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Culture and traditions of great Britain.
1) State symbols of the country.
2) National Emblems
3) Patron Saints
4) England: the City of London, Westminster, the West End, the East End.
1) The flag of the UK is known as the Union Jack. “Union” reflects the union of England and Scotland in 1606. “Jack” means the flag on the jack staff of ships to show their nationality. The Union Jack is made up of 3 crosses on a blue ground. The blue color refers to the seas surrounding Britain. The central red Cross is the cross of St. George, the patron saint of England. The white diagonal cross (with the arms going into the corners) is the cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. The red diagonal cross is the cross of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St. David is the patron saint of Wales, but this symbol isn’t reflected in the Union Jack, because when the flag first appeared Wales was united with England. The Welsh flag is a red dragon in a white and green ground.
2) The Rose
The red rose was the emblem of the Lancastrians, the white rose that of the Yorkists, the two contending Houses for the English throne in the Wars of the Roses (1455-85). All rivalry between the Roses ended by the marriage of Henry VII, the Lancastrian with Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV, the Yorkist. The red rose has since become the national emblem of England.
St George the Martyr is the patron saint of England and his cross is the symbol of England and the Church of England. In ancient days the standard of St George was borne in battle before the kings of England. In his name the highest order of English knighthood the Order of the Garter* was instituted by Edward III about 1348.'
The thistle is the national emblem of Scotland. This is how, according to a curious legend, that homely plant came to be chosen as a badge, in preference to any other.
In very ancient times the Norsemen* once landed somewhere on the east coast of Scotland, with the intention of plundering and settling in the country. The Scots assembled with their arms and took their stations behind the river Tay, the largest in Scotland, at the only practicable ford. As they arrived late in the day, weary and tired after a long march, they pitched their camp and rested, not expecting the enemy before the next day.
The Norsemen however were near; noticing that no guards or sentinels protected the camp, they crossed the river Tay, intending to take the Scots by surprise and slaughter them in their sleep. To this end, they took off their shoes so as to make the least noise possible. But one of the Norsemen stepped on a thistle. The sudden and sharp pain he felt caused him to shriek. The alarm was given in the Scots' camp. The Norsemen were put to flight, and as an acknowledgement for the timely and unexpected help from the thistle, the Scots took it as their national emblem.
Welshmen all over the world celebrate St David's Day by wearing either leeks or daffodils. The link between the leek and St David is the belief that he is supposed to have lived for several years on bread and wild leeks.
There is conclusive evidence that Welshmen wore leeks on St David's Day in Shakespeare's time. In " Henry V" Fluellen* tells the King.
" If your Majesty is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth* caps; which, your Majesty knows, to this hour is an honorable pledge of the service; and I do believe your Majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy's* day! "
At Jesus College, Oxford, where there is traditionally a large contingent of Welsh students, the wearing of leeks on St David's Day is de rigueur, just as officers and men of the Welsh Guards and the Welsh Regiment proudly display leeks on this national day.
The daffodil is also closely associated with St David's Day, due to the belief that it flowers on that day. It became an alternative to the Leek as a Welsh emblem in the present century, because some thought the leek vulgar.
What the red rose is to Englishmen and the leek and daffodil to the Welsh, the little shamrock is to the Irish, and no Irishman worth his salt* fails to wear this national emblem on St Patrick's Day, March 17. It is worn in memory of Ireland's patron saint, whose cross is embodied in the Union Jack by the thin red one under the cross of St George.
A popular notion is that when preaching the doctrine of the Trinity* to the pagan Irish St Patrick used the shamrock, a small white clover bearing three leaves on one stem as an illustration of the mystery.
Shortly after the formation of the Irish Guards in 1902 the custom of presenting the national emblem to the new regiment on St Patrick's Day began. An equally tenacious observance on St Patrick's Day is Wetting the Shamrock, the convivial aspect of Irish loyalty to their patron saint.
3) The patron saints of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are to be seen in large mosaics displayed over the four doorways leading out of the Central Lobby in the Houses of Parliament.
The mosaic panel over the south door represents St George, the patron saint of England and of the Order of the Garter, with the dragon at his feet; on his right is a figure symbolizing Fortitude, carrying St George's banner in her left hand and a club in her right hand; on his left is a figure symbolizing Purity, bearing St George's helmet and a bunch of white lilies.
The panel over the north door, representing St David, shows the saint carrying the Bishop's cross, with the dove alighting on his shoulder and two angels as supporters, one carrying the harp and the other a lamp, symbolizing Harmony and Light.
