List of British (UK) Holidays and Celebrations

Updated on May 17, 2016

There are many kinds of celebrations in Britain - from royal to religious and from traditional to more modern. This great country has been around for almost 1,000 years and has had influences before that, all helping to make rich and vibrant celebrations that many enjoy every year.

New Year's Day - January 1

The night before New Year's Day, many British citizens watch as the clock tower's (incorrectly known as "Big Ben" - which is actually the name of the bell within the tower) minute hand finally reaches midnight. At this time, Big Ben rings in the new year. Many people celebrate by either having parties at home, or by going out and partying with friends. Many people also make new years resolutions (as is customary in many other countries in the world). In Scotland, a common tradition is to sing 'Auld Lang Syne' at midnight to bring in the new year.

Hogmanay (December 31 - January 2)

In Scotland, the term used for the New Year's celebration is "Hogmanay," and it can last up until January 2 (which is usually considered a bank holiday). In some parts of England and in Scotland, it is considered good luck if a man is the first person to enter a friend's home on New Year's Day, and bad luck if a woman is the first. This is known as "First Footing," and the friend that enters usually gives a small ceremonial gift.

Twelfth Night and Epiphany - January 5 - 6

It is considered bad luck to have Christmas celebration up past the day of Epiphany, so many people used January 5 (Twelfth Night) to take them down. Some people host parties and serve Twelfth Night cakes which have had one dried pea and one dried bean baked into them. If you are the one of the lucky party-goers who receive one of the other in their slice of cake, you will be crowned "king" or "queen" of the evening.

Epiphany is a Christian holiday which celebrates the coming of the Magi after the birth of Christ. Some people attend a church service on this day.

Burns' Night - January 25

Burns' Night is celebrated in honor of the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796). He is best known for writing the song, "Auld Lang Syne." Many Scots will celebrate the evening by eating haggis and reading the poet's works.

Tu B'Shevat (varies)

Tu B'Shevat is a Jewish holiday that is held on the 15th day of Shevat (a month of the Jewish calendar). On this day, Jews celebrate trees and plants by eating fresh fruit (whatever is in season) and/or planting a tree. While it isn't a public holiday in Britain, some Jewish businesses may close.

Candlemas Day - February 2

This day marks the middle of the winter season - from the shortest day of the year to the Spring Equinox. This day also celebrates the cleansing of Mary.

Valentine's Day - February 14

This day is celebrated with the giving of gifts, as well as writing verses of love in newspapers and magazines for your special someone. Many couples will spend the evening celebrating with a special meal. Occasionally, children will send valentines to one another in celebration.

Purim (varies)

Purim is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar (a month of the Jewish calendar). This is the traditional day where Queen Esther saved the Jews from the decree of death in Babylon). Many gather together to read the story of the queen.

St. David's Day (Wales) - March 1

St. David's day is to celebrate the man, Dewi Sant, who spread Christianity throughout Wales. Many will attend church services held in his honor.

St. Patrick's Day - March 17

While most of the UK doesn't celebrate St. Patrick's Day (though there is a parade and festival in London), it is a very important religious holiday in Northern Ireland, set aside to remember the life and death of Saint Patrick, who was a missionary to Ireland.

Pancake Day
Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) - Day Before Lent - March/April

Many celebrate this day by eating pancakes, as the contain many ingredients that are inappropriate for lent (a Christian tradition of going without luxuries). Some communities also hold "pancake races" in which people run a distance while flipping pancakes in a frying pan. In order to win, a person must cross the finish line without burning breakfast.

Lent - March/April

The first day of lent is 40 days before Easter. Many people give up something they enjoy during lent.

Mothering Sunday - 4th Sunday of Lent - March/April

Mothering Sunday is a day where children generally honor their mothers by giving them a gift and a card, then take their mother out to a special brunch or lunch.

Maundy Thursday - Thursday Before Easter - March/April

Maundy Thursday is a day to celebrate Jesus's last supper before his crucifixion and many people attend a church service on this day. The Church of England has a tradition of giving out ceremonial "Maundy Money" (or the "Queen's Maundy Money," or "Royal Maundy Money") to senior citizens. Two small pouches are given out. The red one contains a traditional sum for clothing and other necessities, while the white one contains coins representative of the reigning monarch's age.

Easter - March/April

Many people go to church on this sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This day is also celebrated by the giving of eggs, decorating eggs and Easter egg hunts, where eggs are hidden for children (and playful adults) to find.

April Fool's Day - April 1

Much like other countries with this holiday, it is a day where it is socially acceptable for people to play practical jokes on each other.

St. George's Day (England's National Day) - April 23

Celebrating with parades, some people celebrate St. George who is said to have defeated a dragon. The day is celebrated with parades and parties and flags with "St. George's Cross" are flown.

May Day - May 1

This day is celebrated beautifully with may poles and flowers. It is traditionally a celebration of spring and fertility.

Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour

Trooping the Colours - Sometime in June

Trooping the Colours is celebrated every year with the British Army and the regiments of the Commonwealth performing a ceremony that originated in the seventeenth century AD. The queen and a series of troops perform a procession also known as the "Queen's Birthday Parade."

