a person dressed up as santa claus

Which religious festivals are celebrated in the UK? Find out how people living in the UK celebrate their religions, improve your reading skills and prepare for the Life in the UK test.

The main Christian festivals

Christmas Day, 25 December, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a public holiday. Many Christians go to church on Christmas Eve (24 December) or on Christmas Day itself.

Christmas is celebrated in a traditional way. People usually spend the day at home and eat a special meal, which often includes roast turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies. They often give gifts, send cards and decorate their houses. Christmas is a special time for children. Very young children believe that Father Christmas (also known as Santa Claus) brings them presents during the night before Christmas Day. Many people decorate a tree in their home.

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day and is a public holiday.

Easter takes place in March or April. It marks the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and his rising from the dead on Easter Sunday. Both Good Friday and the following Monday, called Easter Monday are public holidays.

The 40 days before Easter are known as Lent. It is a time when Christians take time to reflect and prepare for Easter. Traditionally, people would fast during this period and today many people will give something up, like a favourite food. The day before Lent starts is called Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. People eat pancakes, which were traditionally made to use up foods such as eggs, fat and milk before fasting. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. There are church services where Christians are marked with an ash cross on their forehead as a symbol of death and sorrow for sin.

Easter is also celebrated by people who are not religious. 'Easter eggs' are chocolate eggs often given as presents at Easter as a symbol of new life.

Other religious festivals

Diwali normally falls in October or November and lasts for five days. It is often called the Festival of Lights. It is celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs. It celebrates the victory of good over evil and the gaining of knowledge. There are different stories about how the festival came about. There is a famous celebration of Diwali in Leicester.

Hannukah is in November or December and is celebrated for eight days. It is to remember the Jews' struggle for religious freedom. On each day of the festival a candle is lit on a stand of eight candles (called a menorah) to remember the story of the festival, where oil that should have lasted only a day did so for eight.

Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan, when Muslims have fasted for a month. They thank Allah for giving them the strength to complete the fast. The date when it takes place changes every year. Muslims attend special services and meals.

Eid ul Adhu remembers that the prophet Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice his son when God offered him to. It reminds Muslims of their own commitment to God. Many Muslims sacrifice an animal to eat during the festival. In Britain this has to be done in a slaughterhouse.

Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is a Sikh festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as Khalsa. It is celebrated on 14 April each year with parades, dancing and singing. 

This text is taken from Life in the United Kingdom, a Guide for New Residents, 3rd edition

Page 79

© Crown Copyright 2013

Tasks

Task 1 - comprehension

Task 2 - vocabulary

Task 3 - categorising

Life in the UK test - make sure you know

Before you take the Life in the UK test, make sure you understand:

  • The main Christian festivals that are celebrated in the UK
  • Other religious festivals that are important in the UK

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You can find out more about the Life in the UK test, and about applying for British Citizenship here:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/britishcitizenship/