CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS IN GB

Every nation and every country has its own customs and traditions. In Britain traditions play a more important part in life of people than in other countries. Englishmen are proud of their traditions and carefully keep them up.

Custom - is an accepted way of behaving or of doing things in a society or a community;

Tradition - is a belief, custom or way of doing something that has existed for a long time among a particular group of people; a set of these beliefs or customs

Time

British people place considerable value on punctuality. If you agree to meet friends at three o'clock, you can bet that they'll be there just after three. Since Britons are so time conscious, the pace of life may seem very rushed. In Britain, people make great effort to arrive on time. It is often considered impolite to arrive even a few minutes late. If you are unable to keep an appointment, it is expected that you call the person you are meeting. Some general tips follow.

You should arrive:

* At the exact time specified – for dinner, lunch, or appointments with professors, doctors, and other professionals.

* Any time during the hours specified for teas, receptions, and cocktail parties.

* A few minutes early: for public meetings, plays, concerts, movies, sporting events, classes, church services, and weddings.

If you are invited to someone's house for dinner at half past seven, they will expect you to be there on the dot. An invitation might state "7.30 for 8", in which case you should arrive no later than 7.50. However, if an invitation says "sharp", you must arrive in plenty of time.

Invitations.“ Drop in anytime” and “come see me soon” are idioms often used in social settings but seldom meant to be taken literally. It is wise to telephone before visiting someone at home. If you receive a written invitation to an event that says “RSVP”, you should respond to let the person who sent the invitation know whether or not you plan to attend.

Never accept an invitation unless you really plan to go. You may refuse by saying, “Thank you for inviting me, but I will not be able to come.” If, after accepting, you are unable to attend, be sure to tell those expecting you as far in advance as possible that you will not be there.

Although it is not necessarily expected that you give a gift to your host, it is considered polite to do so, especially if you have been invited for a meal. Flowers, chocolate, or a small gift are all appropriate. A thank-you note or telephone call after the visit is also considered polite and is an appropriate means to express your appreciation for the invitation.

Dress. Everyday dress is appropriate for most visits to peoples' homes. You may want to dress more formally when attending a holiday dinner or cultural event, such as a concert or theatre performance.

Introduction and Greeting. It is proper to shake hands with everyone to whom you are introduced, both men and women. An appropriate response to an introduction is "Pleased to meet you". If you want to introduce yourself to someone, extend you hand for a handshake and say "Hello, I am....". Hugging is only for friends.

Dining. When you accept a dinner invitation, tell your host if you have any dietary restrictions. He or she will want to plan a meal that you can enjoy. The evening meal is the main meal of the day in most parts of Britain.

Food may be served in one of several ways: "family style," by passing the serving plates from one to another around the dining table; "buffet style," with guests serving themselves at the buffet; and "serving style," with the host filling each plate and passing it to each person. Guests usually wait until everyone at their table has been served before they begin to eat. Food is eaten with a knife and fork and dessert with a spoon and fork.

English  traditions, first of all, concerns United Kingdom political system.

The 6 ravens have been kept in the Tower of London now for centuries. They used to come in from Essex for food cracks when the Tower was used as a palace. Over the years people thought that if the ravens ever left the Tower, the Monarchy would fall. So Charles II decreed that 6 ravens should always be kept in the Tower and should be paid a wage from the treasury. Sometimes they live as long as 25 years, but thrit wings are clipped, so they can’t fly away, and when a raven dies another raven brought from Essex.

Some ceremonies are traditional, such as a Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parlament. The Ceremony of Trooping the Colour is one of the most fascinating. It is staged in front of Buckingham Palace. It is held annually on the monarch’s official birthday which was the second Saturday in June. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was Colonel-in-Chief of the Life Guards. She was escorted by Horse Guards riding to the Parade. The ceremony is accompanied by the music of bands. The procession is headed by the Queen.

In England the Queen opens the parliament once a year, she goes to the Houses of Parliament in the golden coach, she wears the crown jewels. She opens the Parliament with a speech in the House of Lords. The cavalrymen wear red uniforms, shining helmets, long black boots and long white gloves. These men are Life Guards.

In the House of Lords, Chancellor sits on the sack of wool. This tradition comes from the old times when sheep wool made England rich and powerful.

In the House of Commons there are two rows benches: one row is for the government and the other one is for the opposition. The benches are divided by a strip of carpet, which is also a tradition from old days, when that division prevented the two parties from fighting during the debates.

