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The National College CAROL the Ist

ATESTAT PAPER

British Traditions and Superstitions

Coordinator: Candidate:
May 2010

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Table Of Contents
Rationale...3
1.Introduction....4
The meaning of traditions and superstitions for British people..4
2.Traditions All Year Round British Folklore and Customs.....5
Christmas in the UK...9
A Christmas story.9
Chritmas nowadays......11
3.Superstitions......13
3.1.What do Superstitions mean to the Britih?.....................................13
3.2.A strong superstition...13
3.3.Good luck or Bad luck?..................................................................14
3.4.Superstitions for everyone..15
3.5.The story of the broken mirror, the black cat and lots of
good luck..........................17
4.Conclusion.....19
5.Bibliography..20

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Rationale

Why did I choose to talk about British traditions and superstitions?


Because I believe that they are a good way of discovering people and they help
you understand their beliefs, behaviour and habits. With their help you can enter
the British world and become a part of it even though figuratively speaking.
Every nation has its own traditions and superstitions. So, the British
couldnt have been an exception. The British are one of the people whose
superstitions and traditions are known worldwide and have become quite
famous. Who hasnt heard about the tradition of drinking tea, about all the
traditions regarding the royal family, about Robin Hood or the Loch Ness
monster, about King Arthur and his knights, about Christmas customs, about
Halloween or about St. Valentines Day?
The British are traditional people. They actually have customs for almost
each day of the year and put a lot of soul into their organization and treat each
of them with respect and seriousness. But, the British people are at the same
time people who believe in superstitions and in the effect that they have upon
their lives. As a result, they dont leave their homes without, firstly, making sure
that the Universe is not against them and something bad may happen to them
during the day.
We can say that British superstitions and traditions are a way of living
and they may apply to each of us. They are for everyone no matter their origins,
living conditions, social status or culture.

1.Introduction

The meaning of Traditions and Superstitions for British people

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Britain is full of culture and traditions which have been around for hundreds of years.
British customs and traditions are famous all over the world. When people think of Britain
they often think of people drinking tea, eating fish and chips and wearing bowler hats, but
there is more to Britain than just those things. We have English and British traditions of
sport, music, food and many royal occasions. There are also songs, sayings and superstitions.
Who was Guy Fawkes? Why does the Queen have two birthdays? You can find the answers
here in our pages on life in Britain.

Superstition is a part of British culture today. Although superstition was more alive a
hundred years ago, there are still superstitious people around, both young and old. Some
people though, clame not to be superstitious, but it is still a part of them.
Superstition is a pretty slippery concept, and we need to examine what we mean by it. The
simple statement that a superstition is an irrational belief is quite adequate for most purposes,
as long as we don't enquire too closely into the meaning of the word 'irrational'. But not every
irrational belief gets labelled as superstition, so we need to look a bit closer. One of the key
characteristics of superstition is a belief in the existence of luck, as a real force in life, and
that luck can be predicted by signs, and can be controlled or influenced by particular actions
or words. Other key elements include a belief in fate, which again can be predicted and
manipulated, and a belief in fate, which again can only be described as magic - the idea that
people can be harmed or protected by spells, charms, amulets, curses, witchcraft, and so on.
Superstitions are also unofficial knowledge, in that they run counter to the official
teachings of religion, school, science, and government, and this is precisely why - even in the
21st century - many of us like to hold onto a few, to show that we are not totally ruled by
science and hard fact.
But why were people so superstitious? It is usually assumed that superstition is the result of
fear and uncertainty - an attempt to control the parts of life that are in fact beyond our
understanding or control. This is largely true, and there is some evidence that superstition is
more prevalent in people involved in dangerous occupations, and increases in times of
particular uncertainty, such as during a war.

English folklore is the folk tradition which has developed in England over a number
of centuries. Some stories can be traced back to their roots, while the origin of others is
uncertain or disputed. England abounds with folklore, in all forms, from such obvious
manifestations as the traditional Arthurian legends (which were originally strictly Britonic)
and Robin Hood tales, to contemporary urban legends and facets of cryptozoology such as
the Beast of Bodmin Moor.
Morris dance and related practices such as the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance preserve
old English folk traditions, as do Mummers Plays. Pub names may preserve folk traditions.

