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Festivals in London, England

London is the third largest city in Europe after Istanbul and Moscow. Its 8 million inhabitants include a large percentage (over half by some measures) not born in the UK or born in the country but to non-UK origin parents. This makes it one of the most ethnically-diverse cities on earth. This diversity makes London an immensely exciting place for festivals and events because not only are there the traditional British celebrations but also those that have their origins in other cultures. Most festivals in London have their roots in Christian tradition and involve holidays with people spending time with their families but many involve real parties and festivities too!

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Top 10 Festivals in London, England

  • Christmas. In London, this is the 25th and 26th December with Christmas Eve an ‘unofficial’ half-day as well. Most people will spend this time with their families at home. Some London churches and other institutions may have carol-singing.
  • New Year’s Eve/Day. The 31st December isn’t a holiday but many people finish work early to prepare for a night of celebrations running into the early hours. London’s big celebration is in Trafalgar Square where the countdown is conducted and fireworks light up the Thames. The 1st January is an official holiday (to recover!)
  • Easter. Another traditional family weekend starting on Good Friday and including Easter Monday. This will be a weekend in early spring though the dates change. There may be Easter egg hunts and egg rolling competitions in London parks.
  • Bank (public) holidays. There are several of these throughout the year. There are almost always concerts, displays and other events held on these Mondays.
  • Notting Hill Carnival. The biggest Afro-Caribbean celebration in Europe, it’s a riot of color and exuberance involving sometimes a million+ people.
  • The Chinese New Year. London’s Chinatown comes to life each year with fireworks, displays and celebrations.
  • The Lord Mayor’s Show. A big, colorful and spectacular procession through the streets of London with bands and floats. It’s been going on now for close to 500 years and involves the new Mayor of London progressing in triumph through the City to swear allegiance to the sovereign. Held the second Saturday in November each year.
  • Diwali. The traditional Hindu festival of lights, this involves dressing up and celebrations, plus plenty of great food, in those parts of London with large Hindu populations.
  • Trooping the Color. This is a huge military parade in June with lots of spectacle and music to honor the Queen on her official birthday.
  • The proms. A series of music concerts in the Royal Albert Hall involving orchestras and singers from all over the world. Very popular with Londoners and visitors alike.

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3 Big Festivals to watch out for London, England

  • The London Marathon. A fantastic carnival-like atmosphere for this great race which virtually closes down London for the day. Expect to see serious racing and lots of ‘horsing around’ in a party-like context.
  • The Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race. This is a race between boats from the two ancient universities held every year on the Thames. It’s hugely popular and generates huge interest around England though nobody is too sure why!
  • Henley Regatta. Originally an excuse for rich Londoners to “mess about in boats on the river”, this has now turned into a much bigger festival with fairs, food and plenty of drink by the Thames.