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November has always been a historical month in Britain and across the world but a couple of things has happened this November that will forever leave it’s mark in our memories as well as in the memories of those from generations to come. Below is a timeline of what has happened in November’s throughout history.
All Saint’s Day – 1st November
All Saint’s Day is a holy festival held annually on the 1st November. There is a range of other names given to this day such as, Solemnity of All Saints or the Day of All Saints. It was referred to as Hallowmas by Shakespeare and is still known as Hallow’s Day to some people today. Perhaps this has something to do with All Hallow’s Eve (aka Halloween) the night before. The church honours the saints or those who have been beatified on this day and it is believed that this has been celebrated since the beginning of the 8th century to coincide with the Celtic festival, Samhain on 31st October. The Celts believed that the barrier between the world of living and dead is thinnest on this time and for this reason many cultures around the world dedicate this day to remembering loved ones and those who have passed away. For instance, the core of the festival is still very much intact in the Mexican culture, where they celebrate Dia de los Muertos from the 31st October to 2nd November. While on one side of the world, Mexicans make elaborate and meaningful displays to honour the souls of their departed loved ones, be they young or old. On the other side of world… in Britain, All Saint’s Day is pretty much a day that the Brits use to get over the hang over after Halloween. Not quite as meaningful but Halloween is pretty eventful with lots of pumpkins, trick or treating and the customary party. We at WCE always ensure to take part in the commercialised festival with our annual pumpkin carving competition.
Remember, Remember, the fifth of November. This day has been inscribed into British History since 1605 (that’s 410 years)! There are also various names attributed to this day, most commonly of which are Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night. If you’re wondering what/ who on earth Guy Fawkes is then read on. It all started after Queen Elizabeth I’s death two years prior, in 1603. Catholics who had been persecuted in England during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign were hopeful upon her death, that her successor, King James I would show more tolerance to the religion. After all, King James’ mother was a devout Christian, so why wouldn’t he? However, King James was the first King of Scotland that became the King of England too and he didn’t want to cause outrage among the English, so Catholics continued to be persecuted. This led a group of 13 Catholics to take drastic measures. Their plan: to kill the king by blowing up parliament. It is believed that when the day to execute their plan was drawing closer, one of the 13 had a change of heart and decided to warn one of his friends to stay away from parliament. Ironically, by him betraying his co-conspirators and his friend’s betrayal, the message soon reached the ears of the King and the plot backfired. It was the mastermind, Guy Fawkes, who was found in the cellar of parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder. He was arrested, tortured for a confession and consequently executed. The King told the public that they were to set bonfires to proclaim the King’s safety. Every year since then, the English celebrate this with firework displays and by burning a straw figure representing Guy Fawkes (known as an Effigy) on a bonfire.
Another curious fact that you might want to know, is that the Queen only steps into parliament once a year and during this day, before she enters the Palace of Westminster, a guard goes down to check the cellar. Some may think that that’s extreme paranoia but it’s a tradition that has followed through until this very day.
8th November 1895
Most people won’t know this unless they’re really geeky and have awesome general knowledge but Professor Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays at Wurzburg University on this day in 1895. Quite important stuff and something that should be remembered and possibly commemorated too. I mean, what would medicine be like without it? In fact, in 2009, 50,000 British museum visitors voted the ‘x-ray machine’ as the discovery that has had the greatest impact in science. Roentgen’s breakthrough won him the first ever Nobel Prize for Physics in 1901.
The 11th November is morecommonly known as Remembrance Day. It is also known as Armistice Day. The word ‘armistice’ is another word for truce where two sides stop fighting a war. Armistice or Remembrance Day refers to the day in 1918 on which an agreement was signed in Compiègne to end the fighting on the Western Front and put an end to World War I. The armistice was effective from the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For this reason, the British hold a 1 minute silence at 11 o’clock on the 11th November annually to pay tribute those who served their country now and then. You may have noticed that many British people wear a poppy upon their breast and buses also display a poppy. The symbol of the poppy has been used since 1921 and it represents those who were lost at war. You can buy a poppy yourself to raise money to go towards the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal and help families and veterans of the past and the present.
