Some British customs and traditions are famous all over the world and a lot of them have very long histories. First I will tell you about British customs during the year. In January, there is a festival, called Up-Helly-Aa. In the ninth century, men from Norway came to the Shetlands.

The Shetlands are islands near Scotland. These men were the Vikings. They came to Britain in ships and carried away animals, gold, and sometimes women and children, too. Now, 1000 years later, people in the Shetlands remember the Vikings with a festival.

They call the festival "Up-Helly-Aa". Every winter the people of Lerwick, thesis a town in the Shetlands, make a model of a ship. Its a Viking " longship", with the head of a dragon at the front. Then, on Up-Helly-Aa night in January, the Shetland ers dress in Viking clothes, carry the ship through the town to the sea and there they burn it. They do this because the Vikings put their dead men in the ship and burned them. It goes without saying that there arent any men in the modern ships.

Now the festival is a party for the people of the Shetland Islands. Like our traditions there is also in Britains Valentines Day in February and April Fools Day on April 1st. In May there is also a tradition with a longhistory. May 1st was an important day in the Middle Ages. In the very early morning, young girls went to the fields and washed their faces with dew. They be lived this made them very beautiful for a year after that.

Also on MayDay the young men of each village tried town prizes with their bows and arrows, and people danced around the maypole. Many English villages still have a maypole, and on May 1st, the villagers dance round it. MidsummersDay is on June 24th. This isthe longest day of the year.

On that day you can see a very old custom at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Stonehenge is one of Europe's biggest stone circles, a lot of the stones are ten or twelve metres high. Its also very old, the earliest part of Stonehenge is nearly 5 000 years old. The Druids, they were the priests in Britain 2 000 years ago, used it for a calendar. They used the sun and the stones at Stonehenge to know the start of months and seasons.

There are Druids in Britain today, too and every June 24th a lot of them go to Stonehenge, because on that morning the sun shines on one famous stone-the Heel stone. For the druids this is a very important moment in theyear. In October is Halloween. Halloween is an old word for "Hallows Evening", the night bev or "All Saints Day". On that one night of the year, ghosts and witches are free. A long time ago people were afraid and stayed at home on Halloween.

But now in Britain its time for fun. There are always a lot of parties on October 31st. At these parties people wear masks and they dress as ghosts and witches, or as Dracula or Frankenstein's monster. And some peoples make special Halloween lamps from pumpkins. November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day in Britain. All over the country people build wood fires or "bonfires", in their gardens.

On top of each bonfire is a guy. Thats a figure of Guy Fawkes. People make guys with straw, old clothes and newspapers. The British remember Guy Fawkes on November 5th, because on this day in the year 1605, he tried to kill King James I. He and a group of friends put a bomb under the Houses of Parliament in London. But the Kings men found the bomb and found Guy Fawkes, too.

They took him to the Tower of London and there the Kings men cut off his head. In December there are lots of Christmas and New Year traditions in Britain. Before Christmas, groups of singers go from house to house. They collect money and sing traditional Christmas songs or carols. There are a lot of very popular BritishChristmasCarols. Three famous ones are: "Good King Wenceslas", "The Holly and The Ivy" and "We Three Kings".

OnChristmasEve thats on December 24th, British children dont open their presents. Father Christmas brings their presents inthe night and then they open them on the morning of the 25th. In Britain the most important meal on December 25th is Christmas dinner. Nearly all Christmas food is traditional, but a lot of the traditions are not very old. For example, there were no turkeys in Britain before 1800.

And even in the nineteenth century, goose was thetraditional meat at Christmas, but not now. A twentieth- century British Christmas dinner is roast turkey with carrots, potatoes, peas, Brussels sprouts and gravy, but there are sausages and bacon, too. Then, after the turkey, theres Christmas pudding. Crackers are also usual at Christmas dinner.

These came to Britain from China in the nineteenth century. Two people pull a cracker and usually theres a small toy in the middle and often theres a joke ona piece of paper, too. December 26th isBoxingDay. Traditionally boys from the shops in each town asked for money at Christmas. They went from house to house on December 26th and took boxes made of wood with them. At each house people gave them money and this was their Christmas present.

So the name of December 26th doesnt come frome the sport of boxing, it comes from the boys wooden boxes. Now, Boxing Day is an extra holiday after Christmas Day. In Scotland there is a tradition, calledFirstFooting. The name for New Years Even Scotland is Hogmanay. After midnight people visit their friends and they take a piece of coal as a present, because traditionally the first visitor of theyear must carry coal into the house. This is first footing and it brings goodluck.

It also helps to make fire in the middle of winter. In Britain there are many Royal Traditions. For example the trooping of thecolour: The Queen is the only person in Britain with two birthdays. Her real birthday is on April 21st, but she has an " official" birthday on the second Saturday in June, too. And on the Queens official birthday, there is a traditional ceremony called the Trooping of theColour.

Its a big parade with brass bands and hundreds of soldiers at Horse Guards Parade in London. A "regiment" of the Queens soldiers, the Guards, march in front of her and at the front of the parade is the regiments ag or "colour", which the guards are trooping. Thousands of Londoners and visitors watch in Horse Guards Parade and millions of people at home watch it on television. The changing of the guard is an another royal tradition: This happens every day at Buckingham Palace, the Queens home in London.

