I love celebrations because they bring family, friends, and neighbors together and remind us that life should be fun.
Countless celebrations take place annually in the United Kingdom ranging from royal to religious and traditional to modern. This great country has been around for almost 1,000 years and has been influenced by many other cultures that existed before its formation.
Over the course of its long history, a diverse array of rich and vibrant special occasions have developed in the UK, many of which are still enjoyed by modern-day residents each year. Starting in January and going all the way through December, this article lists many of the UK's most widely celebrated holidays, festivals, and special occasions.
New Year's Day (January 1)
The night before New Year's Day, many British citizens watch as the clock tower's minute hand finally reaches midnight. (The tower is popularly but incorrectly known as "Big Ben," which is actually the name of the large bell within it.) At this time, Big Ben (the bell) rings in the new year.
Many people celebrate either by having parties at home or by going out to pubs and partying with friends. Some people also make new year's resolutions, as is customary in the United States and many other countries around the world. In Scotland, it is a common tradition to sing "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight to bring in the new year. If you're unfamiliar with this classic tune, check out the video below.
Hogmanay (December 31–January 2)
In Scotland, the New Year's celebration is referred to as "Hogmanay," and it can last through January 2, which is considered a bank holiday. In some parts of England and in Scotland, it is considered good luck if the first person to enter one's home on New Year's Day is a man, while it is considered bad luck if a woman is the first to enter. In a tradition known as "first footing," a male friend enters a friend's home and usually gives a small ceremonial gift.
Twelfth Night and Epiphany (January 5–6)
In the UK, some consider it bad luck to leave Christmas decorations up past the day of Epiphany, so many people choose to take them down on January 5, which is also known as "Twelfth Night." 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 one of the lucky party-goers who receives one of them in your slice of cake, you are crowned "king" or "queen" of the evening.
Epiphany, which occurs the day after Twelfth Night, is a Christian holiday that celebrates the coming of the Magi after the birth of Christ. Some people attend a church service on this day to commemorate the occasion.
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," which is traditionally sung at the stroke of midnight when New Year's Eve becomes New Year's Day. Many Scots celebrate Burns' Night by eating haggis, a savory pudding made from sheep puck and other ingredients, and reading the poet's works aloud with company. One such work, entitled "Address tae the Haggis," is a particular favorite. See the video below for a recorded reading.
Tu B'Shevat (Dates Vary)
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 close in observance of the occasion.
Candlemas (February 2)
Candlemas is a Christian celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple and the purification of the Virgin Mary. The date also marks the approximate middle of the winter season, falling between the shortest day of the year and the spring equinox. Many Christians bring candles to church on Candlemas so they can be blessed before being used for the rest of the year.
Valentine's Day (February 14)
In the UK, couples often celebrate Valentine's Day by giving gifts to one another and writing verses of love to be published in newspapers or magazines. Many couples also spend the evening celebrating with a special meal. Occasionally, children send valentines to one another to celebrate friendship.
Purim (Dates Vary)
Purim is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar (a month of the Jewish calendar). This occasion commemorates the day that Queen Esther saved the Jews from the decree of death in Babylon, and many celebrate by gathering together to read the queen's story
St. David's Day (March 1)
St. David's Day falls on the anniversary of the death of Dewi Sant, who spread Christianity throughout Wales. Many commemorate the occasion by attending 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 that commemorates the life and death of Saint Patrick, a celebrated missionary and the patron saint of Ireland.
Shrove Tuesday AKA Pancake Day (Day Before Lent)
Many celebrate Shrove Tuesday by eating pancakes, as they contain many ingredients that are inappropriate for lent (a time of the year during which many Christians abstain from certain luxuries and indulgences). Some communities hold "pancake races," in which people run a distance while flipping pancakes in a frying pan. In order to win, contestants must cross the finish line as quickly as possible without burning (or dropping) breakfast. Check out the video below for an inside look at this quirky tradition.
The first day of lent is 40 days before Easter, so its starting date varies from year to year. Traditionally, Lent is a period of intense self-denial, but in the modern day, many observers simply give up something they typically enjoy for the duration of the 40-day period.
