There are many festivals, holidays and events in the UK. Some of these fall on specific dates whilst others fall at some point in a certain month. Some are bank holidays, but not all. Listed below are the main ones.
25TH JANUARY – BURNS’ NIGHT (SCOTLAND) Burn’s night is a celebration of Robbie Burns, a celebrated Scottish poet. In Scotland people have a special dinner on Burns’ Night. Men wear kilts and people listen to traditional bagpipe music, they dance, read Burn’s poetry and share a meal of haggis (a traditional Scottish dish of sheep heart, liver and lungs) with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes).
14TH FEBRUARY – VALENTINE’S DAY Saint Valentine’s Day (also known as Valentine’s Day) is celebrated in many countries around the world, although like England, it is not a public holiday in most of them. The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. Find out more about the history of Valentine’s day.
FEBRUARY – SHROVE TUESDAY OR ‘PANCAKE DAY’ Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Pancake Day, falls the day before Lent begins. Lent is the traditional Christian period of fasting which begins 40 days before Easter and ends on Easter Sunday. Nowadays, not many Christians fast, instead preferring to give something up for Lent such as chocolate. Because fasting meant that lots of food would spoil during this period, traditionally people would use up their eggs, milk and sugar by making pancakes. Nowadays, even if people are not fasting, many people still make and eat pancakes on this day. Some people enjoy sweet topping such as sugar and lemon or Nutella. Other people prefer savoury pancakes.
FEBRUARY – CHINESE NEW YEAR Many cities in the UK with a large Asian population celebrate Chinese New Year.
In London there is a parade through Chinatown in the West End with fireworks, music, dance and acrobatics which is the biggest in the world outside Asia. Find out more about the parade.
FEBRUARY – LONDON FASHION WEEK There are two London Fashion Weeks each year – the first London Fashion Week is in February and the second is in September. The September fashion week is the bigger of the two. London Fashion Week events are usually reserved for industry insider only but there are usually other events going on for the general public (such as exhibitions) to coincide with the event.
1ST MARCH – ST DAVID’S DAY People in Wales and those of Welsh origin celebrate the life of their patron saint, St David, and the Welsh culture on March 1st each year. Many people pin a daffodil or leek to their clothes, and some, especially children, wear traditional costumes.
MARCH – MOTHER’S DAY (MOTHERING SUNDAY) Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate your mums and grandmas and everything that they do for you. People give their mother’s gifts and cards and treat them to meals out or do all of the housework for the day. Mothers usually receive breakfast in bed!
17TH MARCH – ST PATRICK’S DAY Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated annually on 17th March, the day that the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, died. According to legend, Saint Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans.
1ST APRIL – APRIL FOOLS’ DAY On April Fools’ Day it is acceptable – even encouraged! – to play tricks and practical jokes on people. Even newspapers, TV and radio shows often feature fake stories to try and trick people. Any practical jokes must be played before midday and if you catch someone out, you must shout ‘April Fools’! After noon, ‘the joke is on you’.
MARCH TO APRIL – EASTER Easter is celebrated in Christian countries to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ (where he is believed to have come back from the dead). We celebrate by going to Church, giving Easter eggs and going on Easter egg hunts. Eggs symbolise new life which is related to Jesus coming back from the dead. There are a few different days which are celebrated by Christian’s throughout the Easter period. These include Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Good Friday is a bank holiday in the UK, and even for those who are not religious, a chocolate Easter egg is usually a traditional gift to give friends and family.
23RD APRIL – ST GEORGE’S DAY St George is the patron Saint of England. There is a legend that he bravely killed a dragon! The Cross of Saint George is red on a white background and is the national flag of England. It is not a national holiday in England (much to the dismay of many English people).
21ST JUNE – FATHER’S DAY Father’s Day is a day to celebrate your dads and grandads and everything that they do for you. People give their father’s gifts and cards, and treat them to meals out or day trips.
JUNE – THE QUEEN’S OFFICIAL BIRTHDAY The Queen’s real birthday is on the 21st of April however it has been a tradition since 1748 for the state to celebrate the king or queen’s birthday in June. This is because in June there is more likely to be nicer weather, so the Queen can celebrate her birthday with civilians in a more comfortable climate. A military parade known as Trooping the Colour is held in London and is attended by the Royal Family.
JUNE – SUMMER SOLSTICE The Summer solstice is the longest day and shortest night of the year. Developed from a pagan tradition, many people gather at the ancient monument of Stonehenge in Wiltshire. People stand inside the monument facing northeast, toward a stone outside the circle called the Heel Stone to watch the sun rise.