2.Traditions - All Year Round British Folklore and Customs

New Year's Day

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New Year's Day is the first day of the year, in the Gregorian calendar. In modern
times, it is January 1. It is a time for looking forward and wishing for a good year ahead. It is
also a holiday.
People welcome in the New Year on the night before. This is called New Year's Eve.
In Scotland, people celebrate with a lively festival called Hogmanay. All over Britain there
are parties, fireworks, singing and dancing, to ring out the old year and ring in the new. As
the clock - Big Ben - strikes midnight, people link arms and sing a song called Auld Lang
Syne. It reminds them of old and new friends.

St Agnes's Eve 20 January


This was the day on which girls and unmarried women who wished to dream of their
future husbands would perform certain rituals before going to bed. These included
transferring pins one by one from a pincushion to their sleeve whilst reciting the Lord's
Prayer, or abstaining from food and drink all day, walking backwards up the stairs to bed, and
eating a portion of dumb cake ( previously prepared with a group of friends in total silence
and often containing an unpleasantly large portion of salt) before lying down to sleep.
Candlemas Day (the Christian festival of lights )
2nd February is Candlemas Day. This ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter,
halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. In olden times, many people used
to say that the Christmas season lasted for forty days - until the second day of February.
St Valentines Day
This was originally thought to be the day on which birds chose their mates. There are
many traditions and tales associated with romance activities on Valentines day including:
the first man an unmarried woman saw on 14th
February would be her future husband;
if the names of all a girl's suitors were written on
paper and wrapped in clay and the clay put into
water, the piece that rose to the surface first would
contain the name of her husband-to-be.
if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on
Valentines Day, it meant she would marry a sailor.
If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man
and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she
would marry a rich person.

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Each year in Britain, there are spend around 503 mil. on cards, flowers, chocolates
and other gifts for Valentine's Day. Traditionally these were sent anonymously, but now-a-
days it is often made clear who is sending each 'Valentine'.
April Fools Day
April begins with a day of fun and jokes - April Fools Day. No one really knows
when this custom began but it has been kept for hundreds of years. April fooling became
popular in England and Scotland during the 1700s.
The First of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fools Day;
But why the people call it so,
Not I, nor they themselves do know.
St Georges Day - Englands National Day
The 23rd April is St. Georges Day . St. George is the Patron Saint of England and
also of Scotland. It is said that St. George once saved a village from great danger. The village
were frightened of a fierce dragon who lived close by, so St George killed the dragon.
May Day (Garland Day)
In Britain, as in most parts of Western Europe, May day marked the end of the harsh
winter months, welcomed the beginning of Summer, and optimistically looked forward to the
bright and productive months. For our ancestors, largely in rural areas, it was a major annual
festival and was celebrated through out the country, especially on the first of May with
music, dancing and games. Traditional May Day celebrations included dancing around
maypoles and the appearance of hobby horses and characters such as Robin Hood and Jack
in Green.

Trooping the Colours

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The official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II is marked each year by a military parade
and march-past, known as Trooping the Colour (Carrying of the Flag). Trooping the Colour
will take place on Saturday 13 June on Horse Guards Parade. Events begin at approximately
10am and the parade starts at 11 a.m. (lasts approximately one hour).
Lammas Day
1st August is Lammas Day, and was Thanksgiving time (Harvest time) in Britain. The
name comes from an Anglo-Saxon word Hlafmaesse which means Loaf Mass. The festival of
Lammas marks the beginning of the harvest, when people go to church to give thanks for the
first corn to be cut. This celebration predates our Christian harvest festival.
On Lammas Day farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave
them to their local church. They were then used as the Communion bread during a special
mass thanking God for the harvest. The custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the
Catholic Church, and nowadays we have harvest festivals at the end of the season.
Michaelmas Day (September 29) is traditionally the last day of the harvest season.
Lammas Day used to be a time for foretelling marriages and trying out partners. Two
young people would agree to a trial marriage lasting the period of the fair (usually 11 days)
to see whether they were really suited for wedlock. At the end of the fair, if they didnt get
on, the couple could part.
Michaelmas Day
Michaelmas Day is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, celebrated on 29
September. St. Michael is the patron saint of the sea and maritime lands, of ships and
boatmen, of horses and horsemen. He was the Angel who hurled Lucifer (the devil) down
from Heaven for his treachery.
Michaelmas Day is traditionally the last day of the harvest season.
The harvest season used to begin on 1 August and was called Lammas, meaning loaf
Mass. Farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave them to their local
church. The custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, and
nowadays we have harvest festivals at the end of the season near Michaelmas Day.
Punky Night
Punky Night falls on the last Thursday in October and is a Somerset tradition.
Some time in the Middle Ages, all the men of Hinto St George went off to a fair.
When they failed to return that evening, the women went looking for them by the light of
punkies. Punky is another name for a pumpkin which has been hollowed out and has a candle
standing inside it.
Traditionally on this night, children in the South of England would carve their
Punkies, (pumpkins) into Jack OLanterns. Once carved the children would go out in
groups and march through the streets, singing traditional punky songs, calling in at friendly
houses and competing for best lantern with rival groups they meet. The streets would be lit
with the light of the Punkies.
Nowadays, on Punky Night in Hinton St George, Somerset, local children join a
procession through the village streets, swinging their homemade lanterns and going house to
house, singing traditional punky songs and sometimes getting a few pennies at the front
door.
Halloween October 31st (Eve of All Hallows)

