About the UK
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign state in Europe. The UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to its east, the English Channel to its south and the Celtic Sea to its south-southwest. The UK has an area of 93,800 square miles, making it the 80th-largest sovereign state in the world and the 11th-largest in Europe. The United Kingdom is the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 64.5 million inhabitants.
It is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance. Its capital city is London, an important global city and financial centre with an urban population of 10 million, the fourth-largest in Europe and second-largest in the European Union. The current monarch, since 6 February 1952 is Queen Elizabeth II. The UK consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The latter three have devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capitals, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively.
The relationships among the countries of the United Kingdom have changed over time. Wales was annexed by the Kingdom of England under the Acts of Union of 1536 and 1543. A treaty between England and Scotland resulted in 1707 in a unified Kingdom of Great Britain, which merged in 1801 with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922, five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the country, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK has fourteen Overseas Territories. These are the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture, and legal systems of many of its former colonies. (Wikipedia)
The language of England, now widely used in many varieties throughout the world. English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and is now a global common language. It is an official language of almost 60 sovereign states, the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand, and a widely spoken language in countries in the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia. It is the third most common native language in the world, after Mandarin and Spanish. It is widely learned as a second language and is an official language of the United Nations, of the European Union, and of many other world and regional international organisations. (Wikipedia)
Queen's English is an English language as written and spoken correctly by educated people in Britain.
Received Pronunciation, or RP for short, is the instantly recognisable accent often described as ‘typically British’. Popular terms for this accent, such as ‘The Queen’s English’, ‘Oxford English’ or ‘BBC English’ are all a little misleading. The Queen, for instance, speaks an almost unique form of English, while the English we hear at Oxford University or on the BBC is no longer restricted to one type of accent. RP is an accent, not a dialect, since all RP speakers speak Standard English. In other words, they avoid non-standard grammatical constructions and localised vocabulary characteristic of regional dialects. RP is also regionally non-specific, that is it does not contain any clues about a speaker’s geographic background. But it does reveal a great deal about their social and/or educational background. (British Library)
Politics of the UK
Christianity the UK
The United Kingdom was formed by the union of previously independent states from 1707, and consequently most of the largest religious groups do not have UK-wide organisational structures. While some groups have separate structures for the individual countries of the United Kingdom, others may have a single structure covering England and Wales or Great Britain. Similarly, due to the relatively recent creation of Northern Ireland in 1921, most major religious groups in Northern Ireland are organised on an all-Ireland basis.
Anglicanism: The Church of England is the established church in England. Its most senior bishops sit in the national parliament and the Queen is its supreme governor. It is also the "mother church" of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Church of England separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 and became the established church by an act of parliament in the Act of Supremacy, beginning a series of events known as the English Reformation. Historically it has been the predominant Christian denomination in England and Wales, in terms of both influence and number of adherents.
The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion (but not a "daughter church" of the Church of England), dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690, when it split from the Church of Scotland. In the 1920s, the Church in Wales became disestablished and independent from the Church of England, but remains in the Anglican Communion.
During the years 2012 to 2014 the number of members of the Church of England dropped by around 1.7 million
The Roman Catholic Church has separate national organisations for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Ireland, which means there is no single hierarchy for Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom. The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is the second largest Christian church with around five million members, mainly in England. There is, however, a single apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, presently Archbishop Antonio Mennini. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is Scotland's second largest Christian church, representing a sixth of the population. The apostolic nuncio to the whole of Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) is Charles Brown. Eastern Rite Catholics in the United Kingdom are served by their own clergy and do not belong to the Latin Church dioceses but are still in full communion with the Bishop of Rome.
Presbyterianism, Congregationalism and other Reformed: In Scotland, the Church of Scotland (informally known by its Scots language name, "the Kirk"), is recognised as the national church. It is not subject to state control and the British monarch is an ordinary member, required to swear an oath to "maintain and preserve the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government" upon his or her accession. Splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the 19th century, led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the Free Church of Scotland, which claims to be the constitutional continuator of the Church in Scotland and was founded in 1843. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was formed in 1893 by some who left the Free Church over alleged weakening of her position and likewise claims to be the spiritual descendant of the Scottish Reformation. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales was founded in the late 1980s and organized themselves as a presbytery in 1996. As of 2016 they had 15 churches in the UK. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the largest Protestant denomination and second largest church in Northern Ireland. The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster was founded on 17 March 1951 by the cleric and politician Ian Paisley. It has about 60 churches in Northern Ireland. The Presbyterian Church of Wales seceded from the Church of England in 1811 and formally formed itself into a separate body in 1823. The Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland has 31 congregations in Northern Ireland, with the first Presbytery being formed in Antrim in 1725.
