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Religious events in the United Kingdom

In the UK, Christmas and Easter are the two major public religious holidays, when most banks, shops and offices are closed. But other religious holidays are also celebrated in different ways.

Christmas Day, 25 December, is a public holiday, and nearly all shops and public offices are closed. Many people spend Christmas Day with family members, with whom they exchange gifts and cards and eat a festive meal. Many people may attend special church services such as Midnight mass on Christmas Eve (24 December) even if they do not usually go to church. Boxing Day (26 December) is also a bank holiday in the UK. Christmas is the most popular and celebrated holiday in the UK, and is not generally seen as a religious or exclusively Christian celebration. In the Ethnic Minority British Election Survey 2010, 62% of Muslims, 89 % of Hindus and 96 % of Sikhs say they sometimes or always give presents at Christmas.

Easter and Lent
Good Friday and Easter Sunday are public holiday in the whole of the UK, and Easter Monday is a bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The holiday is not generally celebrated in the way that Christmas is, but families with children sometimes decorate Easter eggs, share chocolate eggs and participate in Easter egg competitions. People who regularly attend church often attend special services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Lent, the period of six weeks before Easter is commonly marked by giving up a luxury. In an online survey from January 2013. One-quarter (24%) of British adults said that they intended giving something up for Lent, although previous years indicate that only half of them will actually do so. Chocolate, alcohol, cigarettes and meat were the most popular choices.

See Lenten intention and other news on line

Other celebrations and events

Many other events with Christian or pagan origins are celebrated without being official holidays.

Halloween, originally All Hallow’s Eve, is celebrated by creating lanterns from pumpkins, and dressing up in costumes. Children go trick-or-treating, dressing up knocking on the door for treat of sweets or a snack.
Pentecost is a Christian observance commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus Christ’s disciples. Special church services take place on Pentecost Sunday, also known as Whitsunday, or Whit Sunday. Unlike Christmas and Easter it is not usually observed by the general population.
Each of the four countries in the UK have their own patron saints, with their own holidays. St Patrick’s day (17 March) is a national holiday in Northern Ireland and St Andrews day (30 November) is a bank holiday in Scotland. St. David’s day (1 March) in Wales and St George’s Day (23 April) in England are often marked in some way, but are not public holidays.

Minority religious holidays

Rosh Hashanah - Jewish New Year
Jewish communities in Britain celebrate the Jewish New Year festival which commemorates the creation of the world. It marks the new year and begins with ten days of repentance and self-examination. The festival is also known as the Day of Judgement, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar, and the Day of Remembrance. Special services are held at the synagogue and a musical instrument, called a shofar, is blown to Jews of God’s power.

Hanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods. The word means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple.

Ramadan and Eid –al-Fitr
Many Muslims in the United Kingdom fast during the daylight hours in the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is also a time for many Muslims to donate to charity by participating in food drives for the poor, organizing a collection or charity event, and other voluntary activities. In larger cities, some public events are hold to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with live entertainment,stalls, exhibitions etc.. Many Muslim communities also organize their own festivities for this occasion.

Many cities throughout the United Kingdom celebrate the Hindu Diwali festival of light, with firework displays, dances, plays, street lighting, Diwali lanterns, traditional Indian food, and music. Hindu council representatives, spokespeople from Indian associations, and political leaders publicly announce their greetings to those involved in organizing and participating in Diwali celebrations.

Chinese New Year
Chinese communities across the United Kingdom celebrate Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year. People organize large scale community and public celebrations, which are often well attended by non-Chinese population.

D 2 October 2018    AIngrid Storm AKatya Braginskaia

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