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On October 31st, we celebrate Halloween, thought to be the one night of the year
when ghosts, witches, and fairies are especially active.

Guy Fawkes Day ( Bonfire Night) - 5th November


In November 1605, the infamous Gunpowder Plot took place in which some
Catholics plotted to blow up the English Parliament and King James l, on the day set for the
king to open Parliament. The men were angry because the king had treated them badly and
they didnt like it. The story is remembered each 5th November when Guys are burned in a
celebration known as Bonfire Night.

St Andrews Day - 30th November


On 30 November, Scottish people celebrate St Andrews Day. St Andrew is the patron
saint of Scotland.
St Nicholas Day 6 December
This is the feast day of St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (now Turkey) in
the 4th century AD. He is the patron saint of children.
In the Netherlands and neighbouring countries of Europe, St Nicholas is said to bring
sweets and presents to well behaved children on 6 December. This tradition was imported to
the USA by Dutch settlers, and St Nicholas evolved into Santa Claus, those gift-giving
rounds are preformed later in the month. In this new incarnation he subsequently returned
across the Atlantic to merge with the British Father Christmas.

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Christmas in the UK

The traditional Christmas is not a single day but a prolonged period, normally from
24th December to 6th January. This included the New Year, thus increasing the festival value
of Christmas.

A Christmas history

The Christmas customs and rituals that we follow Christian, Celtic or Roman?
Actually, they are a mixture of all three.

We still look at the Christmas season as a time of "goodwill to all men". This custom
goes as far back as Rome. Lucian (a third century poet) describes the Roman festival of
Saturnalia (Dec. 17 - 24) as "a time when all men shall be equal and all resentment and
threats are contrary to law".

The dates of this Roman festival actually coincided with the old Celtic celebration of
Yule so St. Augustine (realizing that it was much smarter to change the "focus" of Britain's
popular Celtic festival than to ban it) and the other Christians of the time declared that Dec.
25 was the date of Christ's birth. By establishing that date, they blended all of the Celtic,
Christian and Roman beliefs together into one celebration, let everyone do their own thing
and everyone was happy.

By the time we get to 1066, Britain was very Christian although many of the old
Celtic and Roman customs survived, especially at Christmas.

One of the most important of these was the use of lights in home and church. This
was a left over from the old Celtic belief of "sympathetic magic". The intent being that the
lights would encourage the return of the sun after the dark days of winter. To this day, we
still use many candles in church and our religious observances.

Decorating the church and home with evergreen foliage (holly, ivy and mistletoe) was
another custom left over from the old beliefs. Ivy, once the badge of the Roman wine God,
Bacchus, was thought to prevent hangovers and bring good luck. As mistletoe was the
ancient symbol of fertility, it's use was frowned on by the church. However, Holly was
welcomed as the blood of Christ and the crown of thorns.

The nativity play was an invention of St. Francis of Assisi and was a continental
custom. It made its appearance in Britain in the 12th century and was performed in churches
and public places.

In medieval times, the celebration was called the Twelve Days of Christmas and the
party ran for all 12 days. The celebration began on December 25 and ended on January 5. It
was a time for continuous feasting and merry making, which climaxed on Twelfth Night. At
his time of year it was cold outside and there was little agricultural work to do except caring
for the animals so work could be suspended. Sometimes the festivities continued until
Candelmass on Feb. 2. The highlight of this celebration was the feast, the lavishness of
which depended on your place in the social ladder. Many feudal lords were expected to give

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a great meal for their tenants. They really did it up big time! During Christmas 1213, the
royal family's guests consumed 200 pigs, 1000 hens, 15,000 herring, 10,000 eels, 100 pounds
of almonds and 27 hogsheads of wine.

