St Patrick – The man who converted Druids to Christianity

Several myths and legends follow the steps of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland celebrated on 17 March, the day he possibily died on.
Among the popular legends is the one that he drove al the snakes out of Ireland, however, it is a country where no snakes have ever appeared.

St Patrick’s Day is a one for going green – clothes, food and even beer has this colour today. Shamrocks, the Leprechaun and his pot of gold…

Saint Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday, but it is celebrated by people from many different countries by wearing green, watching parades, and eating corned beef. Everyone can be Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick was a missionary who lived in Ireland. He died sometime around 17 March in 493 CE. At the age of 16, Saint Patrick was captured and made a slave for six years.

It is clamied that St Patrick used the thre-leaf clover (referred to as the shamrock) to teach people what Trinity is (Father, Son, The Holy Spirit).

Wtch how the river in Chicago is dyed green on this day:


Guy Fawkes Day and Bonfire Night

“Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.”

Penny for the Guy.”

Bonfires, the guy, firework displays, sparklers, toffee apples and hot-dogs…

Watch an episode of This is Britain to find out about Bonfire night.

Fawkes may have been the man charged with lighting the fuse to the gunpowder in the Parlieament (i.e. Palace of Westminster), however, he was no boss at all. The number of plotters was 13, probably led by Robert Catesby and Thomas Wintour (they were cousins), who had supported Catholic rebellions before.
Because of this, Catesby was under suspicion and unable to gain entry to the Palace of Westminster so he needed help. Fawkes, one of the 13 conspirators, was probably the one who put the 36 barrels of gunpowder on a cart and carried it underground in order to explode the building with King James inside.

The Palace of Westminster was a completely different building (or a set of buildings) back in 1605 since commoners (i.e. the public) were allowed to enter without any security check. They went to the pubs (restaurants) there as well as attended the courts of King’s Bench and Common Pleas. The plotters rented a coal cellar right underneath the Lord’s Chamber and no one noticed the growing number of barrels and amount of wood there.

The plot was investigated when a baron had received an anonymus letter which also landed in the king’s hands. James I ordered for another serch in the cellars where the gunpowder was found.
The plotters tried to flee, Fawkes’s comrades fled from London to Warwickshire and broke into the fortress while it was undergoing repairs. There, the fugitives stole a wealth of supplies, including horses from the stables which they used to escape, however, they were captured not far from Warwick on 6 November.

After being captured, the plotters were hanged, drawned and quartered. The body parts were displayed all over the country.

Why Bonfire Night?

It was King James I who encouraged Londoners to build and light huge bonfires to celebrate the survival of the monarchy and Protestantism.

How about the tradition of Guy Fawkes Day and Bonfire Night in the 21st century?

The traditions are changing, moreover – and sadly -, disappearing. Halloween’s big business on 31 October seems to win (i.e. trick-o-treating over Penny for the Guy), and as a result of really strict regulations on bonfires, fireworks and fireworks safety, neither towns nor individuals can afford firework displays…

Barrels on Fire

Part of the parades on Bonfire Night, in Ottery St Mary (Devon), seventeen tar barrels on fire are carried by crazy competitors who are watched by thousands of spectators.

The custom is over 300 years old but nobody really knows where it originates from, but there is a popular version that says, “Streets must be cleaned from evil spirits and fires of the devil carried away”.

Each of Ottery’s pubs sponsors a single barrel which is soaked in tar for several weeks before the event on 5 November. The barrels are lit outside the pubs, and once the flames begin to pour out, they are hoisted up onto local people’s backs and shoulders.

There are women’s and boy’s competitions during the day, but the professionals (strong men) come at night and carry barrels up to over 30 kilos.

It is an incredible night to remember – one of the biggest bonfires in the South West is ignited on the banks of the River Otter and behind it are the flashing neon’s of the annual fun fair.

GR8 to Know
“Tar” is distilled from wood or coal, is sticky when it is hot, and is used in road making.

Diwali – the Festival of Light

Called dipavali (“row of lights”) in Sanskrit, the largest religious festival of the Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhist groups is celebrated all over Britain. There is no exact date for Diwali, this festival season begins in mid-October and lasts for a month.

It includes parades in streets, firework displays and other shows that include light symbolize the triumph of good (light) over evil (darkness).

Since one of the largest Hindu and Sikh community in Britain lives in Leicester, the city in the East Midlands organises one of the top Diwalis in the U.K.
London has several events for Diwali (Trafalgar Square Diwali being the largest, but other important events are held in Wembley Park and in Greenwich Park, too), but Edinburgh, Belfast, Liverpool and other major cities, moreover, smaller towns have taken Diwali on the list of their yearly festivals.

