Once upon a time there was a roast, a goat and a swan …|GianFranco Belloli|KnowLedge World Network|Activities|KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL

  • 2018.12.13
  • Once upon a time there was a roast, a goat and a swan …
Yes, it's true, London is probably the most modern, futuristic and innovative capital in Europe. But, in the British metropolis, there is also room for some old and some rather funny traditions that still remain firmly anchored in the heart of Londoners although their origins go way back.
From street parades with wacky characters to goat races and brave ordeals, England is a place full of traditions and customs, some more popular and common, others more extravagant, but all are part of our local culture.
The most common and popular tradition which holds a firm place in British culture is certainly the Sunday roast.
It is the English Sunday lunch par excellence and it consists of a roast with a side of potatoes, vegetables, gravy sauce and accompanied by a pudding. It isn’t necessarily eaten at home, but also in pubs and restaurants and no pub can be considered such if they don’t serve it. It’d be a true outrage!
I know many Londoners who don’t eat out on Sunday unless they are sure to have their portion of roast!


But here is a list of the funkiest traditions I have found:

1. The Peter Pan Cup
Every year, on Christmas morning, the bravest Londoners jump into the waters of our Central London Lake and participate in this sporting competition, swimming for over 100 yards.
The winner is the first to arrive to the finish line without freezing.
The competition was established in the 1800s and is open only to (the lucky?) members of the London Swimming Club.

2. Lift the swans for good luck
It’s an old tradition to board one of the small rental boats on the Thames and stop whenever you find a swan to lift it from the water and mark it with a numbered collar.
For nine centuries the tradition, originally started by the royal family, has never stopped and it was once done only for good luck (the more the swans the luckier the following year would be). Today, the custom allows to monitor the population of these birds and promote their conservation as well.



3. Replace John Stow's feather
Every three years a new feather is placed in the hand of the statue of the sixteenth century writer which stands in a corner of the gardens of St. Andrew’s church, so that he can finish his unfinished work, the ‘London Survey’ of the 16th century.
Even the mayor and the highest officers of the city participate at this solemn ceremony to commemorate culture and poetry.

4. The Goats’ Race
The race's competitors are two goats, one coming from Oxford and the other one from Cambridge, who run wildly to win the first place. The bizarre competition is held annually at a farm in central London.

5. A midsummer night's madness
Londoners celebrate the longest day of summer pedalling at night from Greenwich to Primrose Hill, to see the sunrise over the city.
At the finish line there are old men and caring moms with freshly baked desserts, who wait to celebrate the cyclists and watch the sunrise together.

6. The Bankside’s Twelfth Night
The twelfth night after Christmas coincides with January 5th: on this date a special parade is held on the streets of London. The protagonist is the Green Man, a character completely covered with plants as a symbol of fertility. Folk musicians and other traditional figures parade alongside with him.

7. Remembrance Day
In the period which precedes the day of memory that takes place on November 11th, England is decorated with red poppies that are placed almost everywhere as a symbol of memory of the end of the First World War.
On the day of memory there are several celebrations throughout the country and two minutes of silence are observed at precisely the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month because that was when the armistice became effective on the western front.

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  • GianFranco Belloli
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I moved to London over 2 years ago but only last year I started writing for a local newsletter for Expats in London telling about my experience in this big city and giving advice to newcomers. London is a very dynamic city and has a lot for everyone but it’s important to have a local point of view to navigate it without getting lost. Let me be your guide to hidden London!

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