Some British Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of (and the Perfect Teas to Celebrate Each One)

(ETS image)
(ETS image)

Just when you thought there weren’t enough holidays in the year, you discover that other countries have ones you’ve never heard of. Here are a few from the UK that are probably new to you and that deserve a toast of the teacup:

Twelfth Night – Yes, that Twelfth Night after which Shakespeare named one of his lighter comedies. The official end of Christmas festivities. All decorations for Christmas should be down by this date or else they have to stay up all year to prevent bad luck (such as your tea steeping up bitter and your scones burning like little asteroids entering the Earth’s atmosphere). The perfect tea: Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea (If you’re familiar with the Shakespeare play, then you’ll get the reference here: twins – double – hee!)

Candlemas Day – An ancient festival marking the midpoint between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. A time of blessing candles, which were very important in an age without electric lights. The perfect tea: Tangiers Lemon Flavored White Tea (white teas are usually harvested in early Spring, so a nice cuppa with the fresh, clean flavor of lemon seems perfect)

St. David’s Day (Wales National Day) – Celebrated on the 1st of March to honor Wales’ patron saint St. David (“Dewi Sant”), a 6th century Celtic monk/abbot/bishop. One story is that the ground he stood on speaking to a huge crowd swelled up into a hill. The perfect tea: Volcano Flower Burst Flowering Green Tea (talk about something swelling up – the tea ball swells into a lovely display – steep in a glass teapot or large glass cup so you can watch that miracle happen)

Mothering Sunday – British equivalent of Mother’s Day. Always the 4th Sunday of the Lenten period. Also called “Refreshment Sunday,” “Pudding Pie Sunday” (in Surrey, England), and “Mid-Lent Sunday.” Fasting rules are usually relaxed a bit on this date. The perfect tea: A Tea for Any Occasion – Loose Leaf Sampler (mothers are so various and diverse that we thought a variety of teas was appropriate here)

St George’s Day (England’s National Day) – Held on the 23rd of April to honor St. George, patron saint of England. His emblem (a red cross on a white background) is used as the flag of England and part of the British flag. St. George is said to have slain a dragon. There aren’t usually any big celebrations of the day. You will see a red rose (England’s national flower) in various buttonholes. The perfect tea: Nine Bend Black Dragon Tea (some dragons are friendly and make really good tea – honest!)

Trooping the Colours – A military parade and march-past marking the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II and taking place on the 2nd Saturday in June at Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall in London. It started as a way of trooping the regiment’s flag in front of soldiers to be sure they could recognize it in battle. The perfect tea: Traditional British Flavour Tea Gift Basket (yep, we’re going for a whole gift basket here – hey, it’s a birthday celebration, after all)

Swan Upping – A census of the swans (Mute Swans, Cygnus olor) that make their home on a 70-mile stretch of the River Thames. Held on the 3rd week of each July and takes five days. Their health is checked as they are counted. The Queen still holds the special title of “Her Majesty The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans.” The perfect tea: Adams Peak White Tea (white like those swans, but much more friendly – those swans can hiss and honk if you get too close)

Notting Hill Carnival – Anyone who has seen the movie “Notting Hill” is familiar with that section of London (West end). The carnival, started in 1966 and held on the August Bank Holiday, is a display of Afro-Caribbean cultures and traditions in an amazing array of sounds and colors. The perfect tea: Island Coconut Naturally Flavored Black Tea (coconuts are grown in tropic and subtropic regions, including the Caribbean, so this seems a natural!)

St Andrew’s Day (Scotland’s National Day) – Another patron saint, this time in Scotland, gets honored on the 30th of November. Some of his bones now supposedly lie in the burgh of St. Andrew in the area of Fife in Scotland. The perfect tea: Scottish Breakfast Tea (what else? hee! seems like a total natural here)

Boxing Day – see The Day-After-Christmas Tea Time. The perfect tea to celebrate with: Tea Gift Basket – Deluxe Afternoon Tea (what can we say? it comes in a box, sort of)

Update: A friend in Cornwall wants me to mention St. Pirans Day! So I am. Gotta keep ’em happy!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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