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Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks
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The following are holidays throughout the United Kingdom:
Fixed Public Holidays
Holidays falling on a weekend are celebrated on the Monday following. If two consecutive holidays fall on a Saturday and Sunday, they are observed on the Monday and Tuesday following. Scottish clearing banks observe the British, not the Scottish Bank Holidays.
There will be an extra day's holiday on Monday June 3rd, 2002 to mark HM Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee (50th year of accession to the throne). The bank holiday normally held one week earlier will be held on June 4th.
Moveable Public Holidays
Festivals and Celebrations
Christmas is celebrated throughout the whole of the UK. People decorate their houses with Christmas trees, streamers and pictures of "Santa." Christmas is commonly known as "Xmas" and is a period when schools are closed for 2 - 3 weeks. People exchange presents on Christmas Day, 25th December. A large Christmas Dinner is traditional, which includes eating a Turkey. People also send each other Christmas cards. Due to the weather in the UK, Christmas is normally a cold time of year, and there is commonly snow around Christmas time. Christmas is full of tradition!
The word Christmas comes from the words "Cristes maesse", or "Christ's Mass." Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus for members of the Christian religion. Most historians peg the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D.
December 25th really the day Jesus was born?
there a small evergreen tree in your living room?
Mistletoe has apparently been used as a decoration in houses for thousands of years and is also associated with many pagan rituals. Many years ago, the church forbade the use of mistletoe in any form. As a substitute, it suggested holly. The sharply pointed leaves were to symbolize the thorns in Christ's crown and the red berries drops of his blood. Holly became a nativity tradition. The Christian ban on mistletoe was in effect throughout the Middle Ages. Surprisingly, as late as the 20th century, there were churches in England that forbade the wearing of mistletoe sprigs and corsages during services." For Scandinavians, the goddess of love (Frigga) is strongly associated with mistletoe. This link to romance may be where our tradition of kissing under mistletoe comes from.
Christmas cards scattered all over the coffee table?
exactly, are the 12 days of Christmas?
In the past, there was a tradition of giving gifts throughout the 12 days, rather than stacking them all up on the morning of December 25. That tradition, as you might imagine, has never really caught on in America! We just aren't that patient. The song, however, demonstrates that some people once stretched out their gifts (and gave some fairly elaborate gifts...) over the full 12 days.
the day before Christmas, Christmas Eve, celebrated?
this Santa Claus?
Then, between 1863 and 1886, Harper's Weekly (a popular magazine of the time) ran a series of engravings by Thomas Nast. From these images come the concepts of Santa's workshop, Santa reading letters, Santa checking his list and so on. Coca-Cola also played a role in the Santa image by running a set of paintings by Haddon Sundblom in its ads between 1931 to 1964.
The red and white suit came, actually, from the original Saint Nicholas. Those colors were the colors of the traditional bishop's robes.
this one reindeer at the front named Rudolf?
At various times, the following "origins" have been loudly asserted as the correct one:
This dual-versioned theory melds the two previous ones together into a new form; namely, the employer who was obligated to hand out something on Boxing Day, but this time to recipients who were not working the land for him and thus were not dependent on him for all they wore and ate. The "box" thus becomes something beyond ordinary compensation (in a way goods to landed serfs was not), yet it's also not a gift in that there's nothing voluntary about it. Under this theory, the boxes are an early form of Christmas bonus, something employees see as their entitlement.
Boxes in churches for seasonal donations to the needy were opened on Christmas Day, and the contents distributed by the clergy the following day. The contents of this alms box originated with the ordinary folks in the parish who were thus under no direct obligation to provide anything at all and were certainly not tied to the recipients by a employer/employee relationship. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that one gigantic lockbox the donations were left in.
jack-o'-lanterns, hollowed-out turnips with embers or candles inside,
became a very popular Halloween decoration in Ireland and Scotland. Folk
tradition held that they would ward off Stingy Jack and other spirits on
Halloween, and they also served as representations of the souls of the
dead. Irish who emigrated to America brought the tradition with them but
replaced the turnips with pumpkins because they were more plentiful.
Pumpkins were easier to carve than turnips, and people began to give their
jack-o'-lanterns frightening faces.
For children, the main event of Halloween is still to dress up and go trick-or-treating door to door. Most households in the United States and Canada participate, and those who don't hand out candy run the risk of petty vandalism. Many adults even dress up themselves, to go out with their children or to attend costume parties and contests. But a number of other Halloween activities now fill the whole month of October.
Christian groups are also disturbed by rumors that modern day Wiccans and Druids observe Halloween as an occasion to worship Satan or other evil forces. The established organizations of these groups completely disavow all knowledge of such practices, though they do say that Halloween is an important day of the year in their religion. Every year there are some reports of satanic rituals and even animal sacrifices, but there is good evidence that many of these stories are fabrications and that actual incidents are the practices of individuals and smaller extremist groups, operating outside any larger organization.