On Christmas Eve, the wassail bowl was passed. The rich would fill the bowl with
spiced wine in which roasted apples were floated. The bowl was then passed from person to
person to drink to each other's health. The poor substituted wine with ale mixed with
nutmeg, ginger and honey. This custom can be traced to Anglo-Saxon times, the Saxon
phrase "was haile" meaning a toast to another's health.

At these dinners, the centerpiece of the feast, a boar's head, would be carried into the
hall with great ceremony, preceded by the master of ceremonies and followed by minstrels
singing carols. This was another ancient custom from a time when the boar was a sacrificial
animal revered by the Nordic people.

To end the feast, frumenty was served. (the predecessor to Christmas pudding) This
was a wheaten porridge sweetened with fruit nuts and spices. Christmas pies of the time
were meat-based. The centerpiece of the Twelfth Night party was the Twelfth Night cake.
The eating of this caked involved the crowning of the King of the bean and the Queen of the
pea. Whoever found these items buried in their cake were crowned monarch for the night

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and their orders had to be obeyed. These people were party animals that had been drinking
for days so one can only imagine what went on. This idea was carried into schools, colleges
and churches by appointing a boy bishop who was given temporary power to direct the
merry-making.

In the villages, mummers would wear masks or blacken their faces, put on animal
skins and perform traditional dances, which originated from old Celtic festivals.

From the 1400's on, there would be a Lord of Misrule. This was generally a person of
low rank who was permitted to reign over the Feast of Fools. This feast included a lot of
music, dancing, men dressed up in women's clothes, drinking and undoubtedly, a lot of
debauchery.

There were many other traditions and customs during the celebration. I have
highlighted just a few.

All of this merry-making had very little to do with children which is a big difference
from today. The children joined in but gifts were a matter for adults only and were
exchanged at New Year between king and courtiers, landlord and tenants. Father Christmas
did not exist at that time. The medieval child knew Christmas as an adult event. It was a
time when grownups could set aside the strict, oppressive rules of their society and act like
children.

Decorated Christmas trees, as we know them, were introduced during the Victorian
era. However, the ancient Celtic people worshiped trees and decorated them throughout the
winter. The idea being to protect them until the sun returned. Based on stories of the 4th
century Dutch St. Nicholas, Santa Claus was introduced in North America by the Dutch
colonists.

Christmas nowadays

Christmas Day, 25 December, is celebrated by Christians as the day on which Jesus


Christ was born. In Great Britain, carol services take place in Churches throughout December
and nativity plays are performed They are stories of Christ's birth acted out by school
children. Some families have models of nativity scene in their houses. Another popular form
of Christmas performances are pantomimes which are dramatised versions of well-known
fairy tales. They involve singing, dancing and encouraging the audience to participate.
Before Christmas, people send Christmas cards to their friends and family. The first ever
Christmas card was sent in Britain in the 19th century. Traditional Christmas symbols are
Santa Claus, angels, holly or snowmen.

Traditional Christmas decorations which include holly and ivy originate in the Middle
Ages. The custom of kissing beneath a spring of mistletoe comes, probably, from pagan
tradition. A few days before Christmas families decorate their Christmas tree with baubles,
coloured lights, tinsel and bows. Some people hang a holly wrath on their front door. It has
been a tradition since 1947 that Oslo presents London with a large Christmas tree which
stands in Trafalgar Square in commemoration of Anglo-Norwegian cooperation during the
Second World War. Every year, there is a program of Christmas carols on Trafalgar Square.
Another famous British Christmas tree is the one presented by the British Christmas Tree
Growers Association. It stands outside the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street

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One of the longest preserved British Christmas customs which has changed over
hundreds of years is the kissing bough. In the early middle ages, it was customary in Europe
to hang up a small treetop, upside down as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. This was not only
Christmas tradition but was also used as a Christian symbol of blessing upon the household.
The custom of the Holy Bough transformed into a Kiss under the Mistletoe (which, being
evergreen, was always used in the making of the Holy Bough).

