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Holiday Traditions in the UK: Unboxing the Magic Behind Popular Holidays

The United Kingdom is a land steeped in history and rich in traditions, especially during the holiday season. From the cozy and festive Christmas celebrations to unique regional holidays and the spirited St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the UK offers a diverse tapestry of customs and rituals. In this blog, we’ll explore the holiday traditions in the UK. Additionally, we’ll give you tips on the gifts to send to your loved ones in the UK and how to send them!  

Holiday Traditions in the UK: Night view of Trafalgar square at Christmas, London

Christmas Celebrations in the UK

Christmas in the UK is a time of joy, togetherness, and tradition. The festivities begin in early December when cities and towns across the country light up their streets with dazzling Christmas lights. One of the most iconic events is the lighting of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree in London, a gift from the people of Norway as a symbol of gratitude for British support during World War II.

Advent Calendar

Now the countdown to Christmas typically begins on December 1st with the opening of the first door on the advent calendar. These calendars can be made of paper or even chocolate, with each day revealing a small treat or image. In addition, many families enjoy a host of other Chrismtas traditions. Below are just a few of the most popular.

Decorations and Christmas Trees

Families across the UK decorate their homes with Christmas trees adorned with baubles, tinsel, and lights. Recent trends call for trees decorated with unique themes, such as rustic or eco-friendly ornaments. A visit to the local Christmas markets is also a must, where you can find handcrafted gifts and festive treats.

Christmas Dinner

The centerpiece of Christmas Day is the traditional roast turkey dinner. Families gather around the table to enjoy succulent turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, and an assortment of vegetables. Don’t forget the Christmas crackers, which contain small toys, jokes, and paper crowns for everyone to wear during the meal. Like other holiday traditions in the UK, each family adds their own unique flair to the customs they observe. The contents of Christmas Dinner are no exception! So, make sure you ask your friends and family about the food they enjoy around Christmas.

Christmas Crackers

Pulling Christmas crackers before or during the meal is a fun tradition. These colorful tubes contain small gifts, paper hats, and jokes, providing entertainment for all ages.

Queen’s Speech

Also, on Christmas Day, many Britons gather around the television to watch the Queen’s Speech, a tradition dating back to 1932. Queen Elizabeth II delivers a heartfelt message reflecting on the year and its challenges.

Boxing Day

December 26th, known as Boxing Day, is another holiday in the UK. It’s a time for shopping, visiting friends and family, and watching sports events like football matches and horse racing.

Popular Christmas Gifts in the UK

Surprising your friends, family, and colleagues in the UK with Christmas gifts is easy. A simple Christmas card is often enough, as it’s the act of thinking of them that truly matters. However, if you want to go above and beyond when you send Christmas gifts to the UK, here are some of the most popular:

Alcohol Gifts: From wine to high-quality liquor and everything in between. If you’re lucky enough to know your recipient’s favorite drink, make sure you send a gift that includes it. When in doubt, send them quality champagne that they can enjoy during New Year’s Eve!

Sweet Gourmet Gifts: Cookies, cakes, or assorted gourmet chocolate are all sure to delight your lucky recipients. This gift is especially popular for those who have little ones, as it is a gift the whole family can enjoy!

Gourmet Gift Baskets: From indulgent smoked sausages to tempting cheese platters, a gourmet Christmas gift basket to the UK is sure to impress. Go the extra mile and add a bottle of wine for a real party.

Holiday Traditions in the UK: New Year's fireworks by Big Ben

New Year’s Celebrations in the UK

New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as it’s known in Scotland, is a time for revelry and reflection in the UK. After all, New Year’s is seen around the world as a time for new beginnings and starting over. The UK is a melting pot of various cultures; therefore you’re likely to see many more traditions than what we have listed below.


In Scotland, Hogmanay is a word that resonates with warmth and festivity. Edinburgh hosts one of the world’s most renowned New Year’s celebrations, featuring torchlight processions, live music, and, of course, the grand fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle. The “first-footing” tradition, where the first person to enter a home after midnight brings symbolic gifts, is a cherished custom.

London Fireworks

In London, hundreds of thousands gather along the banks of the River Thames to witness a spectacular fireworks show. Big Ben’s chimes mark the stroke of midnight as the sky erupts in a mesmerizing display of lights. Finally, the fireworks are choreographed to music and can be watched in person or on television by millions around the country.

Singing Auld Lang Syne

In the UK, New Year’s also has a traditional song! Singing “Auld Lang Syne,” a traditional Scottish song, is a custom that brings people together to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one.

First Footing

Across the UK, the first person to enter a home after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is believed to bring good luck for the year ahead. They often carry traditional gifts like whisky, shortbread, and coins. This practice varies by region and as a result the gifts exchanged vary by region.