Many Wiccans, modern day witches, get upset around Halloween because they feel that they are misrepresented by a few Christian spokesmen and the news media. They want to separate their religion from the popular notion of witches as evil figures in league with the Devil. They say that modern witchcraft is based on ancient Wiccan and Druid beliefs that had nothing to do with Satan or other figures from Judeo-Christian theology. Wiccans want people to know that their religion is based on a connection to nature and the universe and not dark forces and evil spells, as the popular idea of a witch suggests. Wiccan leaders cite historical documents that show that the popular notion of witches arose from Catholic propaganda hundreds of years ago.
More generally, Halloween is controversial because many people think it is an inappropriate, possibly dangerous holiday for children. Children are in some physical danger when they go trick-or-treating because they are walking around neighborhoods in the dark, accepting candy from strangers. Some people also believe that the frightening imagery surrounding Halloween is too disturbing to children, noting that younger trick-or-treaters have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality and may be completely overwhelmed by people in monster costumes. In recent years, more and more parents have steered away from trick-or-treating, taking their children to school or church Halloween parties instead.
This is a tough issue for parents because they often have very fond memories of trick-or-treating when they were children, but don't feel comfortable taking their own kids out. They say that Halloween was less frightening when they were kids because it was mostly about dressing up in fun costumes and children weren't exposed to so much disturbing imagery in popular culture. Modern horror movies have become a particularly sore point for concerned parents, as they are usually extremely violent.
Others note that many aspects of Halloween are very important to children. Dressing up can give shy children a boost of self-confidence and trick-or-treating may create a healthy feeling of community in a neighborhood. Most of all, adults who love Halloween would hate to see their favorite traditions phased out, because they remember how much they enjoyed them. At this point, Halloween does seem to be headed for some changes, but there are many different ideas of what these changes should be.
People Love Halloween?
we enjoy being scared?
In addition to working through uneasiness about death and supernatural mysteries, people like to feel frightened for purely biological reasons. When we watch a scary movie or take a ride on a roller coaster, our body releases adrenaline and other hormones because it thinks we are in some danger and we need extra energy do deal with the situation. When you're actually in danger, of course, you don't enjoy the feeling of these hormones, you simply use them to fight, escape or take some other action. When the danger is simulated, though, your mind knows you're actually safe and you enjoy the energy the hormones give you. Intentional, contained fear is fun for most people because it gives us a hormone rush and helps us work through our general fears in a safe environment.
By dressing up as our fears, we embrace them even more closely, taking control of them to some extent. This can be particularly effective with children. They usually don't fear mortality so much as they do sinister figures like monsters and ghosts. Once they've dressed themselves up as a monster and played that character, they cut through some of the monster's mystery, making it less ominous.
Trick-or-treating is not all about dressing up as frightening figures, of course. Just as often, children dress as a favorite cartoon character or a future occupation. The pleasure in this is simply play-acting -- kids look forward to Halloween because they get to inhabit a character, whether it be a frightening figure or an idolized superhero. Adults enjoy dressing up for similar reasons, and this is why the masquerade plays a part in so many festivals from different cultures. Putting on a mask lets people drop their inhibitions and step outside of themselves for an evening. People in costumes often say and do things they would be very hesitant to say or do in their everyday life. It's very satisfying to step into another character for a while, even for a serious grown-up.
Halloween obviously serves a valuable function for many children and adults. It continues to be so popular because it fills our basic need to address the mysteries that frighten us, and even celebrate these mysteries. It is a real testament to the power of Halloween traditions that they have been passed down and embraced by so many generations.
The custom of eating hot cross buns goes back to pre-Christian times, when pagans offered their god, Zeus, a cake baked in the form of a bull, with a cross upon it to represent its horns. Throughout the centuries, hot cross buns were made and eaten every Good Friday, and it was thought that they had miraculous curative powers. People hung buns from their kitchen ceilings to protect their households from evil for the year to come. Good Friday bread and buns were said never to go moldy. This was probably because the buns were baked so hard that there was no moisture left in the mixture for the mold to live on. Hot cross buns and bread baked on Good Friday were used in powdered form to treat all sorts of illnesses.
Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent.
Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting that gets its name from the practice of sprinkling ashes over those engaging in the fast of Lent. Has anyone ever apologized to you by saying, "Let me put on my ashes and sackcloth..."? This is where that saying originated. Those wishing to receive the sacrament of penance were known as "penitents." They wore sackcloth and were required to remain apart from the Christian community until Maundy Thursday. This practice fell into disuse during the eighth, ninth and 10th centuries, when the beginning of Lent was symbolized by placing ashes on the heads of the entire congregation.
