On Bank Holiday the towns' folk usually flock into the country and to the coast. If the weather is fine many families take a picnic-lunch or tea with them and enjoy their meal in the open. Seaside towns near London, such as Southend, are invaded by thousands of trippers who come in cars and coaches, trains, motor cycles and bicycles. Great amusement parks like Southend Kursaal do a roaring trade with their scenic railways, shooting galleries, water-shoots, Crazy Houses, Hunted Houses and so on.Trippers will wear comic paper hats with slogans such as «Kiss Me Quick» and they will eat and drink the weirdest mixture of stuff you can imagine, seafood like cockles, mussels, whelks, shrimps and fried fish and chips, candy floss, beer, tea, soft drinks, everything you can imagine.
Bank Holiday is also on occasion for big sports meetings at places like the White City Stadium, mainly all kinds of athletics. There are also horse race meetings all over the country, and most traditional of all, there are large fairs, with swings, roundabouts, coconut shies, a Punch and Judy show, hoopla stalls and every kind of side-show including, in recent years, bingo. These fairs are pitched on open spaces of common land, and the most famous of them is the huge one on Hampstead Heath near London. It is at Hampstead Heath you will see the Pearly Kings, those Cockney costers (street traders), who wear suits or frocks with thousands of tiny pearl buttons stitched all over them, also over their caps and hats, in case of their Queens. They hold horse and cart parades in which prizes are given for the smartest turn out. Horses and carts are gaily decorated. Many Londoners will visit Whipsnade Zoo.There is also much boating activity on the Thames, regattas at Henley and on other rivers and the English climate being what it is, it invariably rains.
Guy Fawkes. Night. Guy Fawkes Night is one of the most popular festivals in Britain. It commemorates the discovery of the so-called Gunpowder Plot, and is widely celebrated all over the country.
The story goes that there was a plot to destroy the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I during the ceremony of opening Parliament on November 5, 1605. The plot was organized by a group of Roman Catholics. In 1604 the conspirators rented a house near the House of Lords. From this house they dug a tunnel to a vault below the House of Lords and put into the vault 36 barrels of gunpowder. The plot was discovered because one of the conspirators wrote a letter to his relative, a member of the House of Lords, warning him to stay away from the House of Lords on the 5th of November. On November 4, a search was made of the parliament vaults, and the gunpowder was found, together with Guy Fawkes, who was to set off the explosion. Guy Fawkes was hanged.
The historical meaning of the event is no longer important, but this day is traditionally celebrated with fireworks and a bonfire, on which the figure of a man called Guy is burnt.
November 5 is a day on which children are allowed, under proper supervision, to let off fireworks, to make a bonfire and to burn on it a guy made of old clothes, straw and — if possible — one of father's old hats. On 5 he days before November 5, one may see groups of children going about the streets with their faces blackened and wearing some fancy clothes. Sometimes they have a little cart with a guy in it. They ask the passers-by to give them a penny for the guy. With this money they buy fireworks for the festival.
Christmas. Christmas is the main public holiday in Britain, when people spend time at home with their families, eat special food and drink a lot. Christmas is a Christian festival to remember the birth of Jesus Christ.
Long before Christmas time shops become very busy, because a lot of people buy Christmas presents. A lot of money is spent on the presents, but many people enjoy it. Every day television and newspapers say how many days are left before Christmas. People also buy Christmas cards to send to their friends and relatives. The cards have the words Merry Christmas and pictures of the birth of Christ, Santa Glaus, a Christmas tree, a robin, or scenes of old-fashioned Christmases.
In churches people sing Christmas carols - special religious songs. Sometimes groups of people walk about the streets and sing carols at the doors of houses. One of the well-known carols is "Silent Night".
Houses are usually decorated with lights and branches of needle-leaf trees. Many people have a decorated Christmas tree in their houses.
Young children are told that Santa Claus will bring them presents if they are good. Before going to bed on Christmas Eve the children hang stockings at the back of their beds, for Santa Claus to put the presents in when he comes in the middle of the night through the chimney.
On Christmas Eve (the 24th of December) some people go to a special church service called Midnight Mass which starts at 12 o'clock at night.
Christmas is the day when people stay at home, open their presents and eat and drink together. The most important meal is Christmas dinner. The typical meal consists of turkey with potatoes and other vegetables, followed by a Christmas pudding. Other traditional foods include a special Christmas cake and mince pies — small round cakes filled with a mixture of apples, raisins and spices.
The day after Christmas, the 26th of December, is also a public holiday. It is called Boxing Day. The name goes back to the old tradition: some time before Christmas, boxes were placed in churches for the people to put some money or presents for the poor. On the day after Christmas, the 26th of December, the priest opened the box and gave the contents away to poor people.
April Fools' Day
Children throughout the English-speaking countries look forward to April 1st, April Fools' Day. By tradition it is the day on whi jokes are played. The children might decide to wake their parent with the news that the house is on fire, or that some other disaster has occurred. When they see the looks of alarm on victims' faces, they shout, «April Fool!»
At school serious work is practically forgotten as the c try to pin notices on one another's backs. The notices say things like «Kick Me», or «I'm a Fool». Teachers have to be particularly careful or they too might find themselves walking around wit silly sign on their backs.
On this day of national good humour, the television service joins in the fun.
Once they told the story of a building that had been upside down by mistake. They showed an example of mo architecture, which actually did look better when it was ti the other way. Many people must have been fooled, and pe the architect himself was given food for thought.
Pancake Day is the popular name for Shrove Tuesday — the day preceding the first day of Lent.
In medieval times the day was characterised by merrymaking and feasting, a relic of which is the eating of pancakes. Whatever religious significance the day may have possessed in the olden days, it certainly has none now.
The origin of the festival is rather obscure, as is the origin of the custom of pancake eating.
The most consistent form of celebration in the old days was all over town ball game or tug-of-war in which everyone let rip before the traditional feast, tearing here and tearing there, struggling to get the ball or rope into their part of the town. It seems that several dozen towns kept up these ball games until only a few years ago. Today the only custom that is consistently observed throughout Britain is pancake eating, though here and there other customs still seem to survive. Among the latter, Pancake races, the Pancake Greaze custom are best known.