The most popular and international symbol of Christmas is Santa Claus, who in
Britain is also called Father Christmas. He originates from the Viking lore, which was
brought by the Vikings when they invaded Britain in the 8 th century. The Anglo-Saxons, who
at that time inhabited Britain, The Saxons welcomed King Frost, or Father Time, or King
Winter. They believed that by welcoming the Winter as a personage, or elemental deity, that
element would be less harsh to them. The Vikings brought their god Odin, the father of the
gods. Disguised in a long blue hooded cloak, and carrying a satchel of bread and a staff, Odin
was supposed to join groups of people around their fire, sitting in the background and
listening in to hear if they were content or not. He would occasionally leave a gift of bread at
a poor homestead. These were first customs associated today with Father Christmas-he
hooded figure, the secret visits, the leaving of a gift. With the Normans came St. Nicholas.
Viking and Saxon deities mingled with a Christian element to create a saintly Parish Visitor -
a sort of medieval social worker, a "prototype" of modern Santa Claus.

A famous story by Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol", made many people all over
the world associate Christmas with Victorian England.

On Christmas Day's morning, British families open their presents together. The
presents are believed to be left by Santa Claus who, at night, puts them into a stocking that
each person hangs near the chimney. Then many British families attend Christmas services at
churches.

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3. Superstitions

3.1.What do superstitions mean to the British?

Superstition is a part of British culture today. Although superstition was more alive a
hundred years ago, there are still superstitious people around, both young and old. Some
people though, clame not to be superstitious, but it is still a part of them.
All superstition has grown from something, there is no smoke withoout fire. Who was
the first one to decide that opening an umbrella in a house is bad luck? Who was the first to
walk under a ladder and suffer the consequenses? Who hung a horseshoe the wrong way up,
smashed a mirror and spilled the salt? Who first branded Friday 13th as a day on which luck
would run out?
Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth century life was hazardous, and the central
feature of day-to-day existence was a preoccupation with finding explanations for fortune
and misfortune. Religion, diseases and fire might have been the most essential elements in
the background of the beliefs of superstition. Even though we are not searching for the same
answers today superstition is still with us as a tradition.
The word 'Superstition' comes from the Latin 'super' which meansabove, and 'stare'
which means to stand. Those who survived in a battle were called 'superstitians', since they
had outlived their fellow warriors and therefore stood above them.
Every generation since the dawn of time has written off superstition as being
nonsensical and about to 'kick the bucket'. Yet taboos keep springing back to life. Why do
primitive omens survive in the Age of Science? Superstitions are many-sided: silly and
serious, illogical and practical, Pagan and Christian. The ancient omens once touched every
aspect of daily life: in the home; at birth, marriage & death; animals; and women in particular
were the centre of many home-spun rituals. Join Alec in a fun debate as we 'touch wood' and
avoid ladders during an exploration of how primitive rituals are passed on to the next
generation. They are the 'oldest beliefs in the world' and may well outlive the major religions
of today.

3.2. A strong superstition

Of all birds it is probably the magpie that is most associated with superstitions.
However, most superstitions regarding magpies are based around just one bird. Throughout
Britain it is thought to be unlucky to see a lone magpie and there are a number of beliefs
about what you should do to prevent bad luck.

In most parts of the UK it is believed that you should salute the single magpie and say
Good morning Mr Magpie. How is your lady wife today? By acknowledging the magpie in
this way you are showing him proper respect in the hope that it will not pass mad fortune on
to you.

In Yorkshire magpies are associated with witchcraft and you should make a sign of
the cross to ward off evil. And in Scotland a single magpie seen near the window of a house
is a sign of impending death, possibly because magpies are believed to carry a drop of the

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devils blood on his tongue or in another legend because he was the only bird that didnt sing
or comfort Jesus when he was crucified.
Other things you can do to prevent the bad luck a lone magpie may bring include
doffing your hat, spitting three times over your shoulder or even flapping your arms like
wings and cawing to imitate the magpie's missing mate.
As the well known rhyme "One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a
boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told." shows it is only seeing
a lone magpie that brings bad luck and groups of magpies are said to predict the future. There
are many different versions of this rhyme with some counting as high as 20 birds.
Like many other birds magpies mate for life and this may be the inspiration for this
rhyme. And in some parts of the world magpies are not associated with bad luck at all. In
Korea a popular magpie superstition has people believing that that the magpie can foretell
when they will have visitors in the future. In China it is believed that the magpies song will
bring happiness and good luck and in some parts of China the magpie is considered a sacred
bird.
Although it is not known why magpies have become associated with bad luck
magpies are members of the crow family and like all crows have a reputation for liking shiny
objects and have the reputation of stealing jewellery. Rossini wrote a tragicomic opera
entitled La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) about a French girl accused of theft who is
tried, convicted and executed. Later the true culprit is revealed to be a magpie and in remorse
the town organises an annual 'Mass Of The Magpies' to pray for the girl's soul.