Loony Dook

This New Year’s tradition is not for the faint of heart! In South Queensferry, Scotland, brave souls take a dip in the icy waters of the Firth of Forth on New Year’s Day as part of the Loony Dook tradition. Many of these brave divers make the plunge all dressed up. The event was started by locals in 1986, who jokingly suggested the icy plunge as a hangover cure.

Popular New Year’s Gifts in the UK

The most popular New Year’s gift in the UK likely won’t surprise you, but it isn’t alone. Holiday traditions in the UK tend to include the whole family, so the list of popular New Year’s gifts goes beyond alcohol.

Champagne: This may be the most popular New Year’s gift around the world, making it an obvious choice for spoiling your friends and family in the UK. When sending champagne to business associates take care to send a quality bottle.

Fruit Baskets: After all of the family feasts and sweet treats the holidays have to offer, fruit is a welcome surprise. Not only is it delicious, it’s a treat the whole family can enjoy.

Tea and Coffee: Sending tea or coffee gifts may not be the first item that comes to mind. However, after many late nights of partying, surprising your friends and family with tea or coffee is a welcome care package!

St. Patrick’s Day in the UK

Many people wonder: does the UK celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? The answer is a resounding yes! St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17th, is a significant cultural event in the UK, especially in Northern Ireland. The day commemorates St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and is marked with parades, music, dance, and plenty of green.

Belfast Celebrations

Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the UK. The streets come alive with colorful floats, marching bands, and dancers. Families gather to watch the spectacle, and many wear green clothing and accessories to show their Irish pride.

Traditional Irish Music

In various pubs and venues across the UK, you can find live performances of traditional Irish music on St. Patrick’s Day. Fiddles, flutes, and bodhráns create an atmosphere filled with the spirit of the Emerald Isle.

Irish Dance

Irish dance is an integral part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. In addition to professional performances, you may even come across impromptu dance-offs in pubs, with both locals and visitors joining in the fun.


Colorful parades featuring marching bands, dancers, and floats are a highlight of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Belfast and Londonderry in Northern Ireland host vibrant parades.

Green Attire

Wearing green clothing, accessories, and even face paint is a common practice on St. Patrick’s Day to show solidarity with Irish culture.

If you have friends and family in the UK, surprising them with a St. Patrick’s Day gift is a fun way to send your love. No need to make a list; the most popular St. Patrick’s Day gift is beer, followed closely by sweet treats in festive green colors.

What is Jubilee in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, a jubilee is a significant celebration that marks a specific anniversary of a monarch’s reign. The most common jubilees celebrated are Silver Jubilees (25 years), Golden Jubilees (50 years), and Diamond Jubilees (60 years). These milestones serve as a testament to the longevity and dedication of the reigning monarch.

The celebration of a jubilee in the UK typically involves a variety of events, both public and private, that honor the reigning monarch. Here are some common ways jubilees are celebrated:

Public Events: The UK often hosts grand parades, concerts, and firework displays to commemorate a jubilee. These events are usually held in major cities and attract large crowds.

Religious Services: Special religious services are held in churches and cathedrals to offer prayers and thanksgiving for the monarch’s long and prosperous reign.

Street Parties: Many communities organize street parties where neighbors come together to celebrate with food, music, and games. These gatherings create a sense of unity and community spirit.

Commemorative Coins: The Royal Mint often releases special commemorative coins to mark jubilees. These coins become sought-after collector’s items.

Television and Media: National broadcasters often air documentaries and special programs dedicated to the jubilee, highlighting the monarch’s life and achievements.

Royal Weddings in the UK: A Celebration of Tradition and Glamour

Royal weddings in the United Kingdom are grand, historic events that capture the attention and imagination of people around the world. These weddings are not only about the union of two individuals but also serve as occasions to celebrate the monarchy, British culture, and the traditions that have endured for centuries.

Holiday Traditions in the UK: How Royal Weddings Are Celebrated

Ceremonial Splendor: Royal weddings are known for their pomp and pageantry. They typically take place in historic and iconic venues, such as Westminster Abbey or St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The ceremonies are attended by members of the royal family, dignitaries, and invited guests.

Public Gatherings: The British public often gathers in large numbers along the wedding route to catch a glimpse of the royal couple and be a part of the celebration. The atmosphere is filled with excitement and anticipation.

Televised Worldwide: Royal weddings are broadcast globally, allowing millions of people to watch the ceremony and celebrations from the comfort of their homes. These broadcasts include commentary, interviews, and behind-the-scenes coverage.

Festive Street Parties: Communities across the UK often organize street parties, where neighbors and friends come together to celebrate. Tables are lined with food, decorations, and Union Jack flags, creating a sense of unity and festivity.