The panel over the east door depicts St Andrew, the fisherman, standing in the centre, holding his staff and net, with the diagonal cross* behind him. St Margaret, Queen of Scotland, on his left, carries the Bible and a black cross. On his right stands St Mungo with Bishop's mitre and crozier, and at his feet a salmon with a ring in its mouth.
The panel over the west door represents St Patrick, standing with clasped hands, clad in the robes of a Bishop, with the Rock of Cashel* behind him, on which is engraved the word " Omba", the Erse* name for Ireland, and the shamrock at his feet. On his right is St Columba, representing the North of Ireland, with a shield at his feet, on which is the Red Hand of Ulster; on his left is St Bridget with the Irish Harp* at her feet.
4) London is the capital city of England and of the UK, with a population of about 6-7mln. It is the largest city in Britain and one of the largest in the world. Historical and geographical circumstances have made London one of the world’s most important commercial and cultural centers. London doesn’t have just one center, it has a number of centers: the financial and business center, the City; the shopping and entertainment center in West End, the government center in Westminster, the region of the workers and the poor is East End. London is the city of great variety, ranging from the narrow medieval street-patterns to the spacious squares. The most famous older buildings in London include Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. The City is the heart of London, its commercial and business part. Numerous banks, offices, firms and trusts are concentrated there. The area of the City is about a square mile. The City of London is one of the major banking centers of world and one can find the banks of many nations here. Fleet Street is the street of news. It is now the center of journalists and newspaper men. Offices of most English daily and evening papers are situated in this street. Fleet Street is the center of Britain’s national newspapers: “The Daily Telegraph”, “Daily Express”, “The Times”, “The Guardian” and many others have their offices there. Among the first historic buildings in the City is the Tower of London, built in 1087. The Tower of London was founded by William the Conqueror. It was begun with the aim of protecting Londoners from invasion by the river. Since then the Tower has served as fortress, palace, state prison and royal treasury, now it is a museum. Tower Bridge is close by the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral, the greatest of English churches. Westminster is another central and important part of London. Most governmental buildings are situated there. On the left bank of the Thames is Westminster Palace famous as the Houses of the British Parliament. The Clock Tower with the hour-bell called “Big Ben’ is known the world over, the bell is 7 foot of inches high. The great glory of Westminster is the Abbey. The Abbey was built 900 years ago by Edward the Confessor and rebuilt by Henry III. The street called Whitehall stretches from Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square. Downing Street which is a small side street off Whitehall, is the home of the Prime Minister. In Whitehall there are all the important ministries: The Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Treasury. In the middle of Whitehall is the Cenotaph, the monument for all the people who were killed in the I World War. Scotland Yard is situated on the Thames Embankment close to the Houses of Parliament. To most people its name brings to mind the picture of a detective. The West End is the richest and most beautiful part of London. The West End is the area of Central London north from the Mall to Oxford Street. Fine Buildings, theatres, museums and big shops can be found in the West End. The best streets and parks of the capital are there too. Trafalgar Square is one of the centers of London. It was named so to commemorate the historical naval victory won in 1805 by the British fleet under the command of Horatio Nelson over the French-Spanish fleet. Nelson’s Column, with the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson on top, rises in the center of Trafalgar Square, its 170 feet (52 m) tall. To the north-east of Trafalgar Square there is the National Gallery of Art and behind is the National Portrait Gallery. The National Gallery of Art has one of the best picture collections in the world. There are many pictures of such masters: Reynolds, El. Greco; a great variety of pictures of Dutch masters and others. Piccadilly Circus is the center of night life in the West End. This is one of the most popular meeting points of London. It is a dynamic and picturesque place, it is also a West End shopping center. Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham. The Palace and the beautiful gardens which surround it occupy an area of about 40 acres. It is one of the most interesting places in London for tourists. The Ceremony of the changing of the Guard that takes place daily at 11 o’clock in the morning is one of pageants that provokes most interest. Hyde Park is one of the most popular and most often visited place in London. In Hyde Park there is Park Lane, by which one can arrive at Marble Arch. Hyde Park extends over an area of 636 acres. London’s poorest part is the East End. It is one of those areas where people from abroad have come to find work. The East End is famous as the center of the clothing industry in London; its markets are famous throughout the world. Traditionally someone born in the East End is known as cockney.
5) There are only eight official public holidays a year: