Ten things to know about the New Year
22 December 2009

The last week of December is a big holiday period in Britain. It is actually two festivals: Christmas comes first, on December 25, with the New Year celebrations a few days later.

It can be great fun staying in the UK at this time. It is useful to know a little about both holidays. For information on Christmas, click here. This article will tell you about the New Year.

  1. There are public holidays on December 24 and 25 (Christmas Day and Boxing Day), and on January 1, which is New Year’s Day. In Scotland, January 2 is also a holiday. If any of these days fall on a Saturday or a Sunday, the holiday moves to the next weekday. There is no public transport on Christmas Day and only the smallest shops are open. Services are often very limited on the other public holidays.
  2. Lots of people are on holiday from just before Christmas to January 2 or 3. This means that it can be difficult to get things done, as many people are not at work. It also means that shops, bars and restaurants can be very busy.
  3. British shops start their sales just after Christmas. Some people queue for hours to get the best bargains. Under British law it is often possible to exchange unwanted gifts at the shop where they were bought, and this all means shops are very busy, with unusual opening hours.
  4. There are special events on because it is a festive time. You will find ice-skating rinks in unusual places. In London there are rinks at Somerset House and the Natural History Museum. Check local information for other towns and cities.
  5. It can be fun to go to a pantomime. This is a very British tradition. It is a theatre show which retells a traditional story such as the Sleeping Beauty but with songs and lots of bad jokes. There is usually a man playing the main woman’s role. An actress usually takes the part of the prince or young man. Most pantomimes will star a well-known television personality. There will be lots of families and children in the audience.
  6. If you want to go out and celebrate New Year’s Eve, you need to plan in advance. Lots of bars are ticket-only on that night and you may need to book. Restaurants also tend to be very full.
  7. There are also lots of private parties and celebrations on New Year’s Eve. No matter what happens during the evening, people will celebrate at midnight when the New Year starts. The radio and television channels usually broadcast the London clock, Big Ben, when it strikes 12. People may also link arms and sing a song called Auld Lang Syne, and kiss each other.
  8. If you don’t go out on New Year’s Eve there are special programmes on the television. One will include lots of Scottish dancing because New Year is the biggest festival of the year in Scotland.
  9. If you really want to celebrate the New Year in style, Scotland is the place to be. New Year is called Hogmanay in Scotland and it is very special to people. Christmas was not celebrated for many years in Scotland and so the New Year became the biggest festival. There are huge organised parties with fireworks and music in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but you will need to book tickets for these. There are other traditions round Hogmanay in Scotland, which include “first footing”. People think it is lucky if your first visitor of the New Year is dark haired and male. If they bring whisky or shortbread, that is even better.
  10. New Year’s Day can be very quiet. This is partly because many people will have drunk too much alcohol the night before and will be feeling tired and ill!

 by Susan Young


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