Another reason for humans disliking magpies is that during breeding season they will
sometimes supplement their diet of grubs, berries and carrion with eggs and baby birds. They
have also been known to kill small pets such as guinea pigs. Studies have shown that
magpies raiding nests have no effect on the populations of songbirds of game birds.

Ensure that the breeding birds in your garden aren't disturbed by magpies by choosing
a bird box that keeps predators out.

3.3. Good luck or Bad luck?

Good Luck

Lucky to meet a black cat. Black Cats are featured on many good luck greetings cards
and birthday cards in England.
Lucky to touch wood .
Lucky to find a clover plant with four leaves.

A horseshoe over the door brings good luck. But the horse shoe needs to be the right
way up. The luck runs out of the horse shoe if it is upside down.

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On the first day of the month it is lucky to say "white rabbits, white rabbits, white
rabbits," before uttering your first word of the day.
Catch falling leaves in Autumn and you're have good luck. Every leaf means a lucky month
next year.

Bad Luck

Unlucky to walk underneath a ladder

Seven years bad luck to break a


mirror.
Unlucky to see one magpie, lucky
to see two, etc..
Unlucky to spill salt. If you do,
you must throw it over your shoulder to
counteract the bad luck.
Unlucky to open an umbrella in
doors.
The number thirteen is unlucky.
Friday the thirteenth is a very unlucky day.
Friday is considered to be an unlucky day
because Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
Unlucky to put new shoes on the
table.
Unlucky to pass someone on the stairs.

3.4.Superstitions for everyone

There are many British superstitions and even those who think they are nonsense
often follow them just in case. A good example of this is it is bad luck to walk under a
ladder, one could say this makes practical sense.
Another common belief is that it is bad luck to break a mirror, particularly a
rectangular one. Equally it is bad luck to spill salt, to undo this you throw a pinch over your
left shoulder.
A horseshoe over the front door brings good luck, but it has to be the right way up.
We touch; knock on wood, to make something come true.
Black cats that cross your path are lucky. To see one magpie is unlucky but to see two
is lucky. It is very unlucky to kill a robin. As long as there are ravens living at the tower of
London the royal family will survive.
If you drop a table knife expect a male visitor, if you drop a fork a female visitor.
Crossed cutlery on your plate and expect a quarrel. Leave a white tablecloth on a
table overnight and expect a death.
Bride and groom must not meet on the day of the wedding except at the alter. The
bride should never wear her complete outfit before the day, her outfit should consist of
something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new. The husband
should carry his new wife over the threshold of their home.

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It is good luck to show a silver coin to the new moon and to give a baby silver for its
christening.
Children believe it is bad luck to step on the cracks in the pavement and to spit can
avert bad luck. Two people will spit in their hands and then shake hands to seal a bargain.
It is unlucky to open an umbrella indoors or to pass someone in the opposite direction on a
staircase.
Never sit 13 people at one table, in fact avoid the number 13, particularly Friday the
13th. 3 and 7 are often thought to be lucky numbers.

Festivals have many superstitions, Christmas trees, Yule logs, Christmas presents,
decorations and twelfth night. New Years Eve has first footing and spring cleaning. Easter
has Easter eggs, maypole dancing, May queens, etc.
Many people still wear good luck charms, a St Christopher medallion or a rabbits
foot are the most popular. Certain classes of people, soldiers, sailors, airmen, actors and
athletes have superstitions unique to them. Actors will not mention Macbeth off stage and
wish each other break a leg before a performance.
Wishing wells still collect peoples coins and most people at sometime have searched
for a 4-leaf clover, or bought a bunch of lucky lavender from a gipsy.
There are many ideas about insects, particularly in the home. Black beetles are unlucky, bees
and ladybirds are lucky and must not be killed. A very small red spider is called a money
spider if you can get it to run across your palm you will receive money.