Mothering Sunday (4th Sunday of Lent)
On Mothering Sunday, children generally honor their mothers by giving them a gift and a card and taking them out to a special brunch or lunch. In this way, it is simal to Mother's Day in the United States, but originally, the purpose of the holiday was to allow observers a day off so that they could make a pilgrimage to the church at which they were baptized.
Maundy Thursday (Thursday Before Easter)
Maundy Thursday celebrates Jesus' last supper before his crucifixion, and many observers attend a traditional church service on this day. The Church of England has a tradition of giving out ceremonial "Maundy money" (AKA "the queen's Maundy money" or "royal Maundy money") to senior citizens. Two small pouches are given out—a red one containing a traditional sum for clothing and other necessities and a white one containing coins representative of the reigning monarch's age.
Many people go to church on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Modern celebrations also often include decorating eggs and holding Easter egg hunts, during which eggs are hidden for children (and playful adults) to find.
April Fool's Day (April 1)
Much like in other countries, April Fool's Day in the UK is an occasion when it is socially acceptable for people to play practical jokes on one another.
St. George's Day AKA England's National Day (April 23)
St. George's Day celebrates the life and death of St. George, who is said to have defeated a dragon. Observances typically involve parades, parties, and the flying of flags featuring "St. George's Cross."
May Day (May 1)
May Day, a traditional celebration of spring and fertility, is observed with outdoor picnics and the decoration of maypoles with ribbons and flowers.
Trooping the Colour (June)
Trooping the Colour is an annual ceremony in which the British army and the regiments of the Commonwealth perform a procession that originated in the 17th century CE and is also known as the "Queen's Birthday Parade."
Wimbledon Tennis Tournament (June/July)
The Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, often referred to simply as "Wimbledon," is the oldest tennis championship in the world and is considered by many to be the most prestigious. It typically begins on the last Monday in June and lasts for over two weeks.
Swan Upping (Third Week of July)
Swan upping, a process in which the swans of the Thames are ceremonially caught and released, occurs annually in 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 includes colorful floats, bands, and many other attractions.
Harvest Festival (On or Near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon)
Like many other places in the world, the UK observes harvest festivals to celebrate the growth of crops on the land.
Halloween (October 31)
Much like in the United States, people dress up, bob for apples, and have bonfires on Halloween night. Many attend themed parties, and children occasionally go trick-or-treating. While the modern tradition of trick-or-treating began elsewhere, many assert that Halloween itself has British origins.
Bonfire Night, AKA Guy Fawkes Night (November 5)
Bonfire Night is an annual celebration of the failure of the "gunpowder plot," an attempt to blow up the house of Parliament in 1605. Fireworks are lit at night, and many families also create effigies of Guy Fawkes and burn them in bonfires either in their own back yards or with other members of the community. Since the day is so close to Halloween, many combine the two holidays—some even wear Guy Fawkes masks as Halloween costumes.
Remembrance Day (November 11)
Remembrance Day recognizes the end of WWI. Many people wear a poppy in their pocket in observance of the occasion.
St. Andrew's Day (November 30)
St. Andrew's Day is the 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 an orange at midnight (on the cusp of the 29th and the 30th), they will find the first letter of their future husband's name.
Advent (December 1–24)
Advent spans the first 24 days of December and celebrates the coming of Jesus. Some observe the month using interactive calendars containing a small treat for each day of December leading up to Christmas.
Eid Milad ul-Nabi (Dates Vary)
Eid Milad ul-Nabi falls on either the 12th or 17th day of Rabi' al-awwal (a month of the Islamic 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 also fast during the day. While it isn't a public holiday in the UK, some Muslim businesses close in observance of the occasion.
Christmas (December 25)
Christmas in the UK is typically celebrated by giving gifts to friends and family and attending a special service at church. Many celebrate the tradition of "Father Christmas" by giving gifts that he delivered during the night. Some families also share in a Christmas feast that involves ham, minced pies, and Yorkshire pudding
At the beginning of the meal, each member of the family crosses arms, and together, they pull Christmas poppers that produce paper hats worn through the meal as well as other trinkets and jokes.
