Lesson 39 FCE First Certificate Course

Dialogue lesson 39

Dialogue 39: 5 opinions on Celebrated holidays in Britain

Which is the most celebrated holiday in Britain?

(1) The way I see it, the most significant holiday that we celebrate in Britain is St Patrick’s Day. It strikes me as odd because even in England, we celebrate this holiday a lot more than St George’s day which is our national celebration. St Patrick’s day (or Paddy’s Day, as it is sometimes referred to) is celebrated on the 17th March every year. All I know about the origins of this festival is that it commemorates the date of the death of the most famous patron of Ireland, Saint Patrick. I would say that any cultural or religious significance has been lost over the years. Now, Paddy’s Day is widely recognised as a day to get very drunk with friends, either in pubs and bars or in street parties. This day is obviously a huge deal in Ireland but it is also celebrated so much across the world. For example, in Chicago, it is a custom to dye the river green. I don’t know if there is a strong symbolic connection between Chicago and Ireland. My guess would be that there actually isn’t, as a matter of fact, I would say that people just use this holiday as an excuse to party! Don’t get me wrong, Paddy’s Day is one of the highlights of the year for me, but sometimes I wish we celebrated St George’s day a little more here in England. You get the sense that Irish people are so unbelievably proud of their roots during the Paddy’s Day festivities, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could say the same about the English. In my opinion, patriotism and pride are key elements in the functioning of a country.

(2) I’m going to go with the obvious here and say Christmas day always has been and always will be the most celebrated holiday in our country. I count myself as a religious person, so in my family, we still celebrate this day by going to mass in church on Christmas morning and we don’t hand out too many presents to each other. I think it’s a shame because it has become so commercialised, it sounds like a cliché but I think people need to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. For many, the highlight of this magical day is receiving new things, which to me is a reflection of our materialistic society. Christmas should be about spending quality time with family and friends, eating drinking and laughing together. Regardless of how people spend Christmas, it is undoubtedly celebrated the most in Britain. We also have Boxing Day, a national holiday on the 26th December. For the most part, this day is a chance to stuff our faces with leftovers and watch films together.

(3) Personally, I believe a lot of people underestimate the value of Easter as a British celebration. This holiday lasts from Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, until Easter Monday. Religion still plays a big part in my life so obviously Easter is an important date in my calendar. However, I think that whether you are religious or not, it can’t be said that Easter isn’t acknowledged as a national celebration. Even if some people don’t value the origin of Easter as the day of the resurrection of Jesus, families and friends still get together to have a roast dinner cooked by mum, eat chocolate Easter eggs and watch films, perhaps even play board games. Besides, we get a bank holiday on Easter Monday. Any holiday which provides people with a day off from work will always be celebrated in England!  

(4) Bonfire Night – It could be argued that this holiday isn’t regarded as a big national holiday in Britain, but for me, Bonfire Night is the best night of the year. Bonfire Night is an annual celebration, every 5th of November. It dates back to the same day in 1605, which marks the ‘gunpowder plot’, the failed attempt of blowing up the houses of parliaments by storing more than 30 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar underneath the house of lords. One of the gang members who was involved in the plan was named Guy Fawkes and we celebrate November 5th to commemorate his execution. However, some people wonder in a tongue in cheek-way whether we are celebrating his death or the fact that he tried to get rid of the government! Because bonfires were set alight on the 5th November in 1605, we replicate this every year in addition to fireworks being set off and models of guy fawkes being thrown onto the bonfire. I love this holiday because it is a great way to come together with friends on a cold november night, keeping warm by the bonfire and looking up at the magical fireworks so we can forget about all of our problems for a few minutes!

(5) Halloween – Halloween didn’t originate in Britain, neither is Britain the most renowned place for the revelry of this day. However, Halloween is still massively celebrated here. Customs include trick or treating, which is where children knock at neighbours’ doors and either receive treats such as sweets or chocolate or are asked to perform a ‘trick’, however this trick is rarely requested, unless the neighbour is in a bad mood! We also host and attend Halloween parties where fancy dress is a must. We put up Halloween decorations, carve pumpkins and play games such as apple bobbing. This game requires a tub of water filled with apples, which float to the surface. The aim of the game is for all competitors to try to pick the apples up using only their teeth and not their arms, which are sometimes tied behind their backs to ensure no cheating goes on. Sometimes, you have to wear a blindfold too. It can get a bit messy, but it’s very fun. 

Vocabulary lesson 39

ENGLISH

SYNONYM or DEFINITION

to be a huge/big deal

to be important

to dye

fabric a colour

to count oneself as

to consider oneself as

a cliché

a stereotype

to acknowledge

to admit, to accept as true

a bonfire

a large open-air fire

underneath

directly below

revelry

festivities, partying

to bob

to move up and down

to blindfold

to cover someone’s eyes

Exam tip 39

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