Customs and traditions of Great Britain

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Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lent. It is customary to vasit one's mother on that day. Mother ought to be given a present - tea, flowers or a simnel cake. It is possible to buy the cake, they are sold in every confectionery. But it is preferrable to make it at home. The way Mothering Sunday is celebrated has much in common with the International Women's Day celebration in Russia.

Good Friday is the first Friday before Easter. It is the day when all sorts of taboos on various works are in force. Also it is a good day for shifting beers, for sowing potatoes, peas, beans, parsley, and pruning rose trees. Good Friday brings the once sacred cakes, the famous Hot Cross buns. These must be spiced and the dough marked with a cross before baking.

Eggs, chickens, rabbits and flowers are all symbols of new life. Chocolate and fruit cake covered with marzipan show that fasting is over. Wherever Easter is celebrated, there Easter eggs are usually to be found. In England, just as in Russia, Easter is a time for giving and receiving of presents that traditionally take the form of an Easter egg. Easter egg is a real hard-boiled egg dyed in bright colors or decorated with some elaborate pattern. Coloring and decorating eggs for Easter is a very ancient custom. Many people, however, avoid using artificial dyes and prefer to boil eggs with the outer skin of an onion, which makes the eggs shells yellow or brown. In fact, the color depends on the amount of onion skin added. In ancient times they used many different natural dyes fir the purpose. The dyes were obtained mainly from leaves, flowers and bark.

At present Easter eggs are also made of chocolate, sugar, metals, wood, ceramics and other materials at hand. They may differ in size, ranging from enormous to tiny, no bigger than a robin's egg. Easter Sunday is solemnly celebrated in London. Each year the capital city of Britain greets the spring with a spectacular Easter Parade in Battersea Park. The great procession, or parade, begins at 3 p.m. The parade consists of many decorated floats, entered by various organizations in and outside London. Some of the finest bands in the country take part in the parade. At the rear of the parade is usually the very beautiful float richly decorated with flowers. It is called the Jersey one because the spring flowers bloom early on the Island of Jersey.

In England, children rolled eggs down hills on Easter morning, a game has been connected to the rolling away of the rock from Jesus Christ's tomb then He was resurrected. British settlers brought this custom to the New World. It consists of rolling coloured, hardboiled egg down a slope until they are cracked and broken after whish they are eaten by their owners. In some districts this is a competitive game, the winner being the player whose egg remains longest undamaged, but more usually, the fun consists simply of the rolling and eating.


Corn Dollies

Many countries seem to have had a similar custom to the British one of making a design from the last sheaf of corn to be harvested. In Britain a corn dolly is created by plaiting the wheat stalks to create a straw figure. The corn dolly is kept until the Spring. This is because people believed that the corn spirit lived in the wheat and as the wheat was harvested, the spirit fled to the wheat which remained. By creating the corn dolly the spirit is kept alive for the next year and the new crop. Sometimes the corn dolly is hung up in the barn, sometimes in the farmhouse, and sometimes in the church. In Spring the corn dolly would be ploughed back into the soil. There are many types of corn dolly.

The story of John Barleycorn

A story to the corn dolly is to be found in the folksong John Barleycorn. Three men swear that John Barleycorn must die. They take a plough and bury him alive. But the Spring comes and John rises through the soil. After a while he grows big and strong, even growing a beard, so the three men cut him down at the knee, tie him on to a cart, beat him, strip the flesh off his bones and grind him between two stones. But at the end it is John Barleycorn who defeats his opponents, proving the stronger man, by turning into beer.

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