Soldiers stand in front of the palace. Each morning these soldiers (the "guard") change. One group leaves and another arrives. In summer and winter tourists stand outside the palace at 11.30 every morning and watch the Changing of the Guard. Maundy Money: Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday, at Easter. On that day the Queen gives Maundy money to a group of old people.

This tradition is over 1,000 years old. At one time the king or queen washed the feet of poor, old people on Maundy Thursday, but that stopped in 1754. SwanUpping: Heres a very different royal tradition. Onthe River Thames there are hundreds of swans and a lot of these beautiful white birds belong, traditionally, to the king of queen. In July the young swanson the Thames are about two months old. Then the Queens swan keeper goes, in a boat, from London Bridge to Henley.

He looks at all the young swans and marks the royal ones. The name of this strange but interesting custom is SwanUpping. The QueensTelegramm: This custom is not very old, but its for very old people. On his or her one hundredth birthday, a British person gets a telegram from the Queen. The Birthday Honours list andthe new years honours list: Twice a year at Buckingham Palace, the Queen gives titles or "honours", once in January and once in June. There are a lot of different honours.

Here are a few: C.B.E. - Companion of the BritishEmpire O.B.E. - Order of the BritishEmpire M.B.E. - Member of the BritishEmpire These honours began inthe nineteenth century, because then Britain had an empire. Knighthood - a knight has "Sir" before his name. A new knight kneels in front of the Queen. She touches first his right shoulder, then his left shoulder with a sword. Then she says "Arise, Sir... and his firstname, and the knight stands. Peerage - a peer is a lord.

Peers sit in the House of Lords, which is one part of the Houses of Parliament. The other part isthe House of Commons. Dame / Baroness - these are two of the highest honours for a woman. The State opening of Parliament: The parliament, not the Royal Family, controls modern Britain. But traditionally the Queen opens Parliament every autumn.

She travels from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament ina gold carriage - the Irish State Coach. At the Houses of Parliament the Queens its on a "throne" in the House of Lords. Then she reads the "Queens Speech". At the State Opening of Parliament the Queen wears a crown and she wears other jewels from the Crown Jewels, too.

The Order of the Garter Ceremony: The order of the Garter ceremony has a longhistory. King Edward started the Order in the fourteenth century. At that time, the people in the Order were the twenty-four bravest knights in England. Now the knights of the Order arent all soldiers. Theyre members ofthe House of Lords, church leaders or politicians and there are some foreign knights, too. For example, the King of Norway, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg andthe Emperor of Japan.

Theyre called Extra Knights of the Garter. The Queens the Sovereign of the Order of the Garter. But she isnt the only royal person in the Order. Prince Charles and Prince Philip are Royal Knights, and the Queen Mother is a Lady of the Garter. In June the Order has a trditionalceremony at Windsor Castle.

This is the Queens favourite castle andits also the home of the Order of the Garter. All the knights walk fromthe castle to St Georges Chapel, the royal church at Windsor. They wear the traditional clothes or "robes" of the Order. These robes are very heavy. In fact King Edward V once called them "ridiculous". But theyre an important part of one of Britains oldest traditions.

The Queens Christmas Speech: Now heres a modern royal custom. On Christmas Day at 3.00 in the afternoon, the Queen makes a speech on radio and TV. Its ten minutes long and in it she talks to the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a large group of countries. Inthe past they were all in the British Empire. Australia, India, Canada and NewZealand are among the 49 members.

The B.B.C. (the British Broadcasting Corporation) sends the Queens speech to every Commonwealth Country. In her speech the Queen talks about the past year. Traditionally in speeches, kings or queens say "we", not "I". Queen Elizabeth II doesnt do this.

She says "My husband and I", or just"I". British Food and Drink: First, theEnglishBreakfast: In a real English breakfast you have fried eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato and mushrooms. Then theres toast and marmalade. Pancakes: British people eat pancakes on Strove Tuesday in February or March. For pancakes you need our, eggs and milk, then you eat them with sugar and lemon. In some parts of Britain there are pancake races on ShroveTuesday.

People race with a frying pan in one hand. They have to toss the pancake, throw it in the air and catch it again in the frying pan. Haggis: Haggis is a traditional food from Scotland. You make it with meat, onions, our, salt and pepper.

Then you boil it in the skin from a sheets stomach. In Scotland, people eat haggis on Burns Night. Robert Burns was a Scottish poet in the eighteen century, so every year Scots people all over the world remember him and read his poem. Tea: Tea is Britains favourite drink andits also a meal in the afternoon. You can drink tea at home or in hotel. Tea at the Ritz hotel in London is very good.

You can drink Indian or China tea. English Pubs: Pubs are an important part of British life. People talk, eat, drink, meet their friends and relax there. The peoples dont go in pubs to drink a lot, but rather just to meet their friends. They are open at lunchtime and again in the evening, but they close at 11 oclock.

The word pub is short for public house. There are are thousands in Britain, and they all sell pub lunches. One of these isa PloughmansLunch, a very simple meal of bread and cheese. Pubs also sell beer.

Thetraditional kind is called "real ale". Thats a very strong beer from arnold recipe. In the pubs in south-west England theres another traditional drink, which is called scrumpy. You make this drink with apples, but it snot a simple fruit juice. Its very strong.

Pub names often have a long tradition. Some come from the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Every pub has name and has a sign above its door. The sign shows a picture of the pubs name. Andrea Lerner.