The United Reformed Church (URC), a union of Presbyterian and Congregational churches, consists of about 1,500 congregations in England, Scotland and Wales. There are about 600 Congregational churches in the United Kingdom. In England there are three main groups, the Congregational Federation, the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches, and about 100 Congregational churches that are loosely federated with other congregations in the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, or are unaffiliated. In Scotland the churches are mostly member of the Congregational Federation and in Wales which traditionally has a larger number of Congregationalists, most are members of the Union of Welsh Independents.
The Methodist movement traces its origin to the evangelical awakening in the 18th century. The British Methodist Church, which has congregations throughout Great Britain, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Malta and Gibraltar, has around 290,000 members, and 5,900 churches, though only around 3,000 members in 50 congregations are in Scotland. In the 1960s, it made ecumenical overtures to the Church of England, aimed at church unity. Formally, these failed when they were rejected by the Church of England's General Synod in 1972. However, conversations and co-operation continued, leading on 1 November 2003 to the signing of a covenant between the two churches. The Methodist Church in Ireland covers the whole of the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland where it is the fourth-largest denomination. Other Methodist denominations in Britain include the Salvation Army, founded in 1865; the Free Methodist Church, a holiness church; and the Church of the Nazarene.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain, despite its name, covers just England and Wales. There is a separate Baptist Union of Scotland and the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland is an all-Ireland organisation. Baptists are individuals who comprise a group of Evangelical Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers (believer's baptism, as opposed to infant baptism), and that it must be done by complete immersion (as opposed to affusion or sprinkling). Other tenets of Baptist churches include soul competency (liberty), salvation through faith alone, Scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice, and the autonomy of the local congregation. Baptists recognize two ministerial offices, elders and deacons. Baptist churches are widely considered to be Protestant churches, though some Baptists disavow this identity. Diverse from their beginning, those identifying as Baptists today differ widely from one another in what they believe, how they worship, their attitudes toward other Christians, and their understanding of what is important in Christian discipleship.
Charismatic and Pentecostalism: Assemblies of God in Great Britain are part of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship with over 600 churches in Great Britain. Assemblies of God Ireland cover the whole of the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland. The Apostolic Church commenced in the early part of the 20th century in South Wales and now has over 110 churches across the United Kingdom. Elim Pentecostal Church as of 2013 had over 500 churches across the United Kingdom. There is also a growing number of independent, charismatic churches that encourage Pentecostal practices as part of their worship. These are broadly grouped together as the British New Church Movement and could number up to 400,000 members. The phenomenon of immigrant churches and congregations that began with the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush from the West Indies in 1948 stands as a unique trend. West Indian congregations that started from this time include the Church of God, New Testament Assembly and New Testament Church of God. Africans began to arrive in the early 1980s and established their own congregations. Foremost among these are Matthew Ashimolowo from Nigeria and his Kingsway International Christian Centre in London that may be the largest church in Western Europe.
An elder was the title used in the Jewish community and is rarely used in the Christian community today, but can be. It refers to a person who is a spiritual advisor due to his or her age. A bishop is an overseer who supervises several churches. The pastor or minister is the spiritual overseer or spiritual leader of his church. A pastor or minister will only serve one church at a time and will lead that church in their weekly services as well as extracurricular church programs. Sometimes, the pastor or minister will be addressed as a reverend. The exact title used for the position varies from church to church and denomination to denomination.
The title of pastor actually came to be because the word itself means "shepherd." This is a metaphor that is seen in the Bible when it is said that God leads a flock of sheep, which are his Christian followers. The term "pastor" is used similarly here as it means that the pastor is shepherding his flock of churchgoers towards Christ and eternal salvation.