3.5.The story of the broken mirror, the black cat

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and lots of good luck

Nikos was an ordinary man. Nothing particularly good ever happened to him,
nothing particularly bad ever happened to him. He went through life accepting the mixture
of good things and bad things that happen to everyone. He never looked for any explanation
or reason about why things happened just the way they did.
One thing, however, that Nikos absolutely did not believe in was superstition. He had
no time for superstition, no time at all. Nikos thought himself to be a very rational man, a
man who did not believe that his good luck or bad luck was in any way changed by black
cats, walking under ladders, spilling salt or opening umbrellas inside the house.
Nikos spent much of his time in the small taverna near where he lived. In the taverna
he sat drinking coffee and talking to his friends. Sometimes his friends played dice or cards.
Sometimes they played for money. Some of them made bets on horse races or football
matches. But Nikos never did. He didnt know much about sport, so he didnt think he could
predict the winners. And he absolutely didnt believe in chance or luck or superstition, like a
lot of his friends did.
One morning Nikos woke up and walked into the bathroom. He started to shave, as
he did every morning, but as he was shaving he noticed that the mirror on the bathroom wall
wasnt quite straight. He tried to move it to one side, to make it straighter, but as soon as he
touched it, the mirror fell off the wall and hit the floor with a huge crash. It broke into a
thousand pieces. Nikos knew that some people thought this was unlucky. Seven years bad
luck they said, when a mirror broke. But Nikos wasnt superstitious. Nikos wasnt
superstitious at all. He didnt care. He thought superstition was nonsense. He picked up the
pieces of the mirror, put them in the bin, and finished shaving without a mirror.
After that he went into the kitchen to make himself a sandwich to take to work for his
lunch. He cut two pieces of bread and put some cheese on them. Then he thought he needed
some salt. When he picked up the salt jar, it fell from his hand and broke on the floor. Salt
was everywhere. Some people, he knew, thought that this was also supposed to bring bad
luck. But Nikos didnt care. He didnt believe in superstitions.
He left the house and went to work. On his way to work he saw a black cat running
away from him. He didnt care. He wasnt superstitious. Some builders were working on a
house on his street. There was a ladder across the pavement. Nikos thought about walking
around the ladder, but he didnt care, he wasnt superstitious and didnt believe in
superstitions, so he walked right underneath the ladder.
Even though Nikos wasnt superstitious, he thought that something bad was certain to
happen to him today. He had broken a mirror, spilled some salt, walked under a ladder and
seen a black cat running away from him. He told everybody at worked what had happened.
Something bad will happen to you today! they all said. But nothing bad happened to him.
That evening, as usual, he went to the taverna. He told all his friends in the taverna that he
had broken a mirror, spilled the salt, seen a black cat running away from him and then
walked under a ladder. All his friends in the taverna moved away from him. Something
bad will happen to him, they all said, and we dont want to be near him when it happens!.
But nothing bad happened to Nikos all evening. He sat there, as normal, and
everything was normal. Nikos was waiting for something bad to happen to him. But it
didnt.
Nikos, come and play cards with us! joked one of his friends. Im sure to win! Nikos
didnt usually play cards, but tonight he decided to. His friend put a large amount of money
on the table. His friend thought Nikos was going to lose. Nikos thought he was going to
lose.
But it didnt happen like that.

