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Welcome topics and those to avoid

The UK (especially, but not just, London) is a thoroughly multiracial and multicultural society. You should not make any assumptions about a person's background, nationality or origins.

Welcome topics:the weather (always a safe starting point), sport (particularly football/soccer), animals (usually safe - though beware vegetarians if you like to eat them), British history, culture, literature, art, and popular music current affairs, your immediate surroundings and positive experiences in the UK, how good the food is (things have changed in recent years!), real ale (i.e. traditional British beer)

Topics to avoid: Northern Ireland, religion (especially if you are in Northern Ireland, Glasgow or Liverpool), the monarchy and the Royal Family, partisan politics, the European Union, ‘Brussels’ and the euro, the Middle East, personal questions about a person’s background, religion, occupation, etc., class and the class system, race and immigration, sex (particularly homosexuality).


New Year's Day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom on January 1 each year. It marks the start of the New Year in the Gregorian calendar. For many people have a quiet day on January 1, which marks the end of the Christmas break before they return to work. However, there are some special customs, particularly in Scotland.

At midnight, as the New Year begins, the chimes of Big Ben are broadcast to mark the start of the New Year.

On New Year's Eve (December 31), just before midnight, many people turn on a television to show pictures of one of the four clocks on the Clock Tower on the Palace of Westminster, or Houses of Parliament, in London counting down the last minutes of the old year. At midnight, as the New Year begins, the chimes of Big Ben, the bell inside the Clock Tower, are broadcast to mark the start of the New Year. Champagne or other sparkling wines are often served at this point.

Many people hold parties at home or go out to pubs or night clubs. These parties often continue into the early hours of the morning. Hence, for many people, New Year's Day is time for recovering from the excesses of the night before. For others, it is the last day of the Christmas holiday before they return to work. Some take the opportunity to carry out home improvements or to go for a walk in the country. In many places around the United Kingdom's coast, groups of people dress up in fancy costumes and run into the cold sea.

Many people make New Year's resolutions. These are promises to themselves that they will lead a better life in some way in the coming year. Common New Year's resolutions include stopping smoking, losing weight, eating more healthily, getting more exercise or spending less money. Some types of resolution that would lead to a healthier lifestyle are supported by government advertising campaigns.

In some areas, there are a number of customs associated with New Year's Day. In Scotland many people sing the song 'Auld Lang Syne' at midnight as New Year's Day begins. In Scotland and northern England, it is customary to go first footing. This is the first person to enter a house on January 1. There are many traditions and superstitions associated with first footing. A male first-footer brings good luck, but a female bad luck. In different areas there are different traditions about whether the first footer should have fair or dark hair, whether the person should bring coal, salt or other things and what food or drink that person should be served after arrival.

New Year's Day is a bank holiday. If January 1 is a Saturday or Sunday, the bank holiday falls on Monday, January 2 or 3. Nearly all schools, large businesses and organizations are closed. In some areas stores may be open, although this varies a lot. Public transport systems do not usually run on their normal timetables. In general, public life shuts down completely on New Year's Day.

The New Year's Eve and New Year's Day celebrations in Scotland are known as Hogmanay and may last into January 2, an annual bank holiday. This holiday is marked with parties, specially prepared foods and the custom of first footing.

January 2 is a public holiday when families spend time together in Scotland.

Hogmanay celebrations generally begin in the afternoon or evening of New Year's Eve and continue into early hours of the New Year's Day morning. Some family gatherings or private celebrations organized by groups of friends may continue through to January 2.

In some areas, the custom of first footing continues on January 2. First footing refers to when someone is the first person to enter a house on January 1. For many people in Scotland, January 2 is a day to recover from the Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations or to spend some quiet time with friends or family members before returning to work on January 3.

January 2 is not a bank or public holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, January 1 and 2 are bank holidays in Scotland. Banks and post offices are closed. There may be limited public transport services or none at all. Some stores and businesses may be closed.

