Traditions and customs of England

What traditions and customs are there in England?

A look at the customs and traditions of England, an island country in Europe.


Food in daily life

England is known for its mild cuisine. Traditional notions of the middle-class diet place meats at the center of the main meal, which is usually eaten at midday. Along with this main course, there could be a dish such as a meat casserole, and fish was also consumed.

Heavy sauces, sauces, soups and stews or puddings (savory and sweet), and pies and cakes were also eaten. Vegetables included potatoes and carrots, turnips and cabbage, and salad greens. Fruit was also part of the diet, although in small proportions.

Lighter meals included variations of the sandwich. Breakfast foods ranged from hot cereals to tea, toast, jam, steak, eggs and kidneys. These foods were not available to most people before World War II.

The rural poor, for example, ate a diet based on cheese and bread, with bacon several times a week, supplemented by fresh milk if available, cabbage and vegetables if a garden was maintained. All classes drank tea; beer was the drink of the working class and other alcoholic beverages of the middle and upper class.

Since 1950, the English have eaten less red meat, more poultry and almost the same amount of fish. Fat consumption is low and that of alternatives such as margarine is high. Fresh fruits are in favour, while vegetables are not, with the focus on salad greens.

The main meal is now consumed in the evening and is likely to consist of frozen or prepared foods. In addition to eating in pubs, inns, and restaurants, people eat fast food. There has been a dramatic increase in the variety of foreign cuisine, from Chinese and Indian to French and Italian.

There are few taboos related to food. People avoid some foods for so-called hygienic reasons, such as onions and leeks, which can cause bad breath. There are also foods that are considered uncivilized. Traditionally, the English have never eaten dogs, horses, other carnivores or insects.

Increasingly, eating meat is considered uncivilized. As part of the shift from meat to fruit, vegetables and fish, people have become more distanced from the production of the meat they eat and are less willing to eat a wide variety of meats.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Aside from cakes on birthdays, few special foods are eaten at major secular ceremonies, although such ceremonies do involve toasting and drinking alcohol.

In religious ceremonies, alcohol, usually wine, is common in most celebrations of the Eucharist in Christian churches and is also used in Jewish ceremonies. On Shrove Tuesday, which is both a secular and a religious occasion, many people eat pancakes.


Etiquette is changing, but the norms for appropriate behavior articulated by the elite and the middle class remain an important normative force. Greetings vary according to the class or social position of the person with whom you are dealing.

Those with titles of nobility, honorary titles, academic titles, and other professional titles prefer to be addressed by those titles, but like people to avoid drawing too much attention to a person’s position.

Unless invited to do so, one does not call people by their nicknames. Postural norms are similar to those of other Western cultures; people lean forward to show interest and cross their legs when relaxed, and smile and nod to encourage conversation.

The English expect less physical expression and physical contact than many other societies: handshakes should not be too firm, social kissing is minimal, loud talking and pats on the back are considered inappropriate, staring is impolite, and not waiting one’s turn in line is a serious social error.

In conversation the English are notorious for underestimating both humor and other forms of expression. On social occasions, small talk on neutral topics is appropriate and modest gifts are given. People do the same thing when paying for food and drink in social exchanges, for example by ordering drinks for rounds.

In bars, proper etiquette includes not making service gestures. In restaurants it’s important to keep your palm facing the waiter, and tips are in the 10 to 15 percent range. Standard table manners include holding the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right, tipping the bowl of soup when finished, and not leaning the elbows on the table.

Deviations from these norms occur in ethnic subcultures and among the working class. These groups generally develop their own version of etiquette, appropriating some rules of the majority standard while rejecting others.


Religious beliefs

In 1998, approximately 10 percent of the population claimed to be atheist and 15 percent said they were agnostic, while 20 percent said they believed in God. In 1991, about 25 percent of residents said they believed in astrology and good luck charms, and 42 percent believed in divination and faith healing.

The main religious traditions are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism. In recent decades, so-called pagan or cult religions have included Wicca, shamanism, paganism, druidry, goddess religion, the Unification Church, and Transcendental Meditation.

Religious practitioners

Christian leaders derive power and authority from their control and dispensation of the sacraments. Jewish rabbis and Islamic imams derive their authority from their mastery of a specific set of religious legal texts and the application of those texts to everyday life.

Hinduism is based on a wide variety of texts, and its primary leaders traditionally gain authority by their caste position, as well as by their adherence to specific ascetic rules and, especially in the case of gurus, by their perceived connection with the divine.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with a single set of texts, and ideally Sikhs are associated with a guru who helps believers attain spirituality. In the most popular form of Buddhism (Mahayana), monks and teachers have spiritual authority by virtue of their ascetic way of life and mastery of certain texts.

In the various forms of Buddhism, monks and teachers have spiritual authority by virtue of their ascetic way of life, their mastery of certain texts, and their leadership in worship ceremonies.