Festivals in the UK
The main Christian Festivals
Christmas Eve has many of its own customs and traditions. The most widely practised one that still exists today is going to a Midnight Mass Church Service. In many countries, especially Catholic ones such as Spain, Mexico, Poland and Italy, this is the most important Church service of the Christmas season. People might fast during Christmas Eve (not eat any meat or fish usually) and then the main Christmas meal is often eaten after the Midnight Mass Service in these countries. In some other countries, such as Belgium, Finland, Lithuania and Denmark the meal is eaten in the evening and you might go to a Midnight Service afterwards! The Midnight Mass Communion Service (or 'Christ-Mas') was a very special one as it was the only one that was allowed to start after sunset (and before sunrise the next day), so it was held at Midnight! (Source: www.whychristmas.com/)
Christmas Day is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. It is often combined with customs from pre-Christian winter celebrations. Many people erect Christmas trees, decorate their homes, visit family or friends and exchange gifts. However, for many people around the world, in different countries and in different Christian traditions, Christmas lasts for a lot longer than that and it’s even celebrated at different times. Some churches (mainly Orthodox churches) use a different calendars for their religious celebrations. Orthodox Churches in Russia, Serbia, Jerusalem, Ukraine, Ethiopia and other countries use the old ‘Julian’ calendar and people in those churches celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Most people in the Greek Orthodox Church celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but some still use the Julian calendar and so celebrate Christmas on 7th January. In Armenia, the Apostolic Church celebrates Christmas on January 6th. It also celebrates ‘Epiphany’ on this day.
Easter is the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Christ and held (in the Western Church) between 21 March and 25 April, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox. The weekend from Good Friday to Easter Monday.
Other Festivals and traditions
New Year: 1 January, is a public holiday.
Valentine’s Day: 14 February, is when loves exchange cards and gifts.
April Fool’s Day: 1 April, is a day when people play jokes on each other until midday.
Mother’s Day: The Sunday three weeks before Easter is a day when children send cards or buy gifts for their mothers.
Hallowe’en: 31 October, is a very ancient festival. Young people will often dress up in frightening customers to play ‘trick or treat’.
Guy Fawkes Night: 5 November, is an occasion when people in GB set off fireworks at home or in special displays.
Remembrance Day: 11 November, commemorates those who died fighting in World War 1, World War 2 and other wars.
Boxing Day is a holiday in the UK and some other countries, the day after Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a Christmas box, from their bosses or employers. Boxing Day is spent with family and friends at open gatherings with food, fun, friendship and love. Food on boxing day usually includes left over turkey from the day before. This can be eaten in sandwiches or as a meal with vegetables, roast potatoes and all the trimmings. Some people like to have cold ham in a buffet style so the cook can also have a rest and spend time with the family. Boxing Day is so called because it was the custom on that day for tradesmen to collect their Christmas boxes or gifts in return for good and reliable service throughout the year.
Sports Originated in the UK
Football: The most popular sport created in England, football rules were first written in 1863. A game needs 2 teams of 11 players and teams win points when they put the ball in the goal.
Rugby: The Rugby Football Union was created in the UK in 1871, this game needs 2 teams of 15 players and need to use hands to get the ball into the enemy zone to win points.
Cricket: The word ‘cricket’ was created in 1598 but the game may have been created up to 300 years earlier. It is a team game where players use a bat and a ball. The game needs 2 teams of 11 players.
Hockey: The first hockey club was created in 1849 but the word ‘hockey’ was actually recorded by King Edward III in 1363. The game is similar to football as there are 11 players in each team and score points by hitting a small ball or a ‘puck’ into a goal, but players need to use hockey sticks to hit the ball.
Curling: According to some sources, curling was invented in Scotland in the medieval period, around the year 1540. Two teams of 4 players take turns to slide a stone on ice to a circular target. It takes a lot of skill to make sure the stones stop inside the target and players often knock their opponents’ stones out of the way too!
Tennis: The modern game of tennis was created between 1860 and 1865 in Birmingham, England.
Badminton: Badminton was created in the mid 1800’s in Badminton House, Gloucestershire.
Squash: Squash was invented near London in 1830.
Boxing: Boxing appeared in the 1700s in England.
Table tennis: Table tennis originated in England and was created at the end of the 1800s.
The UK Government (https://www.gov.uk)
HM Revenue & Customs (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs)
UK Driving and Transportation (https://www.gov.uk/browse/driving)
Life in the UK Test (https://www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test/book-life-in-uk-test)
British Library (http://www.bl.uk)