Boxing Day (December 26)
Traditionally, Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, was the day that servants were able to celebrate Christmas, as they were serving their masters the day before. In more recent times, people shop day-after-Christmas sales to celebrate the occasion.
© 2010 Holiday Girl
User72892q661 on April 26, 2020:
Im looking for things for school
Rahul Sharma from Manchester, UK on April 06, 2020:
WOW its nice to read about Great Britain holidays. People from other countries also joining UK to celebrate their fascinating days...
Wasumarawuasu on February 19, 2020:
There are lots of festivals, I need to put 3/4/5, and I don't now which 3/4/5 can I put.
Can you tell me?
momn on February 09, 2020:
birthdays they forgot
Owain Hale on February 07, 2020:
Also Dydd Santes Dwynwen which is basically welsh valentines day, celebrated on January the 25th.
Owain Hale on February 07, 2020:
You have forgotten fathers day (third Sunday of June) and the national eisteddfod (First week of August)
Zuhayr Abbasi on November 30, 2019:
I am from England and I am shocked that we celebrate Christmas
lucy on November 14, 2019:
i am part British and i live in the united states i do not know much about my family history but i wish i knew more about my family history. But i do have my British accent and that i have a very high temper and i am also part Irish but that does not matter at all.
MYIA on November 14, 2019:
this app helped me a lot
Ruben on November 09, 2019:
so christmas means we can eat ham and minced pies? haha nice
i think real christmas is a celebration in Christ's honour, about him and his birth.
christmas = santa
easter = bunny
silly-blonde on October 16, 2019:
So like then i was like OMG NO WAYYYY- oh this isn't facebook... sorry everyone nice holidays or whatever...
melissa cook on October 09, 2019:
oh my god theyre cool thanks for information
Nuha on June 21, 2019:
It’s about kids
Ash kitsune on February 21, 2019:
You have taken alot of time to find figure out and detailed descripted all of these holidays im very surprused and thank you very much for theaching me these national holidays
LIZ on December 08, 2018:
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on June 22, 2018:
Thanks, useful information. great article. The U.K. is rich in holidays,
bh on May 29, 2018:
why are there so many?
AHeartyFAAAAART on April 26, 2018:
This was useful
pooop on April 24, 2018:
Bro on April 12, 2018:
Boi on February 23, 2018:
To many adds
Cyan on February 13, 2018:
Happy new year old. Man
Andrew on February 13, 2018:
Awesome. so thankful for the updates
Dakota on December 13, 2017:
helped me on my progect
nathalie on December 13, 2017:
cake on December 10, 2017:
hi on December 06, 2017:
please give me more information for British celebrations
Jukedude on December 04, 2017:
This did help a LOT with my project
AMIRI on October 06, 2017:
Celina Martin on August 04, 2017:
Could you give me more lists of celebrations?
Leah on July 10, 2017:
I love this website it gives you all the information about what the holiday is and its selaprated. #BestWebsiteEver!
Mario on February 16, 2017:
soooo manyyyy holidayyys![so many holidays!]
pusheen person on December 20, 2016:
nice i like i cant even think of why servents had to work on Christmas
turtle3 on December 06, 2016:
i like turtles as well
Gretel on November 20, 2014:
This was great it helped a lot with my project
Jessie on January 10, 2014:
This is a great list of celebrations! My mum Amanda sent a comment saying that not all of the celebrations are on there.
Amanda on November 27, 2013:
This is a good list but not all of the celebrations are on there
Jaybob on November 08, 2013:
Thanks so much
dshdjal on April 15, 2013:
Mike Robbers from London on January 19, 2013:
Thumbs up! Interesting and useful!
By the way, can hardly wait for that Valentine's Day!
nigar on January 01, 2013:
i like british holiday
turtle on May 21, 2012:
i like turtles
Celina Martin from London on December 10, 2010:
@holiday girl nice hub. More holidays are listen first time.