During my teaching experience, I’ve found that there are a few facts about England that foreigners always know. They all know about the double-decker buses, Big Ben, the Queen, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. However, I find it quite fun to teach them all about the small facts that are as much part of the British culture as Mr. Bean and afternoon tea.
With Easter coming our way, I decided to share with you 3 facts I always talk about with my students during lessons this time of year.
- March means spring
March in England symbolises spring. Even if the weather is still cold and grey, people shed layers of clothes, shops are filled with colour and magazines announce triumphantly “Spring is here! Wave goodbye to heavy coats and hidden legs!”
And, my favourite, Daffodils sprout everywhere! In every garden, every park, every small patch of grass, you’ll see them. Yellow and white, they’re the proof that spring truly is on its way, even though it’s still raining and the temperature is never higher than 12ºC.
The old lady in my building even planted some around the trees on our street.
So, for me, March in England means daffodils.
- There’s more to Easter than chocolate eggs
Yes, there is an insane number of chocolate on sale during Easter. But that’s not the only tradition in play here. Easter means a lot of dried fruit. It’s put in cake, bread, biscuits, you name it. I’m not a big fan of dried fruit, especially sultanas, but you can’t talk about Easter in England without mentioning Hot Cross Buns.
They’re almost like brioche, with lots of cinnamon, dried fruit and a white cross on top. You’ll see them in every shop and supermarket, and you’ll surely see good old Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry giving you wonderful tips on how to bake them on TV. Eat them warm, fresh out of the oven with a spread of butter.
- Before Easter comes Lent
And before Lent comes Pancake Day!
Also known as Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day is the last day before the 40 days of lent, when people are supposed to give up rich foods such as eggs, milk and sugar, so of course pancakes are the best way to get rid of those pesky ingredients.
Yes, I know, Pancake Day was a while ago, but not many people hear about it, so I thought I’d mention it here as well. After all, it is a very delicious tradition, and it also brings about another fun activity: pancake racing!
Many people get together to participate in pancake races throughout England. Contestants, traditionally women in dresses, run through the streets armed with frying pans, flipping pancakes all the way to the finish line!
It’s said this tradition was born when a housewife, busy making pancakes, didn’t notice the time until she heard the church bells. Late, she ran to the church, frying pan in hand, flipping the last pancake so it wouldn’t burn.
Oh England. Sometimes you’re just plain silly.
So, these are 3 facts I always share with my students around March and April. I hope they’re as interesting as I think they are, I’ve gotten some mixed feedback from students, but everything ends in laughs when I show them a video of pancake racing and they realise that I’m not making it up.
Happy Easter everyone!