Punky night

With a close relation to Halloween, Punky (or Punkie) Night is a tradition in Somerset, the south-west of England.
On this night, children carry “punkies” (= lanters) made of swedes* from house to house and sing or chant “Give me a candle, give me a light. If you don’t, you’ll get a fright!”

Punkie night in Somerset

GR8 to Know

A swede is a yellow-orange root vegetable that is similar to carrots and turnips, but fairly larger. It has many names, the Scots calls it neep, American English rutabaga, while snagger or white turnip is also a common name for it (especially in the North.)

No one really knows where the tradition of Punky Night comes from. One belief goes that men who were returning home from the fields on dark autumn evening used to carry lanterns made of these turnip-like vegetables (the swedes).

Punky Night is celebrated on the last Thursday of October all over Somerset (this years its 31 October i.e. on the same day as Halloween).

World Conker Championships

In 2019 the event is due on 13 October.

In Southwick near Peterborough in Northamptonshire chestnuts play important role in the World Conker Championships. Competitors take a horse chestnut, make a hole in it and tie it to a lace. This creation is called a conker. Then competitors are ordered to stand in pairs and the aim of their “matches” is to smash the opponent’s chestnut. Besides it is great fun, the event plays an important role for charity. The hosts spend the entry fees and other donations on training guide dogs or providing special equipment to those who are visually impaired.

The event was first held in 1848, quite far from its contemporary site. The first ever Conker Worlds was in the Isle of Wight. This unique sporting event has been relocated several times, and it has been held in Southwick since 2013.
Being organized for locals at the village of Ashton in the 1960s, the Northamptonshire Conker Championship has been attracting conker fans from all over the world.

Conker Worlds in 2018

Conker World Championships archive by ITV

Fun fair, Hull Fair

In 2019 it is due from 5 to 15 October.

One of the largest and oldest tavelling fairs in the U.K., the one in Kingston-uon-Hull inEast Yorkshire attracts nearly a million visitors each year.

Hull Fair dates back to the 13th century and it celebrated its 725th anniversary in 2018.

Hull Fair gives visitors thrilling rides on roller coasters and merry-go-rounds. Traditional and street food specialities are orred from hamburgers, fish ‘n chips, toffee apples, pomengranates to hog roast (= pig roast).

Winter Wonderland

London’s greatest Christmas attraction has been Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park for 10 years. Here are some details about the event:

  • in 2016, it opened on 18th November and will close on 2nd January, 2017;
  • the entry is free, however, you must pay for the attractions (rides, shows etc.);
  • it is open every day from 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m.;
  • this year’s motto is: X-mas on the Max(imum)

The most poular attractions are:


Skate on the UK’s largest outdoor Ice Rink
Voyage through the Arctic in The Magical Ice Kingdom
Enjoy the enchanting Nutcracker on Ice
Jaw-dropping acts in the Circus Megadome
Spectacular views from the Giant Wheel
Perfect for tots – The Sooty Christmas Show!
Festive cocktails at Bar Ice

at Hyde Park in 2016.

HALLOWEEN – The story behind it

Watch this History Channel bit about the history of Halloween.

Halloween is an annual celebration. It is a mixture of Celtic, Roman and Catholic celebrations. In the 5th Century Celtic Ireland summer ended on 31 October. People celebrated the Celtic New Year and Samhain (sow-en), God of the Sun.

The Celts believed that the souls of the dead come back to Earth that day and take the living with them. So on October 31 they built bonfires and each family got an ember from the remains of the fire – they took it home to light their houses and start a fire at home. They also dressed up in ghoulish costumes to frighten the ghosts away.

A few centuries later Romans adopted some Celtic traditions but they also honoured Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees.

When the potato crop failed in Ireland in the 1840s, Irish immigrated to America and brought the customs of Halloween with them.

A popular symbol of Halloween is the Jack-o-lantern. The custom comes from Irish folklore. According to the legend, a man named Jack was a notorious drunkard and trickster. One day he tricked Satan into climbing a tree. When Satan was at the top, Jack carved a cross into the trunk of the tree so Satan couldn’t climb down. Jack was not allowed to enter Heaven as he was a drunkard. Satan didn’t let him to enter the Hell because of the trick. Satan gave him a single ember that Jack put into a turnip and he was walking the streets of cities with his special ‘candle.’

The custom remained, but the turnip was turned into a pumpkin and the ember into a candle. Some people still believe that Jack is on the streets so they put Jack-o-lanterns into their windows to frighten both the ghosts and Jack away.

annual: sg happening once every year
ember: burning / lighting remains of a fire
to honour,-ed,-ed: to celebrate; to salute with a bow in square dancing
a goddess: a female god
notorious: sy who does sg bad very often
a drunkard: likes going to the pub and is drunken quite often
to carve,-ed,-ed: to cut sg (e.g.: a symbol or words) into wood using a knife
a trunk: the main body (stem) of the tree