The Hogmanay celebration origins can be traced to pre-Christian observances in mid-winter. These included large fires to tempt the sun back to earth, as well as feasts of the food gathered and harvested in the autumn. Hogmanay was traditionally a more important celebration than Christmas in Scotland but the importance of Christmas recently increased.

Fires are burnt during Hogmanay. This is a tradition from the pre-Christian winter celebrations. In Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, fire balls are made of tar, paper and wire attached to a chain or non-flammable rope. The balls are lit and swung around people's heads in a procession. At the end of the evening, burning balls are thrown into the harbor. In Burghead, Moray, the clavie (a barrel filled with of tar and old casks) is burnt on January 11, the old Hogmanay date.

Popular Hogmanay dishes include: steak pie; lamb or beef stew; shortbread and cheese; Scotch pancakes (small, thick pancakes cooked on a griddle) with butter or smoked salmon; rumbledethumps (boiled potatoes and swedes or turnips mashed with stir fried cabbage and oven-baked); and seven-cup pudding (steamed pudding with dried fruit and spices). Whiskey is a popular drink.

People traditionally ate black bun on Twelfth Night (January 6) but it is now eaten on the last day of Hogmanay. Black bun consists of a pastry case filled with nuts, spices and dried fruit soaked in brandy. It is often made a few weeks ahead to allow the flavors to mature.

Burns' Night in United Kingdom

Burns Night is annually celebrated in Scotland on or around January 25. It commemorates the life of the bard (poet) Robert Burns, who was born on January 25, 1759. The day also celebrates Burns' contribution to Scottish culture. Burns' best known work is "Auld Lang Syne".

Many people and organizations hold a Burns' supper. Formal events include toasts and readings of pieces written by Robert Burns.

Burns suppers include haggis (a type of sausage prepared in a sheep's stomach), Scotch whisky, and the recitation of Burns's poetry. The haggis is traditionally served with mashed potatoes (tatties) and mashed turnips (A Scottish 'turnip' is an English 'swede') (neeps). A dessert course, cheese courses, coffee, etc. may also be part of the meal. The courses normally use traditional Scottish recipes. When the haggis is on the table, the host reads the "Address to a Haggis". This is an ode that Robert Burns wrote to the Scottish dish. At the end of the reading, the haggis is ceremonially sliced into two pieces and the meal begins.

At Burns' Night events, many men wear kilts and women may wear shawls, skirts or dresses made from their family tartan. A tartan was originally a woolen cloth with a distinctive pattern made by using colors of weft and warp when weaving. Particular patterns and combinations of colors were associated with different areas, clans and families. Tartan patterns are now printed on various materials.

Many types of food are associated with Burns' Night. These include: cock-a-leekie soup (chicken and leek soup); haggis; neeps (mashed turnips or swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes); cranachan (whipped cream mixed with raspberries and served with sweet oat wafers); and bannocks (a kind of bread cooked on a griddle). Whisky is the traditional drink.

Carnival/Shrove Tuesday in United Kingdom

Many Christian churches in the United Kingdom observe Shrove Tuesday as the last day before the fast for the Lent period. It is also known as Pancake Tuesday or Pancake Day.

Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday. There are different types pancakes in the United Kingdom.

Shrove Tuesday in the United Kingdom is commonly known as Pancake Tuesday. It is a time for people to eat pancakes or participate in pancake races.

The Olney Pancake Race is held at Olney in Buckinghamshire on Shrove Tuesday. It is one of the best known pancake races in the United Kingdom. The course for the Olney Pancake Race is about 415 yards long (about 379 meters). Competitors must wear traditional costumes that include a skirt, apron and head covering to run the race. Official Olney and Liberal prizes are then presented at a Shriving service in the parish church after the race is finished.

Shrove Tuesday is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom so public life is not affected. According to Christian tradition, Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness so observant Christians marked this event by fasting. Many people used ingredients, such as eggs and milk, to prepare pancakes on Shrove Tuesday prior to the fasting period. Pancake races have been held in England for more than 500 years. Some sources suggest that they may have started in 1445.

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 535

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