JUNE/ JULY – WIMBLEDON Wimbledon in South West London is the venue of one of four annual Grand Slam tennis tournaments held around the world. Wimbledon is synonymous with unpredictable weather and strawberries and cream. Whilst few Brits are interested in tennis for the majority of the year, during the Wimbledon season the UK goes Tennis crazy.
JULY – EID AL-FITR Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan and is widely celebrated by Muslims in the UK. Muslim families and communities usually have their own celebrations as well as some large scale celebrations in cities such as London and Birmingham.
AUGUST – EISTEDDFOD The National Eisteddfod is Wales’ biggest arts and culture festival. You can listen to Welsh music, watch dance and theatre performances, listen to the Welsh language, sample Welsh food and crafts.
AUGUST – EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. It features over 40,000 performances and more than 2,500. Whilst any type of performance may participate (e.g. theatre, music and dance) the festival is most famous for comedy.
AUGUST – NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL Notting Hill Carnival is held in the streets of Notting Hill in west London over the last Summer bank holiday weekend. It’s Europe’s biggest street festival and it is completely free. Around 1 million people flock to watch the colourful procession, dance to music from salsa to reggae, and taste Caribbean food from street stalls.
SEPTEMBER – LONDON FASHION WEEK The second and largest of two London Fashion Weeks each year.
31ST OCTOBER – HALLOWEEN Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31st October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the triduum of Hallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed. Unlike in the USA, it is a relatively calm event. Children will dress up in costumes and go ‘trick or treating’ around the neighbourhood.
OCTOBER/ NOVEMBER – DIWALI Diwali (or Deepavali) is the five day Festival of Lights for Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities. Cities including Manchester, London and Leicester have splendid street parties with displays of lights, lanterns, candles and fireworks as well as music, food and dancing.
NOVEMBER – MOVEMBER Throughout November you may notice that lots of men are growing moustaches. This is because throughout November, the charity campaign of Movember encourages men to grow a moustache to raise funds in support of men’s health. November is affectionately renamed ‘Movember’ which is a combination of the words ‘November’ and ‘moustache’.
5TH NOVEMBER – BONFIRE NIGHT In Britain, Bonfire Night is associated with the tradition of celebrating Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605. It is an annual event dedicated to bonfires, fireworks and celebrations. Different traditions celebrate Bonfire Night on different days. Some of the most popular instances include Great Britain’s Guy Fawkes Night, which is also celebrated in some Commonwealth countries. Throughout the UK there are various bonfires and firework displays.
11TH NOVEMBER – REMEMBRANCE DAY Every year in the UK on 11th November we honour members of the armed forces who lost their lives in battle. In the weeks leading up to 11th November , The Royal British Legion charity sell paper poppy flowers to raise funds for veterans and their families (the poppy is a symbol of Remembrance Day). It is customary to observe a two-minute silence at 11am.
30TH NOVEMBER – ST ANDREW’S DAY (SCOTLAND) St Andrew’s day is Scotland’s official national day. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament designated St Andrew’s Day as an official bank holiday. It is also a national holiday in Romania. In Scotland and many countries with Scottish connections, St Andrew’s Day is marked with a celebration of Scottish culture with traditional Scottish food, music and dance.
NOVEMBER /DECEMBER – HANUKKAH Jewish communities across the UK celebrate Hanukkah (Chanukah), the Festival of Lights. In London a giant menorah is lit up with candles for the Menorah lighting ceremony in Trafalgar Square. It is the largest event of its kind in Europe.
25TH DECEMBER – CHRISTMAS DAY Christmas is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a widely observed cultural holiday, celebrated generally on 25th December by nearly a billion people around the world. Christmas Day is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday in countries around the world, including many whose populations are mostly non-Christian.
Christmas markets have made their way to the UK from European countries such as Belgium and Germany and are now held in many UK cities. There are a popular place to visit with friends and family in the run up to Christmas.
26TH DECEMBER – BOXING DAY Boxing Day is the day after Christmas day. It is a bank holiday in the UK. There are a few theories as to why it’s called ‘Boxing Day’ but no one is completely sure. Arguments include:
- In Britain ‘Christmas Box’ is a name for a Christmas present. Boxing Day was a day off for servants and when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. ‘Boxing day’ could have been named after the ‘Christmas box’ of money or gifts which employers used to give to servants and tradesmen.
- A box to collect money for the poor was placed in Churches on Christmas day. The money would be distributed the day after. ‘Boxing day’ could have been named after this custom.
Today there are no traditional Boxing Day customs. Most people spend the day eating the Christmas leftovers and maybe going for a walk or to visit friends and family.
31ST DECEMBER – NEW YEARS Like many countries around the world the UK celebrates the New Year, we do this by hosting parties with friends and families to await the countdown to the New Year. In Scotland they call it Hogmanay. We celebrate by having a party with friends and setting fireworks off! In many cities there are free celebrations.