Modern paganism often sees its priests as deriving their power through a unique connection to the hidden forces of nature. Leaders of other movements depend on charisma or the appeal of the skills they teach.

Rituals and Holy Places

Christians celebrate an annual cycle of rituals that vary by denomination. Most celebrate Christmas and Easter and attend services at a church on Sunday. Judaism has particular days of celebration, such as Passover, and weekly services on Saturdays in a synagogue.

Islam has special celebrations (the month of Ramadan) and weekly attendance at worship services in a mosque on Fridays. In Hinduism, worship is a daily activity, often taking place in the home shrine, but also in the local temple.

There are festivals and parties to honor individual deities (Ram Navami) and particular occasions in the year (eg Divali); some are annual, others weekly and fortnightly. For Sikhs, regular temple worship is important, but there are no days that are particularly holy; Sikhs worship on Sunday.

For Buddhists, worship is done both at home and in religious centers and takes place weekly; The birth of Buddha is an important occasion that is celebrated. Alternative religions vary in place of worship, frequency, and days.

Death and the afterlife

In the early 1990s, about 25 percent of the population believed in life after death, although there is a wide range of practices surrounding death.

For most of the population, ideas about life after death are based on typical Victorian notions that are reinforced on television and in the movies: a place where life is better and those who have lived a good life are rewarded..

For most people, funerals have become much cleaner, with the deceased meticulously prepared and cleaned before burial. The cemeteries are kept pristine and immaculate. Others, however, feel that the dead are among the living in photographs, videos, and other visual memories.

People used to remember the dead in an annual cycle of religious days, but with the geographical spread of families, family occasions have become occasions to remember them. There are organizations that promote awareness of how to die, from living wills to palliative care and euthanasia.

Secular celebrations

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (December 31, January 1), celebrate the beginning of the new year. April Fools’ Day (April 1) is a day when people play pranks on each other.

The sovereign’s birthday is celebrated in June. Guy Fawkes Day (November 5) commemorates the failure of a 1605 Catholic plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and is an occasion for fireworks and revelry. Remembrance Day (November 11) celebrates the contributions of war veterans in defense of the nation’s freedom.

Arts and Humanities

Arts support

In addition to artist income, support for the arts comes from government, primarily through the Arts Council, and from private and corporate philanthropic sources.


The making of a distinctively English literature began in the medieval period with Geoffrey Chaucer and continued into the Renaissance and then the Restoration with William Shakespeare, John Milton, and John Dryden. During those periods, drama and poetry were the main literary forms, with popular literature in the form of songs, cartoons, and narratives.

The 18th century is characterized by the appearance of new literary forms such as the novel, the crime story, the opera, magazines and the new oral traditions associated with the port districts of England. Regional music and storytelling from this era remain the basis for much of the folk music performed in England today.

The 19th century is the time of the romantics and the Victorians. The artists in both movements were social realists, with the Romantics known for recovering older forms and the Victorians known for their highly elaborate language.

Popular literature offered the ghastly penny and a profusion of magazines that published novels and other literary works in series. New oral traditions arose around labor protest movements such as those of the Luddites and the Chartists.

In the 20th century, English-born writers shared the stage with Commonwealth writers such as Derek Walcott, VS Naipaul, and Nadine Gordimer, and with other non-English writers such as James Joyce, Dylan Thomas, and Alice Walker.

The 20th century also witnessed the continuation of the phenomenon of émigré anglicist writers such as TS Eliot. Edwardians like EM Forster and moderns like DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf dominated the period 1900-1950. The Edwardians extended Victorian approaches, and the moderns worked on older forms such as the novel and helped develop the short story.

Since World War II, writers’ efforts to push the boundaries of genres have expanded. Poetry is now performed in the form of hip-hop music or poetry slams, while written poetry may be rooted in jazz and has fallen out of prominence.

Drama has flourished, as have filmed versions of classic and contemporary works. The novels focus on the everyday and the autobiographical, reflecting in part the influence of women in literature.

Graphic arts

Most training for graphic artists is provided by universities and art schools. Art has been incorporated into the school curriculum as part of the nation’s educational policy, and all English students receive some training and exposure to graphic arts.

In 1997 and 1998, 22 percent of the population over the age of 15 visited a gallery, museum, or other major collection, a figure that has shown little change since the late 1980s. However, it is debatable whether museums are egalitarian in terms of affordability and relevance.

The National Disability Arts Forum and similar organizations are funded by the Arts Council of England and improve access to the arts and arts training for people with disabilities; the Arts Council also promotes cultural diversity.

Performing arts

The Royal Shakespeare Company and musical productions in London’s West End are very popular. Musical productions range from orchestras like the London Philharmonic to jazz, rock and folk music. Dance forms range from classical ballet to freeform club dancing.

Ticket prices limit attendance at the elite performing arts, although statistics show that their audience size has not diminished in the last decade.

Share the customs and traditions of England.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button