New Year's Day
People welcome the New Year on the night before. This is called New Year's Eve. All over Britain there are parties, fireworks, singing and dancing, to ring out the old year and ring in the new. As the clock - Big Ben - strikes midnight, people link arms and sing a song called Auld Lang Syne. It reminds them of old and new friends. Celebrations in the USA are very similar.
St Valentine's Day
People in the USA and Britain who are in love give presents to each other. Different traditions are connected with this festival, for example if the names of all a girl's suitors were written on paper and wrapped in clay and the clay put into water, the piece that rose to the surface first would contain the name of her husband-to-be.
April Fools Day
April begins with a day of fun and jokes - April Fool's Day. No one really knows when this custom began but it has been kept for hundreds of years. April fooling became popular in England and Scotland during the 1700s. Various tricks and practical jokes are done on this day. One of the great April Fool jokes took place on April 1st, 1957. The BBC TV programme Panorama did a documentary on 'spaghetti farmers' growing 'spaghetti trees.' The hoax Panorama programme featured a family from Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. It showed women carefully picking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry. The joke was an enormous success. Hundreds of people believed there was such things as spaghetti trees.
Easter is not a national holiday and most of Americans spend Easter Sunday with the family. The Easter season actualy beggins approximately 40 days before Easter Sunday, this period is known as Lent and beggins on Ash Wednesday. Many believers in this time remember the sacricifece made Jesus Christ. There are a lot of secular celebrations, too. E.g. in Washington, D.C., children up to eight years of age may come to the White House on Easter Monday and take part in a competition called egg rolling - pushing eggs on the grass with a cane. The Easter version of Santa Claus is the Easter Bunny. Like Santa Claus, the easter Bunny - usually a person dressed up in a large, colorful rabbit suit - brings gifts of brightly colored eggs, candy and chocolate eggs and rabbits to children. Many parents tell their children that the Easter Bunny lays Easter eggs and than he hides them in the grass, in bushes and trees. So kids race across the lawn bumping into each other and often fighting over who got to the egg first. Watchsful parents make sure that each child finds at least one Easter egg. These customs are observed in England as well.
St George's Day
St. George is the patron saint of England. His emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the flag of England, and part of the British flag. By tradition, St George's Day is the day for a red rose in the button hole, the national flower. However, unlike other countries, England does not celebrate it like Americans celebrate 4th July with fireworks. In fact, you are more likely to see big St Patrick parades in England celebrating Ireland's National Day, more than you would see any sign of St Georges Day being celebrated.
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Festivals and customs in the UK and the USA
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