Wimbledon Tennis Tournament - Sometime in June

People attend the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, which is considered the most prestigious of tennis championships.

Swan Upping - Third Week of July

Many celebrate this day by going to the River Thames and watching a procession of swans and traditional boats.

Notting Hill Carnival - Last Monday in August

On this day, there is a street festival that millions go to see and participate in every year. The parade include colorful floats, bands and many other attractions.

Harvest Festival - On or Near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon

A day to celebrate the growth of crops on the land.

Halloween - October 31

A day where people dress up, bob for apples and have bonfires. Many attend themed parties and children will occasionally go trick-or-treating (though this traditions was started elsewhere, despite halloween having British origins).

Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Day) - November 5

This day is in celebration of the failed gunpowder attempt to blow up the house of Parliament in 1605. It is celebrated with fireworks at night. Many families will make effigies of Guy Fawkes and burn them in a bon fire either in their own back yards or with other members of the community. Since the day is so close to Halloween, many will combine the two holidays (maybe that is why there are so many Guy Fawkes masks available).

Remembrance Day - November 11

This day recognizes the end of WWI. Many people wear a poppy in their pocket in remembrance.

St. Andrew's Day - November 30

This is the celebrated national day of Scotland. Many Scots celebrate with special dances and festivals and the Scottish flag is flown throughout the country. A legend states that if women anxious to be married peel and orange at midnight (on the 29th to the 30th), they will find the first letter of their future husband's name.

Advent - December 1-24

On the first 24 days of December, Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus.

Eid Milad ul-Nabi (varies)

Eid Milad ul-Nabi falls on either the 12th or 17th day of Rabi' al-awwal (an Islamic month of their calendar). On this day, Muslims celebrate the birth of their prophet Muhammad. Many use the day to remember the prophet and reflect on stories about his life. Some will even fast during the day. While it isn't a public holiday in the United Kingdom, some Muslims will close.

Christmas - December 25

This day is celebrated by friends and family by giving gifts and going to a special Sunday service at church. Many celebrate the tradition of "Father Christmas" by giving gifts that he delivered during the night. Many families also share in a Christmas feast that may involve ham, minced pies and Yorkshire pudding! At the beginning of the meal, each member of the family will cross arms and together pull Christmas poppers that will produce paper hats worn through the meal as well as other trinkets and jokes.

Boxing Day - December 26

Traditionally, this is the day that servants were able to celebrate Christmas, as they were serving their masters the day before. I more recent times, people shop the "day after Christmas" sales!

Thank you for reading. If you know of additional holidays and celebrations, please let me know and I'll add them to the list.

Comments

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    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      4 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks, useful information. great article. The U.K. is rich in holidays,

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • profile image

      bh 

      4 months ago

      why are there so many?

    • profile image

      AHeartyFAAAAART 

      5 months ago

      This was useful

    • profile image

      pooop 

      5 months ago

      so gooooooooood

    • profile image

      Bro 

      6 months ago

      Good.Very good!

    • profile image

      Boi 

      7 months ago

      To many adds

    • profile image

      Cyan 

      8 months ago

      Happy new year old. Man

    • profile image

      Andrew 

      8 months ago

      Awesome. so thankful for the updates

    • profile image

      Dakota 

      10 months ago

      helped me on my progect

    • profile image

      nathalie 

      10 months ago

      cool

    • profile image

      cake 

      10 months ago

      best

    • profile image

      hi 

      10 months ago

      please give me more information for British celebrations

    • profile image

      Jukedude 

      10 months ago

      This did help a LOT with my project

    • profile image

      AMIRI 

      12 months ago

      omg!

    • profile image

      Celina Martin 

      14 months ago

      Could you give me more lists of celebrations?

    • profile image

      Leah 

      15 months ago

      I love this website it gives you all the information about what the holiday is and its selaprated. #BestWebsiteEver!

    • profile image

      Mario 

      20 months ago

      soooo manyyyy holidayyys![so many holidays!]

    • profile image

      pusheen person 

      22 months ago

      nice i like i cant even think of why servents had to work on Christmas

    • profile image

      turtle3 

      22 months ago

      i like turtles as well

    • profile image

      Gretel 

      3 years ago

      This was great it helped a lot with my project

    • profile image

      Jessie 

      4 years ago

      This is a great list of celebrations! My mum Amanda sent a comment saying that not all of the celebrations are on there.

    • profile image

      Amanda 

      4 years ago

      This is a good list but not all of the celebrations are on there

    • profile image

      Jaybob 

      4 years ago

      Thanks so much

    • profile image

      dshdjal 

      5 years ago

      loveit

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      5 years ago from London

      Thumbs up! Interesting and useful!

      By the way, can hardly wait for that Valentine's Day!

      Cheers!

    • profile image

      nigar 

      5 years ago

      i like british holiday

    • profile image

      turtle 

      6 years ago

      i like turtles

    • zeusspeak profile image

      Celina Martin 

      7 years ago from London

      @holiday girl nice hub. More holidays are listen first time.

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