13th November 2015
I won’t be too lengthy to explain the tragic events of this day, as this is something the whole world is aware of and quite frankly, this event evoked fear among the public across the world but mainly in France and Belgium. The world is currently on alert to any further terrorist attacks. It is two weeks since 130 innocent people were massacred in the French capital and France has paid tribute to the victims of the attack by draping French flags over their windows. This will be another event that has been etched into worldwide history – and not for the nicest of reasons.
29th November 2015
This will be the first day of advent and you know what that means… ONLY 24 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS! Have you brought your advent calendar yet to count down the days? On this day, it is officially acceptable to put up Christmas decorations. It’s time to get festive as we approach the most wonderful time of the year! Keep your eyes peeled for Christmas offers and our Mini Christmas Concert next week!
Some curiosities that you might not know
For most of you this may be your first Christmas in the UK, or maybe you are wondering how do they celebrate this special time of the year . Well, to write this post I have compiled some of their traditions and curiosities for your better understanding, we hope you find this information useful and please feel free to add any other curiosity that you know!
Advent – Four Sundays Before Christmas
There are two traditions during this period before Christmas. It starts four Sundays before Christmas: The Advent Calendar and the Advent Candle. Nowadays it is very common to lit one candle each week before Christmas starting four Sundays before the 25th of December. The Advent calendar is usually a chocolate box in which you mean to eat one chocolate each day (be patient and don´t eat all in the same day!)
Christmas Eve – December 24th
Carol singing, midnight church, family dinner, going out with your friends and family are some of the main traditions, but overall, it is the most exciting night for the youngest of the family! This is the night when Santa comes! With his 9 Reindeers: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner Blitzen and of course … Rudolf! And brings the presents for all the family!
Christmas Day – December 25th
This is the moment that children have been waiting for the whole year! They usually wake up very early to open the presents that Santa had left for them (If they have been good children during the year!).
More food, Carols, pantomimes, drinks, turkey and the Queen´s message go around this day, most of the British people believe that the best way to spend that day is being with their families.
Boxing Day – December 26th (St. Stephen´s Day)
I have been asking to some of the British people I know, and oddly enough, they don´t really know the meaning of this day and why is it called “Boxing Day”.
Some of the answers that I get were: “It´s called Boxing because it´s a day for giving money to the charity and you put the money in a box”, others believe that it has this name because “it´s a day to practice sports to fight against the overweight that we put on during this day, that´s way there is a big horse race and it is an important day for sports in the UK”.
However the real reason of why it´s it called Boxing Day is because it was traditionally a time to give gifts to tradesmen, servants and friends. Originated in medieval times, when the priest empty he alms box of his church and distribute gifts to the poor. Wealthy people indulged in huge Christmas feasts, and when they were finished, packed up the remains of feasts in boxes and gave them out to their servants.
New year´s Eve – December 31st
It is widely known that this is one of the most exciting nights all over the world, this is not a religious festivity but there are some traditions during these days. Many people catch up in Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus, some others are likely to go to see the Big Ben and enjoy together while singing the popular song “Auld Lng Syne”. (Listen the song and watch video)
The twelve days of Christmas – December 26th to January 6th
During these days there are some curious customs that British people use to do. For example it was considered unlucky to let the log in the fireplace stop burning. This log was called the Yule log and it was used to light the fire in New Year, to ensure good luck for the rest of the year. This custom was done by Druids, but during these days’ it´s being lost.
Other people use to hide a dried bean in a cake. The finder of the bean became “King of the Bean” and ruled the party for the night. (Usually the 6th January).
Another custom is that for every mince pie you eat over the 12 days of Christmas you will have a month of good luck the following year!
I hope you find useful this information and we would be glad if you want to share the traditions that you usually do during Christmas period in your country by leaving a comment in our blog! We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!