Present Day Wedding Traditions 

Brides have "Hen' nights and bridegrooms have "Stag" parties similar to bachelor/bachelorette parties. There are ceremony rehearsals, but no rehearsal dinner.

If the couple will marry in a church, banns announcing the proposed wedding are read aloud in the church three Sundays before the wedding. It is unlucky for the bride and bridegroom to be present at the calling of the banns.

Weddings are traditionally held at noon; afterward there is a seated luncheon, called a "wedding breakfast".

Invitations to the wedding are similar to the United States' customs, but few people would go the expense of calligraphy addressing. Response cards are not used; guests purchase their own individual reply cards.

It is good luck for a chimney sweep to kiss the bride when she comes out of the church. 

Wedding Attire 

Bridal gowns are less ornate that the traditional Western style dress. Most small town have wedding shops so there is now more choice. Coloured dresses are becoming more common, but ivory or white is still more popular.

The mother of the bride and the mother of the bridegroom do confer on outfit colours, and they take into consideration the bridesmaid colours. The waistcoat and coloured handkerchief that the groom and best man sometimes wears is normally the same colour as the bridesmaid's dresses.

Brides rarely kept their gowns for their daughters; they either sold them or had the fabric used to make their first child's Christening gown. Wear "something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, and a lucky sixpence in your shoe," as in the old English rhyme.

Lisa Schultz told us of her family's tradition: "All of the brides on my mother's side of the family have carried over their arms horseshoes for good luck. The horseshoes, rather than being actual metal plates, are crocheted and a long ribbon is attached in a loop from end to end. The horseshoe is worn upside down over the arm of the bride during the wedding to bring luck to the marriage."

Today, it is the custom to have many young bridesmaids instead of adult attendants. The bride pays for her attendant's outfits.

The bridegroom rarely wears a tuxedo - only at a very large, formal wedding. Business suits are normal. The bridegroom has a best man, who also wears a business suit.

The mother of the bride and the mother of the bridegroom never confer on outfit colors, nor do they take into consideration the bridesmaid colors.

The Wedding Procession

The wedding party walks to the church together in a procession (an age-old custom that protected the couple from jealous suitors!)

Limousines are rare. They are not very practical on small, winding roads. Transport usually is by Rolls Royce or vintage car.

Traditionally, English brides had only one adult attendant (as a witness). Today, it is the custom to have many young bridesmaids instead of adult attendants. A flower girl leads the way, sprinkling petals of organ blossoms along the road. This signifies a happy route through life for the bride and bridegroom.

Ushers would be found only at large, formal weddings; guests normally would seat themselves.

The Wedding Ceremony

The ceremony (most often in the Anglican Church) usually consists of two or three hymns and, since most guests don't sing, the church choirs are usually hired. English fathers don't kiss their daughters at the altar. During the ceremony, the couple will leave the sanctuary area and with the Priest enter the vestry to sign the wedding documents. They are considered officially married after this is completed. At the benediction, a square piece of cloth, the "care cloth" is held over the bride and bridegroom.

When the bridal couple leaves the church in Kent, the path is strewn with emblems of the bridegroom's employment. Carpenters walk on shavings, butchers on sheepskins, shoemakers on leather parings, and blacksmiths on scarps of old iron.

Church bells ring as the couple enter; they peal a different tune as the newlyweds exit to scare off evil spirits.

Photographs

Photos are taken outside the church immediately after the ceremony, or inside if it is raining. While photos are being taken, relatives and close friends present the bride with wedding souvenirs - horseshoes, wooden spoons, rolling pins, all decorated with lace and ribbon.

The Wedding Breakfast

Weddings traditionally are at noon; afterward, there is a seated luncheon, called a wedding breakfast.

The bride and groom dance the first dance but there is no introduction of wedding parties. There is a father/daughter, and mother/son dance.

They do toss the bouquet, but rarely the garter.

The Wedding Cake

In medieval England, guests brought small cakes and piled them in the center of a table, challenging the bride and groom to kiss over them.

Wedding cakes are less elaborate in design. The wedding cake is a rich fruitcake topped with marzipan; the top tier is called a "christening cake" to be saved for the birth of the first child. (Old fashioned fruitcake dates back to the days before leavening and sugar.)

Chocolate or sponge cakes have become more popular in recent years.

Wedding Gifts. The use of bridal registries have become more popular in recent years. Family members may pass around the bride's general list of items she needs.

There is no such thing as a "shower." Wedding gifts are brought to the reception, or delivered directly to the couple before the wedding. Gifts are not usually opened until after the honeymoon, and then the thank you cards are sent.