’ resurrection (people eat pancakes before fasting for Lent).
1st Footing in Scotland – Putting coal on your house threshold on New Years Day – to do with good luck and to welcome in the new year, they put the coal on the outside doorstep.
Having a chimney sweep at your wedding is good luck i.e. to bless it I think, is supposed to bring good luck for the newly married couple.
[UPDATE: I talk more about the Chimney Sweep Tradition here.]
Weddings – bride should wear something old, new, borrowed, and blue – it should be one of each, but two or more can be combined.
Picking up a penny is said to bring good luck.
Giving a wooden spoon for baking for a bride.
Don’t walk under a ladder, brings bad luck.
Bride throws bouquet at a wedding, the person who catches it is supposed to get married next.
Breaking a mirror is supposed to bring you 7 years bad luck unless you throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder.
Walking on cracks on the pavement brings bad luck.
Black cat crosses path good luck. (Note by Mama Lisa: in the US, crossing the path of a black cat is considered bad luck!)
Magpies: 1 for sorrow, 2 for joy, 3 for a girl, 4 for a boy, 5 for silver, 6 for gold, 7 for a secret never to be told.
“Magpies” is an old superstition that school children learn, its supposed to be linked to how many you see is what you’ll get and if you only see one your supposed to cross yourself (finger tracing the shape of a cross on your face cheek to cheek then forehead to chin) to get rid of the bad luck.
Here’s a photo of a magpie:
Opening a umbrella inside is supposed to bring bad luck.
Shoes on a table brings bad luck.
Nicola said, “I didn’t think of all of these, I rang my mum and grandma for some more!”
I asked Nicola if most of these are still followed or not? She said, “A lot of them are known but not really followed, it’s mostly the older generations that still follow them.” I believe she meant that British people still follow many of the traditions (like Guy Fawkes Day and Christingle), but not the superstitions as much.
I would like to thank Nicola Holdsworth, and her Mum and Grandma, Susan Holdsworth and Gillian Hamer, for sharing these British traditions with us!
Thanks so much!
If you would like to share your traditions with us, please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
UPDATE: Check out info about some traditions and superstitions in the US and France in the comments below…
This artilce was posted on Thursday, February 11th, 2010 at 7:48 pm and is filed under Anniversary Gifts, Bonfire Night, Christingle, Christmas, Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, Easter, Easter Eggs, England, English, First Footing, Folk Lore, Gift Giving, Gift Ideas, Guy Fawkes Night, Holidays Around the World, Ireland, Languages, Mama Lisa, May Day, Maypole Dancing, New Years, Pancake Day, Recommendations, Scotland, Shrove Tuesday, St. Andrew's Day, St. David's Day, St. George's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Superstitions, United Kingdom, Wales, Wedding Anniversaries, Wedding Gifts, Weddings, Weddings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.