Nick from the Marshall team looks at some of the ways that you can explore and celebrate the various parts of our unique British identity between February and April 2023
LGBT History Month
Your university and students’ union are likely to mark this campaign throughout February. See events throughout the UK here, visit London's oldest and most celebrated LGBT+ bookshop, Gay's The Word, and watch the tremendous Pride (2014), a dramatisation of the real 'Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners' movement.
21 February - Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday)
Pancake day is observed across the UK on 21 February - which is why you'll see a lot more pancake batter about. Stephanie tells me this is sometimes nicknamed 'Fat Tuesday' in the U.S. Although to a large majority of the UK it's treated as a secular holiday, traditionally it was the day that sweet and rich foods (butter, sugar, eggs) were used up before sacrificing them for the Christian Lent period.
1 March - St David's Day (national day for Wales)
St David is the most well-celebrated patron saint of Wales. Whilst celebrations of each and every saint’s day have been in decline since the mediaeval and renaissance periods, the national saints are marked - St David for Wales, St Patrick for Ireland, St Andrew for Scotland, and St George for England.
Things to do: Cook some sweet Welsh Cake or Bara brith. Enjoy a savoury and classic cawl stew, or enjoy the traditional vegetarian Glamorgan sausages. Visit St David's home and Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, and stop by the Oriel y Parc Gallery whilst you're there. If you're in the capital Cardiff, enjoy the activities at Caerphilly castle. Try pronouncing the name of this Welsh town. Watch the first Welsh-language film nominated for an Academy Award, Hedd Wyn (1992), free on YouTube.
17 March - Red Nose Day
A once-every-two-years televised event. Not a national holiday, but it has a national presence and raises a large amount of money for the charity Comic Relief.
17 March - St Patrick's Day (National day for Ireland)
Sláinte! Celebrated in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and wherever the diaspora and their grandchildren live.
Things to do to mark St Patrick's Day:
- Celebrate in Belfast, in Dublin, or in Liverpool, Glasgow, or London (places with a long and proud history of Irish immigration).
- Visit the Guinness brewery in Dublin, or moan about poorly poured Guinness in London.
- Read a crash course on Irish history, or read the BBC's very brief history of Anglo-Irish relations.
- Read poetry by Seamus Heaney (particularly 'Digging'), Moore's The Last Rose of Summer, and Allingham's The Fairies.
- Catch The Banshees of Inishiren (2022) before it leaves cinemas.
19 March - Mother's Day (UK)
Mother's Day is included in this list to remind you that Mother's Day in the USA is on 14 May, and not in March like the UK.
26 March - Daylight Savings Time begins
Don’t miss your lectures - remember to change your clocks!
23 April - St George's Day
St George's Day, to the American eye, should be an interesting case study in how patriotism is different here, and how the English identity intercedes with the British identity. Having lived in England for 22 of the last 27 years, I can't really tell you how it's marked besides the endless debates about how the British and English identities overlap, or don’t.
Things to do to mark St George's Day:
- Rehearse yourself on the classic Stewart Lee bit of stand up, "These days if you say you're English..."
- Read Countryfile's explanation of St George and their list of perhaps the most English activities ever.
- Londoners should look for the celebrations at Trafalgar Square and Leadenhall.
- Watch the fantastic Shane Meadow's This is England (2006).
- Or maybe just stick the kettle on, and make sure the milk goes in last.