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Card #12. Traditional Holidays and Celebrations
What would you tell your foreign friends about traditional Russian holidays and celebrations? What do you think your British friends will tell you about their traditional holidays and celebrations?

     Every country has its own national holidays, but there are holidays that are common for many countries. People all over the world know New Year’s Day, Christmas and Easter. In Russia, New Year’s Day is the most popular holiday; but in the West people pay more attention to Christmas.
     New Year’s Day is a family event in Russia. People begin to prepare for this holiday beforehand. Everything is rush and bustle. There is a great air of expectation. People decorate their New Year trees with tinsel, various baubles and coloured lights. They usually put their presents under the tree. When the Kremlin clock strikes 12 they see the New Year in. Christmas in Russia is celebrated on 7 January. It is celebrated with all-night services in churches.
     There are also dates and events in our country that are memorable to Russian people. They are Victory Day, the Day of Reconciliation and Harmony, Women’s Day, the Day of Spring and Labour, Independence Day, Country Defendant’s Day, Constitution Day, and Maslenitsa. Besides, there are many professional days in our country: Teacher’s Day, Miner’s Day, etc.
     Country Defendant’s Day is celebrated on 23 February. This holiday is devoted to soldiers and officers and everyone else who defended the country or is in the Army. Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March. It is a day-off. Men and boys try to please their mothers, sisters and friends by giving them presents and flowers. Maslenitsa marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring and Lent. During this festival people make pancakes, sing and dance traditional songs and dances, and visit each other. Maslenitsa and Easter are movable holidays. Easter is the main Orthodox festival. People colour eggs and enjoy traditional Russian dishes. Churches hold special services on this day. The Day of Spring and Labour is celebrated on 1 May. On this day people prefer to go outdoors and take part in all kinds of outdoor activities. Victory Day is celebrated on 9 May – it celebrates the end of the Soviet Union’s participation in World War II in Europe. People put flowers at the tombs of the soldiers who were killed during the war. The main ceremony is held in Moscow. People lay flowers in Moscow’s Park Pobedi and at the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier. Independence Day is celebrated on 12 June. On this day Russia became an independent country after the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991. This is an official holiday.  The Constitution Day is celebrated on 12 December. It celebrates the new Constitution of 1993.

    There are fewer public holidays in Great Britain than in other European countries. They are: Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Spring Bank Holiday and Late Summer Bank Holiday. All holidays and traditions are connected with the history and culture of the country.
     The most popular holiday is Christmas. Every year the people of Norway give the city of London a present. It’s a big Christmas tree and it stands in Trafalgar Square. The central streets are beautifully decorated. People decorate their houses with holly and mistletoe. They send Christmas cards to greet each other. Children hang their stockings, hoping that Father Christmas will come with toys and sweets. Before Christmas groups of people go from house to house – they sing Christmas carols and collect money for charity. Christmas is a family holiday. The family usually meets for a traditional dinner of turkey and Christmas pudding, and everyone gives and receives presents. New Year’s Day is less popular in Britain than Christmas. But in Scotland, Hogmanay is the biggest festival of the year. They celebrate New Year. The preparations for the occasion begin several days before the New Year’s Eve, which is known as Hogmanay. The night of Hogmanay is a time for merrymaking, the giving of presents and observance of the old customs. The name "Hogmanay” is supposed to come from the Anglo-Saxon "Haleg Monath” (Holy Month), or the Gaaelic "oge maiden” (New Morning). December 26th is Boxing Day. People usually visit their friends, go for a drive or for a long walk, or just sit around and watch TV recovering from too much food after Christmas dinner. In the country there is fox-hunting.
     Easter is the time when certain old traditions are observed. It is celebrated as the start of spring and as a religious festival. It is the time for giving and receiving presents, such as Easter eggs, hot cross buns, fluffy little chicks, baby rabbits, and springtime flowers to signify nature’s reawakening.
     Four times a year the banks are closed on Monday apart from traditional weekends. Such days are called Bank Holidays.
     Besides public holidays, there are certain traditional festivals which have existed over centuries in the country. They are Pancake Day, Guy Fawkes’ Night, Saint Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Hallowe’en, April’s Fool Day, etc. These days are not days-off. But they help to keep many traditions, which Englishmen have always been famous for.
     As for me, most of all I like Hallowe’en. It goes back many, many hundreds of years. At that time the Celts lived in England. The Celts said, "In this night the ghosts of the dead come back.” Nowadays children in the USA and Britain dress up as witches or ghosts. Some children also make jack-o’-lanterns out of pumpkins. They put them in the windows at night. In the evening, the children go out in groups and knock at people’s doors. The children call out: "Trick or treat.” Most people then give the children a "treat”. This is usually a sweet, some chocolate, or maybe a toffee apple. But some people do not give the children a treat. Then the children play a trick on them. Sometimes, they ring the doorbell again and then they hide or run away. Or they come to the house again later and put leaves, grass, stones or other things into the letterbox. Children and older people often have Hallowe’en parties where they play games such as "bobbing for apples”, "apples on a string”, "fortune telling”. I wish we celebrated Hallowe’en in Russia because this holiday is very funny and interesting.
1. What holidays are celebrated in Russia?
2. What is the most popular holiday in Russia?
3. What professional days in Russia do you know?
4. What is your favourite holiday in Russia?
5. What public holidays are celebrated in Great Britain?
6. What is the most popular holiday in Great Britain?
7. What is a "bank holiday?”
8. What holidays are movable in Russia and in Great Britain?
9. What is Hogmanay?
10. What is the traditional Christmas food in Great Britain.
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