Tuesday, 13 December 2011

the holiday season


the holiday season is a fun time of year in the UK.  it begins in october with halloweenthere are several good halloween activities in and around the london area to choose from, although many run all year round.  the ghost bus is similar to the london tour buses, except it takes you to some of the “haunted” and spooky sites of londonalso, the ghost bus has a couple of costumed performers to keep you entertained along the way.  personally, i think it’s a fun thing to do as a tourist, but if you’re a london resident, most of the sites will already be familiar to you, so might not be too thrilling.

for halloween, my favorite thing to do is a ghost walk.  there are a number throughout the whole of england.  there are also several jack-the-ripper walks in london.  these walks usually fill up really quickly for halloween, so need to be booked far in advance.  although ghost walks can be cold and cover long distances, for me, it’s better than the bus tour, because you can get right up close to the sites, rather than being enclosed in a bus the entire time.

guy fawkes day and political holidays

remember, remember, the fifth of november

the movie v for vendetta seems to have brought this british holiday to the american consciousness.  also known as ‘bonfire night’, guy fawkes day celebrates nov 5th, 1605, when a plot to blow up parliament was foiled.  every year, the british mark this anniversary by putting on magnificent fireworks displays throughout england, similar to july 4th (a holiday which is not celebrated in england).

a couple of other political celebrations follow guy fawkes day.  there’s the lord mayor’s show in mid-november, which is a historic procession dating back 800yrs.  each year, according to tradition, the mayor must make a journey to the royal courts of justice and pledge his loyalty.  today, this has resulted in an extensive, 3-mile-long parade with floats and pageantry.  it’s a fantastic chance to see a part of british history, and to witness a tradition that’s been taking place every year for nearly a millennium.

the day after the lord mayor’s show is remembrance sundaysimilar to veterans day in america, this is a time when those in the UK honor their world war veterans.  memorial services are held throughout the UK, such as on whitehall in london, which is attended by the royal family and notable politicians.  the weeks leading up to remembrance sunday are marked by the poppy appeal, a widespread charity event where artificial red poppies are bought and worn on clothing, with proceeds going towards the royal british legion, a charity for british war veterans and their families.

- the lord mayor's show:
lord mayor

thanksgiving is an american holiday and isn’t celebrated here in the UK, so it’s a bit weird coming over to england and finding this important holiday abruptly missing from the calendar.  most years, you’ll have to work right through thanksgiving with no one else around you acknowledging its existence.  so, if you’re an american ex-pat, be prepared and plan a gathering with other american ex-pats.  also, anticipate getting a lot of questions about what exactly thanksgiving is.  in england, it’s often described as “a second christmas”, since the british usually serve a large turkey roast as a christmas meal.


this is, without a doubt, the biggest holiday in the UK.  no matter what your religion is (the UK is largely an atheistic country), you will celebrate christmas in a non-religious way.  here in england, they take their christmas decorations very seriously.  so if you’re in london in november and december, you can enjoy giant, spectacular christmas displays everywhere you go.  while i’ve always spent christmas in the states, i’ve heard that being in the UK over the christmas holidays is a bore, since everything’s closed.  so do not come to england on christmas.

- christmas decorations in london and newcastle:
UKchristmas UKchristmas1
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