Balcony Appearance: After the ceremony, the newlyweds often appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, where they greet the crowds and share a kiss. This tradition is eagerly anticipated by the public.

Other Wedding Traditions in the UK

Weddings in the United Kingdom are steeped in tradition, with a blend of classic customs and modern influences. These traditions add a sense of charm and significance to the celebrations. As one can image, recent royal weddings in the UK have a great influence on popular wedding trends in the region. But there are some core wedding traditions that show no signs of going out of fashion. Here are some popular wedding traditions in the UK:

Something Old, Something New: The bride often adheres to the superstition that she should wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” These items symbolize continuity, new beginnings, borrowed happiness, and fidelity.

The Bridal Procession: The bride traditionally walks down the aisle with her father, who then “gives her away” to the groom. This tradition symbolizes the transfer of responsibility and the joining of families.

Tossing Confetti: After the ceremony, it’s common for guests to toss confetti at the newlyweds as they exit the venue. This tradition signifies well-wishing and fertility.

Reception Traditions: Wedding receptions often include a sit-down meal, speeches, and toasts. The cutting of the wedding cake is a significant moment, followed by the first dance of the newlyweds.

The Best Man’s Speech: The best man delivers a speech that combines humor, anecdotes, and heartfelt sentiments. It’s customary for the best man to offer a toast to the couple’s future happiness.

The Bouquet Toss: The bride tosses her bouquet to a group of single female guests, with the belief that the one who catches it will be the next to marry.

Throwing the Garter: The groom removes and tosses the bride’s garter to the single male guests. Similar to the bouquet toss, the recipient is said to be the next to marry.

Holiday Traditions in the UK: Couple getting married

Popular Wedding Gifts in the UK

When it comes to choosing wedding gifts in the UK, there are several thoughtful and traditional options:

Cash or Gift Certificates: Many couples appreciate receiving cash or gift certificates, allowing them to choose items they need or prefer.

Homeware: High-quality homeware items, such as kitchen appliances, dinnerware, and linens, are practical and timeless gifts.

Personalized Gifts: Customized items like engraved photo frames, engraved glasses, or monogrammed towels.

Jewelry: Jewelry, such as necklaces, cufflinks, or watches, can be meaningful gifts to commemorate the special day.

Wine and Champagne: A fine bottle of wine or champagne is a classic gift for toasting the couple’s future together.

Charitable Donations: Some couples prefer that guests make donations to their chosen charities in lieu of traditional gifts, demonstrating their commitment to social causes.

Holiday Traditions in the UK: Unique Holidays in Different Regions

The more you explore the UK, the more unique holiday traditions you’ll run across. The people of this country take great pride in upholding old traditions. That’s not to say they don’t make room for new celebrations. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! The list below is just a glimpse of the many regional holiday traditions in the UK. If you don’t see your favorite, let us know about it on social media by tagging @GiftBasketsOverseas!

Dydd Santes Dwynwen (Wales)

On January 25th, the Welsh celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers, similar to Valentine’s Day. Couples exchange cards and love spoons as tokens of affection.

Up Helly Aa (Shetland)

This fire festival in Lerwick, Shetland, involves the burning of a Viking longship and a torchlit procession. It takes place on the last Tuesday in January.

St. David’s Day (Wales)

On March 1st, the Welsh celebrate St. David, their patron saint. People wear daffodils and leeks, traditional symbols of Wales, and enjoy parades and cultural events.

Burns Night (Scotland)

Celebrated on January 25th, Burns Night pays tribute to Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. During this day, people gather for a traditional meal of haggis, neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes), accompanied by poetry readings and Scottish music.

St. George’s Day (England)

April 23rd marks St. George’s Day in England, celebrating the country’s patron saint. While not as widely observed as other holidays, some towns and cities host parades, festivals, and traditional English fare.

Wrapping Up Holiday Traditions in the UK

The United Kingdom’s holiday traditions are a reflection of its diverse culture and history. From the warmth of Christmas to the excitement of New Year’s Eve, the uniqueness of regional holidays, and the cross-cultural celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, these traditions connect people, bridge generations, and bring a sense of joy to the nation. Whether you find yourself in the bustling streets of London, the picturesque villages of Wales, or the rugged landscapes of Scotland, you’ll discover that the UK’s holiday traditions are a captivating tapestry of customs, each with its own story to tell.

And don’t forget! If you can’t be with your friends and family in the UK for your favorite holiday, you can still celebrate with them. Make time for a video chat with them. Better yet, let us help you surprise your loved ones in the UK with a timely gift!

You’ve learned about holiday traditions in the UK; now what?