Today, Christians have a cross put on their forehead in ashes. The ashes are usually made from the previous year's blessed palm fronds from Palm Sunday, and are usually wet with holy water before being used.
The name Lent comes from the Middle English "lenten," meaning "spring." Lent signifies 40 days of fasting in order to imitate the fast of Jesus Christ after his baptism (the Epiphany). Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday, when it ends.
Maundy Thursday may also have come from the Latin word "mandatum," meaning "commandment," as in the Biblical words of Jesus,
new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must
love one another.'" (John 13:34, NIV).
The name may also be derived from God's Day, since in the first two centuries, the word "good" would only ever have been used as a description for God. The Saxons and Danes called this day Long Friday, and Good Friday in Danish is Langfreday.
not be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was
crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid
him.'" (Mark 16:6, NIV)
Red roses were said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love; also, red is a color that signifies strong feelings.
Lace has long been used to make women's handkerchiefs. Hundreds of years ago, if a woman dropped her handkerchief, a man might pick it up for her. Sometimes, if she had her eye on the right man, a woman might intentionally drop her handkerchief to encourage him. So, people began to think of romance when they thought of lace.
knots have series of winding and interlacing loops with no beginning and
no end. A symbol of everlasting love, love knots were made from ribbon or
drawn on paper.
How about the "X" sign representing a kiss? This tradition started with the Medieval practice of allowing those who could not write to sign documents with an "X". This was done before witnesses, and the signer placed a kiss upon the "X" to show sincerity. This is how the kiss came to be synonymous with the letter "X", and how the "X" came to be commonly used at the end of letters as kiss symbols. (Some believed "X" was chosen as a variation on the cross symbol, while others believe it might have been a pledge in the name of Christ, since the "X" or Chi symbol, is the second letter of the Greek alphabet and has been used in church history to represent Christ.)
There's some controversy regarding Saint Valentine, for whom the famous day is named. Archaeologists, who unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine, are not sure if there was one Valentine or more! Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred on Feb. 14 -- at least two of those in Italy during the 3rd century.) The most popular candidate for St. Valentine was a 3rd century Roman priest who practiced Christianity and performed secret marriages against direct orders from Emperor Claudius II, who believed single soldiers were more likely to join his army. Legend has it that Valentine sent a friend (the jailer's daughter) a note signed "From Your Valentine" before he was executed on Feb. 14 in 270 A.D. (That phrase is still used prominently on today's cards!)
A variety of interesting Valentine's Day traditions developed over time. For example, hundreds of years ago in England, children dressed up as adults on Valentine's Day and went singing holiday verses from door to door. In Wales, wooden love spoons, carved with key, keyhole and heart designs, were given as gifts.
of flowers on Valentine's Day -- along with Mother's Day, the busiest
floral holiday of the year -- probably dates to the early 1700s when
Charles II of Sweden brought the Persian poetical art called "the
language of flowers" to Europe. Throughout the 18th century, floral
lexicons were published, allowing secrets to be exchanged with a lily or
lilac, and entire conversations to take place in a bouquet of flowers. The
more popular the flower, the more traditions and meanings have been
associated with it. The rose, representing love, is probably the only
flower with a meaning that is universally understood. The red rose remains
the most popular flower bought by men in the United States for their
sweethearts. In more recent years, people have sent their sweethearts
their favorite flowers, rather than automatically opting for roses. Also
making the list of valentine favorites are tulips, lilies, daisies and
Among early valentine gifts were candies, usually chocolates, in heart-shaped boxes. Companies like Godiva Chocolatiers have made high quality chocolate in artistic designs and elegant wrappings a traditional valentine's gift. (If you're a chocolate connoisseur, check out Godiva's chocolate glossary and try a few of their Valentine's Day recipes!)
Apparently, gifts of chocolates and flowers haven't replaced carefully chosen cards on Valentine's Day. Since 1915, Hallmark, the undisputed leader of the greeting card industry, has manufactured cards to be mailed in envelopes. Founder Joyce Hall started selling greeting postcards from two shoe boxes as early as 1910. The Norfolk, Neb., teenager with the big ideas built a Kansas City business/global empire he hardly could have imagined! Today, Hallmark makes a tremendously diverse range of cards in 30 languages and sells them in more than 100 countries.
Some people still make their own valentines and most parents think these are the best kind. And if you're not sure what to write in your valentine, look at this Web site of love quotes.
The modern valentine card has become increasingly sophisticated, keeping pace with popular technological advances. For example, there are cards that let you record a romantic message, "scratch-and-sniff" cards (chocolate smells would be nice!) and cards that play romantic music.
And of course, you can send e-mail valentines. Some sites even offer free personal use of their illustrations or cards. Other technology allows you to send a romantic fax or videotape with a personal valentine message. But choose your valentine carefully -- some people find fax and e-mail missives too impersonal -- and not private enough -- for this holiday of love! Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest!