For many British households, a traditional tea time practice of eating biscuits for an afternoon tea is still common. It is observed when friends come for a quick visit and hunger pangs are felt when dinner is still quite far off. Tea and biscuits became an ideal solution.
Biscuits are baked flour-based products which find their equivalent in American cookies although the latter has a generally softer consistency. Although there is much confusion with these two terms because of their adaption in different contexts, there appears to be a common consensus that biscuits refer to the hard, crisp, dry baked products. This English delicacy has served as the perfect combination for afternoon tea.
The afternoon tea is also referred to as low tea in contrast to high tea which is actually dinner, being in the heavier side. The time set for this is about four or five in the afternoon and never goes beyond seven in the evening. The start of this practice has been attributed to Anna Marie Stanhope, the Duchess of Bedford who was one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting.
This practice was said to have been prompted by the Duchess “sinking feeling” at about four in the afternoon which is believed to have been caused by meager noon meals. It was also said that what started out as a simple sneaking out of bread stuffs and a pot of tea graduated into the afternoon tea which consists of invited guests enjoying small cakes and sandwiches, sweets, and tea.
There are three types of afternoon tea including cream tea, light tea, and full tea. Present afternoon tea observation in England now follows three courses comprised of savouries, scones, and pastries, in such particular order. Tea of course is served throughout.
There is much interest surrounding the line of succession to the British throne. The people who are included in this line are descendants of Electress Sophia of Hanover who are Protestants. Descendants who are Roman Catholics or have married Roman Catholics have been specifically excluded from the list of eligible successors to the throne.
This arrangement is supported by the Act of Settlement of 1701 which determined the issue of Succession to the Throne of the United Kingdom plus 15 Commonwealth realms. The same line of succession is used for choosing the Counsellors of State and a Regent, if so required as guided by the Regency Act of 1937. It is to be noted that only legitimate descendants are included in the list and legitimized descendants are specifically excluded as well.
Electress Sophia of Hanover died before having her chance to ascend to the throne, thus it was her eldest son, George I who started the reign from her family line. The present head of the British Monarchy is Queen Elizabeth. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, as the heir to the British Throne can only be king if and when Queen Elizabeth choose to abdicate, retire or die. The line of succession favors the male gender and only allows female descendants to be heir to the throne, if and only if she has no brother as in the case of Queen Elizabeth.
In the line of succession, the siblings of the heir to the throne fall behind the heir’s children. Thus, a descendant’s place may change, depending on the events related to birth, death, or marriage within the family. There are efforts being exerted to change the manner of succession in relation to gender, marriage to Roman Catholics, and sovereign’s consent to royal marriage.
Giving a name to a baby is a major concern of parents. There are however names that are particularly famous in UK. People’s first names are important but most parents name their babies according to traditions prevailing in the country or according to popularity.
In the UK , a recent list of favorite names for boys and girls contain fairly consistent entries. The top ten boys’ name consist of Oliver, Jack, Harry, Charles, James, Joshua, Alfie, Thomas, Jacob, and Ethan. The top ten girls’ names include Lily, Emily, Isabella, Sophia, Isabelle, Sophie, Olivia, Ava, Chloe, and Isla.
Traditional names usually follow names or members of the royal family, names of ancestors, and names of famous personalities. It would be of great interest to know that choosing baby names is one of the major causes of arguments between spouses in UK. The coming of a new child is admittedly an exciting phase in the life of couples but it can also be one of the most stressful. Choosing a name can add to the stress knowing that the chosen name will be carried by the child for the rest of his or her life.
Another interesting finding about UK parents is that a considerable percentage actually regrets the choice of names they have done for their children. The recently announced pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge has already led many to wonder about the possible name of the future heir to the throne. Will the royal couple go for traditional or follow trends such as those observed in the US that appear to favor characters of Greek mythology?
At about this time, children are already excited about Halloween which is celebrated on October 31. It was supposed to have originated from All Hallows’ Eve which was said to be influenced by European festivals of the dead and also harvest festivals. Halloween is also being associated with Samhain, a Celtic festival which was said to include rituals that hinted at human sacrifice.
Christian influence also played a part in it when All Saints’ Day was transferred to November 1 which was the same date as Samhain and November 2 was designated as All Souls’ Day. This move by the church was seen as a way to eliminate pagan rituals. These holy days of obligation were met by certain traditional practices such as “souling” wherein people would go from house to house to collect soul cakes as a form of prayer for the souls in purgatory. In fact, the jack-o-lanterns which are commonly seen as Halloween decorations today used to represent these souls.
The popularity of Halloween waned in Britain during the Reformation and among the members of the United Kingdom, the practice was only retained in Scotland and Ireland. The practice of guising or disguising one’s self in costumes while collecting food or coins persists to this day. Guising was not seen in North America until about 1911.
The lighting of turnip lanterns on gatepost was common in some parts of England which is said to be protection from spirits. This is closely related to lating which is said to ensure protection of people from spirits by carrying lighted candles from eleven up to midnight. It is believed that if the light on these candles are blown away, witches are responsible for it and a bad omen or omens will follow.
Regardless of the origins of Halloween, it is not as popular in the UK as it is in the US. For the relatively few who don costumes, the theme is usually limited to ghoulish outfits. Halloween decorations are minimal and trick-or-treating is highly discouraged.
May Day in England may mean two things – celebration of the International Workers’ Day and the traditional festivity that celebrates springtime fertility. Between these two, the latter is identified with May Day festivity because of the activities incoporated in it. One of the more popular among these is the Morris Dance.
Those who are familiar with it will associate it with rhythmic stepping, choreographed dancing, colorful costumes, and different implements that include bells, swords, sticks, and handkerchiefs. This English folk dance is said to date as far back as 1448 although the earliest records of it was placed only in the later part of the 15th century. It is not however an activity performed only by the English since there are other countries that have their own Morris Dance teams. Still, it remains closely identified with the English culture.
The dance name as it is presently known has evolved from several earlier names including Moorish, Morisk, Moreys, and Morisse. It was the working peasantry who has traditionally participated in English Morris dancing. There are at least four teams who claim that they were able to continue the tradition uninterrupted in their family line. The biggest revival for the dance happened in the early part of the 20th century.
Morris dancing has six styles considered predominant in light of the numerous styles developed through the years. These include Cotswold, which uses sticks and handkerchiefs, the military-style Northwest, the more vigorous style of Border which is often done with blackened faces, the Rapper Sword Dancing, the Longsword Dancing, and the parodic Molly Dancing. Music accompaniment is usually provided by a fiddle or a pipe and tabor, although the most commonly used instrument at present is the melodeon.
Image: Tour Norfolk
To many, the red telephone box is something rather unique on England’s streets. In a modern England where everyone is well equipped with mobile phones, there really isn’t much need to visit a little cubicle and search the pocket for 30p. However, in its heyday the fast disappearing red telephone box was a real beacon of comfort provided you didn’t have to queue for too long.
In the past, it was a true life-saver for people who had no home telephone, and it also offered not only privacy but also shelter for users. Many old English people I know often say it was a kind of public amenity in which you didn’t mind waiting for the rain to stop. Some people also claim to have had their very first kiss in one, much to the entertainment of curious passers-by of course.
There is no doubt that these red boxes are well recognised and appreciated by all countries and they reflect England’s historic development in both architectural achievements and communications. As far as many are concerned, the famous red phone box does play a vital role in English culture and heritage, and has done so for many past decades.
Fortunately enough, the charming red boxes can be found all over England. They have also appeared in countless films and while they are disappearing fast due to new communication technology, an increasing number of people are still preserving them.
As a foreigner, the red telephone box well represents England in many respects to me. I used to live in England and even though I hardly used the phone boxes at all, I spent so much time admiring and appreciating them from a creative point of view. For me, it all started with a red phone box on the beach in Brighton during my half-term visit. The brilliant contrast of the shiny red colour against the beautiful seaside of the Southern English town made a fantastic photo opportunity.
Now back home in Bangkok I’ve still got loads and loads of red telephone box photos on my computer, in the beautiful snow, among green trees, taken from many different angles, mostly with mates crammed inside. To be fair, it’s such a good reminder of my time spent in England as I still remember precisely where and with whom I was, when each picture was taken.
The red phone box is definitely not only a gorgeous piece of English street furniture, globally recognised, it was and till these days still is a priceless life-saver for many people. I reckon that British Telecom should be praised for maintaining all these gorgeous red boxes. I’m certain everyone still remembers the tragedy of the London bombings back in 2005 when all the mobile phones technically went down but good old red phone box worked perfectly fine and helped put many people’s minds at rest.
Most people would see different wedding traditions, but if there is one that can be traced from the English style, that is of spreading flowers on the pathway towards the altar before the bride walks towards it. Such a practice stems from the belief that the bride will live through her life happily and lovely.
This practice is usually done by a small girl who dons the same design or dress of the bride herself. This is to avoid being singled out by any jealous evil wishers who might envy her life of happiness in the duration of the ceremonies.
Also, brides are also advised to carry a silver horseshoe to the hem of their wedding dresses. In the olden days, brides were even asked to carry actual horseshoes for good luck. The former is what most brides apply now since good luck is what any newlyweds will always be after.
No, I am not talking about the parties that high school students look forward to each year in the United States and other parts of the world. This “prom” is a bit more, let’s say, cultured. I am talking about The BBC Proms or The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. Does that suit your taste better?
The Proms is an age old tradition in the UK. It started way back in 1895 and lasts for 8 weeks during the summer period. Today, one can look forward to over 70 concerts throughout the whole season. The concerts are held at the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington, London – well, at least most of them.
This year, The Proms started on July 15. As it is every year, the world’s greatest musical performances will be attended by countless people.
A little more information on The Proms from Wikipedia:
Proms is short for promenade concerts, a term which arose from the original practice of audience members promenading, or strolling, in some areas of the concert hall during the concert. Promming now refers to the use of the standing areas inside the hall (the arena and gallery) for which ticket prices are much lower than for the reserved seating. Single concert promming tickets can be purchased, with few exceptions, only on the day of the concert, which can give rise to long queues for well-known artists or works. Prommers can purchase full or half season tickets instead for guaranteed entry, although not guaranteed standing position. A number of Prommers are particularly keen in their attendance, and see it as a badge of honour to achieve the grand slam of attending every concert of the season.
Photo courtesy of wallyg
Summer is always here and for many British of the older generation, this season is akin to preserving the fresh fruits of the season. Though making homemade preserves may not be necessary today – thanks to modern processing plans – it would still be a good activity to engage in this summer. Have you ever made preserves or jam in your own kitchen? Maybe you should try out this age old tradition that our elders engaged in. Not only will you have homemade jams and jellies to consume throughout the winter months, but you’ll also have memories to last for the rest of your life.
So how do you go about making jam? Helen Gaffney of The Great British Kitchen provides tips that have been tried and tested by time. Here they are for your reading (and jam-making) pleasure.
1. It is most important to have jars, saucepan or preserving pan and spoons ready and scrupulously clean before you start, so that you prevent any micro-organisms from getting into the jam.
2. Choose sound firm fruit. A mixture of ripe and rather less ripe fruits is best, unripe fruits contain more pectin and fruit acid (both needed to obtain a good set) than ripe fruit.
3. Use fruit as soon as possible after picking. Wash only if necessary.
4. Cook the fruit with or without water for 20-30 minutes prior to adding the sugar. Simmer it gently to draw out the pectin.
5. Warm the sugar before adding it to the fruit to help it dissolve quickly.
6. When you have added the sugar to the hot, softened fruit, stir it over a gentle heat until it has completely dissolved before returning the jam to the boil.
7. Boil rapidly until set, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking at the bottom. Test frequently to avoid over-cooking.
There’s more from where this came from. I suggest that you visit Helen’s article and read for yourself!
Photo courtesy of Noah McMurray
You probably hear them everyday now. Christmas songs are played most everywhere and if you turn the radio on, you will probably hear them being played even more. In some countries, Christmas songs are played as early as September. More often than not, though, the really successful songs are those that were created eons ago – the classics, as we call them.
Over the decades, though, year in and year out, artists attempt to come up with their own Christmas songs. I am not talking about remakes of the oldies but modern originals. Yet I still have to find one that can hold its own amongst Christmas songs of old. It seems that the experts are thinking the same way. Pete Paphides of The Times Online tried his hand at defining what a great Christmas song is:
An uphill struggle? “Yes, that’s one way of looking at it.” Displaying the laconic realism that was once the hallmark of his old band Squeeze, Chris Difford is contemplating the task that he set himself when the BBC asked him single-handedly to revive the pan-generational irony-swerving Christmas classic. Has he pulled it off?
When his choir-festooned, bells-blazing cockle-warmer Let’s Not Fight This Christmas airs on The One Show on BBC One tonight — all proceeds to Children in Need — you’ll get to judge for yourself. You would have to be “optimistic to the point of madness”, Difford acknowledges, to go into such an enterprise thinking that you might emulate deathless seasonal classics by Slade, Wizzard and the Pogues. “Not only are you fighting against the quality of those songs,” he adds, “but you’re fighting against the nostalgia people feel for those songs, not to mention The X Factor.”
He goes on to say that it seems that Christmas songs coming from the working class are more successful. I honestly do not know – I actually walked away from his article a bit confused. All I know is that a good Christmas song makes me feel nostalgic and giddily happy at the same time.
What makes a good Christmas song for you?