IF you think about the United Kingdom, the things that come to mind would be the Queen, royal palaces, Shakespeare, The Beatles, corgis, the Spice Girls, Doctor Who, Meghan and Harry, Harry Potter, pomp and pageantry, and traditions.
Here are just some of the many traditions — interesting, and even quirky — that the United Kingdom has.
Tea drinking has been one of the many grand traditions that the UK has. Tea drinking has its roots in China, with the oldest discovered tea dating back to the Han Dynasty (206BC -220 AD) and really took off during the 8th Century Tang Dynasty as it became China's national drink.
Tea reached the British shores in the 1650s and was served as a novelty drink in London coffeehouses. But when did the British start drinking (and loving) tea? Popular diarist Samuel Pepys was the first to write about the tea drinking experience but we can't quite tell if he did like it or not. The credit for bringing tea to a wider audience is given to Catherine of Braganza of Portugal, wife to King Charles 2nd. Queen Catherine was already a tea drinker as the drink was popular among the Portuguese aristocracy. Upon her marriage to Charles 2nd, they were gifted with several ships filled with luxury items, tea included.
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As tea grew in popularity, so did the demand. The East India company stepped in to supply that demand but the high taxes particularly on black and green tea meant that social tea drinking could only be afforded by high society.
Today, drinking tea is now for everyone with people taking part in Afternoon Tea (usually around 4 p.m.) taken with freshly baked scones with cream and jam, tea sandwiches, and assorted pastries; and High Tea (traditionally at 6 p.m.) that combines sweets with savoury selections.
Here's something for the cheese lovers — cheese rolling — the Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll in Gloucester. Now considered as an extreme sport, this annual event attracts many spectators and participants from all over to chase after a Double Gloucester cheese down the 200-yard long hill.
This quirky tradition is said to have started over 600 years ago with the first written evidence found from a message written to the Gloucester town crier in 1826. There are many theories behind this tradition — these theories range from celebrating the end of winter and welcoming the growth of new crops, claiming grazing rights, to fertility rituals.
The day after Christmas, Boxing Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom and countries that are part of the commonwealth. The holiday has nothing to do with the sport but is said to have originated from charitable means.
During the 1800s when Queen Victoria held the throne, Boxing Day got its name from the tradition of wealthy families boxing up gifts to give to the less fortunate. Since servants of the aristocracy had to work during Christmas, the following day would be the time when their employers would fill up boxes with gifts, money, and food. Servants could then head home and share these gift boxes with their families.
The church also contributes to the holiday's origins with alms boxes placed in churches for collection of donations. On the 26th of December, the clergy and church workers would give these donations to the poor in honor of St. Stephen, a martyr known for his acts of charity.
Today, Boxing Day, is celebrated as an extension of Christmas Day, and is now even akin to America's Black Friday — where shops hold humongous sales. It is a time for people to catch up with extended family and friends to celebrate the season.
Guy Fawkes Night
Celebrated every 5th of November, Guy Fawkes Night commemorates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
The Gunpowder Plot is the failed assasination attempt by Guy Fawkes and a group of radical Catholics — Robert Catesby, Tom Wintour, Jack Wright, and Thomas Percy — against King James I. The reason why was that Catholicism in England was heavily repressed under Queen Elizabeth I. Many Catholics had high hopes that when King James I took the throne, these repressions would cease. However, it was not the case as James did not support religious tolerance for Catholics and even condemned it as a superstition. He largely continued with the repressive policies which included fining those refusing to attend Protestant services.
The conspirators had planned to blow up Parliament's House of Lords with gunpowder but things have gone awry for them which led to their arrest and execution.
Citizens began celebrating Fawkes' demise and the survival of their king by setting off fireworks, lighting bonfires, and burning effigies — a tradition that continues to this very day letting the celebration also be called Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night.