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Nikos won. Then he played another game, and he won that one too. Then somebody
asked him to play a game of dice, and Nikos won that as well. He won quite a lot of money.
Go on then Nikos his friends shouted, Use all the money you have won to buy some
lottery tickets! Nikos spent all the money he had won on lottery tickets. The draw for the
lottery was the next day.
The next day after work Nikos went to the tavern again. Everybody was watching the
draw for the lottery on TV. The first number came out, for the third prize. It was Nikos
number. Then the second number, for the second prize. It was another of Nikos tickets.
Then the first prize. It was Nikos number as well. He won all three of the big lottery
prizes.
It was incredible. It seemed that all the things that people thought caused bad luck
actually brought him good luck.
The next day Nikos bought a book about superstitions from all over the world. When
he had read the book he decided to do everything that would bring him bad luck. He left
empty bottles on the table. He asked his wife to cut his hair for him. He accepted a box of
knives as a gift. He slept with his feet pointing towards the door. He sat on the corners of
tables. He put a candle in front of the mirror. He always left his hat on the bed. He always
left his wallet on the bed. He bought things in numbers of six, or thirteen. He crossed people
on the stairs. He got on a boat and whistled. And with everything he did, he got luckier and
luckier. He won the lottery again. He won the games of dice in the taverna every evening.
The things got crazier and crazier. He bought a black cat as a pet. He broke a few more
mirrors, on purpose. He didnt look people in the eye when they raised their glasses to him.
He put loaves of bread upside down on the table. He spilled salt. He spilled olive oil. He
spilled wine.
The more superstitious things he did, the luckier he became. He went in to the
taverna and started to tell all his friends what he thought.
You see! he told them. I was right all along! Superstition is nonsense! The more
things I do to break ridiculous superstitions, the more lucky I am!
But Nikos replied one of his friends, Dont you see that you are actually as
superstitious as we are? You are so careful to break superstitions, and this brings you luck.
But you are only lucky when you do these things. Your disbelief is actually a kind of
belief!
Nikos thought hard about what his friend said. He had to admit that it was true. He was so
careful to break all the superstitions he could, that in some way he was actually observing
those superstitions.
The next day, he stopped spilling salt, chasing away black cats, walking under
ladders, putting up umbrellas in the house and breaking mirrors. He also stopped winning
money on the lottery. He started to lose at games of cards or dice.
He was a normal man again. Sometimes he was lucky, sometimes he wasnt. He
didnt not believe in superstitions any more, but he didnt believe in them either.
Nikos, said his friend to him, It was your belief in yourself that made you lucky. It
was your self-confidence that helped you, not superstitions.
Nikos listened to his friend and thought that he was right. But, however rational he
still believed himself to be, he always wondered what would have happened if he hadnt
broken that mirror...
THE END

4.CONCLUSION

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The British (also known as Britons, informally Brits or archaically Britishers) are
citizens of the United Kingdom, of the Isle of Man, one of the Channel Islands, or of one of
the British overseas territories, and their descendants In a historical context, the word is used
to refer to the ancient Britons, the indigenous inhabitants of Great Britain south of the Forth
British nationality law governs modern British citizenship and nationality, which are acquired
through a variety of means including by birth in the UK and by descent from British
nationals.
Britain is full of culture and traditions which have been around for hundreds of years.
British customs and traditions are famous all over the world. When people think of Britain
they often think of people drinking tea, eating fish and chips and wearing bowler hats, but
there is more to Britain than just those things. We have English and British traditions of
sport, music, food and many royal occasions. There are also songs, sayings and superstitions.
Who was Guy Fawkes? Why does the Queen have two birthdays? You can find the answers
here in our pages on life in Britain.
Superstition is a part of British culture today. Although superstition was more alive a
hundred years ago, there are still superstitious people around, both young and old. Some
people though, clame not to be superstitious, but it is still a part of them.
English folklore is the folk tradition which has developed in England over a number
of centuries. Some stories can be traced back to their roots, while the origin of others is
uncertain or disputed. England abounds with folklore, in all forms, from such obvious
manifestations as the traditional Arthurian legends (which were originally strictly Britonic)
and Robin Hood tales, to contemporary urban legends and facets of cryptozoology such as
the Beast of Bodmin Moor.
Morris dance and related practices such as the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance preserve
old English folk traditions, as do Mummers Plays. Pub names may preserve folk traditions.
Most folklore traditions are no longer widely believed. Whereas some traditions were once
believed across the whole of England, most belong to specific regions.

Christmas Day, 25 December, is celebrated by Christians as the day on which Jesus


Christ was born. In Great Britain, carol services take place in Churches throughout December
and nativity plays are performed They are stories of Christs birth acted out by school
children. Some families have models of nativity scene in their houses. Another popular form
of Christmas performances are pantomimes which are dramatised versions of well-known
fairy tales. They involve singing, dancing and encouraging the audience to participate.
Before Christmas, people send Christmas cards to their friends and family. The first ever
Christmas card was sent in Britain in the 19th century. Traditional Christmas symbols are
Santa Claus, angels, holly or snowmen.

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5. Bibliography

LONGMAN Dictionary of Contemporary English


Roud, Steve, The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Great Britain
and Ireland, 2004
Stephen Rabley, Customs and Traditions in Britain, Longman, 1996
Simpson, Jacqueline and Steve Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore,
2000
www.wikipedia.org

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