For centuries in Britain a holiday was simply a Holy Day, usually dedicated to one of the saints. If the weather was fine people spent their free time outdoors, singing and dancing. Nowadays there are very many different holidays, funny, joyful, and religious. On the first of March each year you can see people walking round London with leeks pinned to their coats. A leek is a kind of vegetable, similar to an onion, and is the national emblem of Wales. Many Welsh people, who live in London, like to show their solidarity on their national day and they are proud of themselves . The day is actually called Saint David's Day after patron saint of Wales.
At Hungerford, the English old town, on the second Tuesday after Easter there takes place the annual Festival. The Festival is 600 years old. It starts at 9 a.m. Young men with a sack of oranges go along the streets. The main object of this group of people is to visit one house after another, collecting money from the men and kisses from the girls. In return they bring good luck and oranges. The visiting of houses lasts all day; it is interrupted by a luncheon at one of the local inns where you can help yourself with tasty food. The festival "Oranges and Kisses" is really one of the funniest traditions.
Hearing the First Cuckoo is connected with many traditions. During April people in Britain usually hear the cuckoo for the first time of the year. There are many traditions as to what should be done upon first hearing the voice of the cuckoo. In some places it was customary for people to stop their work and take a holiday for the rest of the day. It is considered that the number of times the bird calls «cuckoo» is very important. A young girl hearing it would call: «Cuckoo, tell me how many years will pass before I am married?». And the number of times that the bird cuckooed in answer told her how many would pass before the happy event.
Bank Holidays are also very popular. Three times a year the offices and banks of England are closed on a Monday. No business houses, factories , schools or shops are open on these days. On Bank Holidays the parks and the cafes are crowded . Many families take a picnic lunch or tea with them and enjoy their meal in the open. Sometimes, a wet Bank Holiday spoils a lot of fun.
Winter brings Christmas, and the shops begin to decorate their windows with bright colours. Christmas shopping is often done in the rain as December is usually the wettest month of the year. On December 6th, Saint Nicholas brings his presents to children. But the main winter holiday is still Christmas. The English like to brighten up their homes with mistletoe. Mistletoe is the only plant that comes into leaf in wintry weather. That's why it symbolizes life. There is an interesting custom of kissing under the plant. If a young man or a girl stops under the mistletoe, which is hung above the door at Christmas time, he or she may demand a kiss and one may not protest in such cases. There are many other interesting and funny traditions in Britain. They provide the people with new interests, bring a break from work and give a chance to rest.