Where there are celebrations, there's food. Food is synonymous with good times and celebrations. We've listed the major public holidays and festivals where feasting always takes place, plus wonderful recipes to go with.
An annual celebration of the life and works of poet Robert Burns (most famous for writing Auld Lang Syne). Some organisations will hold formal dinners that follow a traditional structure, but informal parties will be held all over, with haggis and Scotch whisky being the only requirements. A Scottish roast.
Chinese New Year
China and worldwide
To celebrate the new lunar year, the Chinese will hold family feasts full of traditional rituals. Good fortune is the principal greeting, and often the food will reflect this. Whole fish is often eaten, because, in Mandarin and Cantonese, the word echoes the sound for good fortune. Similarly, tangerines are often consumed, as the Cantonese word for the fruit sounds like gold. Ching-He Huang's Chinese menu.
This annual celebration of love needs no introduction, and we would never neglect it here at delicious – food and love go hand-in-hand. Lavish your love with a Valentine's Day menu.
St David’s Day
A day of remembrance for the death of Saint David on 1 March in 589. In 2007, a petition delivered to Tony Blair was unsuccessful in its attempt to make St David’s Day a bank holiday. It's an important event for schoolchildren, who used to officially have a half-day school holiday. Across Wales, a variety of festivals and parades mark the day, and it is traditional to wear either a daffodil or a leek on your lapel! Leek recipes.
Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day
UK (with various similar customs worldwide)
It's customary to get the crepe pan out for Shrove Tuesday, the final day before Lent fasting traditionally begins. It was originally a chance to indulge in the combination of fat, butter and eggs, which would have been abstained from during Lent. But millions of people enjoy the day outside of the religious context; in Britain, it's traditional to serve very thin pancakes with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of caster sugar, but feel free to experiment with toppings of your choice! How to make pancakes.
St Patrick’s Day
Ireland and worldwide
St Paddy’s Day, the public holiday for Ireland’s patron saint, is becoming increasingly popular across the world, with people of Irish descent celebrating as well as other nationalities. Expect to see pubs decorated with green ribbons and shamrocks – the colour green is seen everywhere – traditional Irish fare is served and the drinking of a pint of Guinness is practically obligatory. Irish recipes.
Always the second Sunday in Lent, Mother's Day – or Mothering Sunday – was originally a religious day, a time when congregations form small churches visited the larger 'Mother' church in the vicinity. Today, it's better known for being a day to celebrate your dear old mum and to treat her for the day. Mother's Day menu and Treats to make for mum.
Worldwide Christian celebration
Easter Sunday marks one of the most important events in the Christian calendar, marking the day that Jesus was resurrected following his crucifixion. Easter will often involve a feast, as it signifies the end of a period of fasting. More recently, Easter eggs have become an important part of the festivities, for Christians and non-Christians alike. Egg hunts are often held, and chocolate eggs have become an essential part of the celebrations for most people! Easter menus.
Songkran (Thai New Year Water Festival)
The principle ritual of the Songkran involves throwing clear water, but it is also the opportunity to get together with the family for a feast. The foods eaten will vary across the country’s different regions, but you can expect to find Pad Thai noodles, chicken with green curry and krayasad (a sweet mixture made from noodles, oats, puffed rice and peanuts) on the menu. Quick Thai dishes.
St George’s Day
The popularity of the patron saint of England’s day has diminished since medieval times. The custom of wearing a red rose has given way to flying the English flag, most commonly in pubs throughout the country. There are, however, many campaigns that run to promote the event, and some even call for it to become a public holiday. Why not get involved, and seek out some St George-related festivities near you? Best of British.
Cook something nice for your dear old pa – check out our recipe section for inspiration.
Every year, France celebrates the La Fête de la Bastille, marking the first major event of the French Revolution of 1789. It’s a huge cause for celebration in France, in Paris you’re likely to see fireworks lighting up the sky and military parades. Outside of Paris, you can expect your local French restaurant to be honouring the occasion, or why not hold a French-themed party of your own? French recipes.
Observed by followers of the Islamic faith across the world, this is the month in which participating Muslims fast from dawn until sunset in order to develop the virtues of patience, modesty and spirituality. Eating, drinking and smoking are avoided during the hours of prayer. It is very important that only healthy, sane individuals fast, and that they take care to eat a diet suitable to fasting, being careful not to overindulge before dawn and after sunset and ensuring that normal quantities of the major food groups are consumed. More info.
17 September-3 October
This 16-day festival is one of the biggest cultural events in the Bavarian calendar, with previous festivals having attracted over six million visitors. The various attractions are divided between large tents, the most sought-after location for foodies being ‘Käfer’s Wies’ n-Schänke’. Popular with celebrities and food lovers, this tent serves up the best in gourmet food – don’t miss the Käfer-roasted duck! Website.
India and Nepal
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is an official holiday in India and Nepal. It has religious significance for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, although non-religious groups also celebrate the festival’s cultural aspects. The exact date of the festival varies from year to year depending on the lunar Hindu calendar. Celebrations vary according to region across the world. In Britain, Hindus and Sikhs follow traditional rituals such as cleaning their homes and sharing sweet treats. Firework celebrations will often coincide with Bonfire Night in the UK, giving revellers a diversity of ways in which the ceremony can be enjoyed. More info.
Halloween derives from the Celtic festival Samhain which honoured the summer's end and, also, the dead. It was then adopted by the Christian faith and became All Saints' Day. In current times, the festival is more of a light-hearted celebration to dress up ghoulishly and have fun. Halloween-themed food has become a very popular part of the festivities. Halloween recipes.
Call it what you will – Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night, Fireworks Night – this sparkly celebration inevitably involves freezing your extremities off while standing in a muddy field. It's all in good jest, though, and brings out the big kid in most of us. Plus it's a great excuse to eat hearty, warming fare and drink hot toddys, making it a winner of an event at delicious. Bonfire Night recipes.
Traditionally, this famous American feast celebrates a meal held by the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts in 1621 and ‘gave thanks’ to God for helping them survive a particularly harsh winter. Nowadays, Thanksgiving is widely considered to be more of a public holiday rather than a religious one, and is celebrated with traditional foods served at Thanksgiving meals. Roast turkey, mashed potato, yams, and cranberry sauce are all favourites likely to be seen on the table, with pumpkin pie an extremely popular dessert. Charitable donations of food are given out to those in need. Turkey recipes.
St Andrew’s Day
Since 2006, St Andrew’s Day has been an official bank holiday in Scotland. Flying the Scottish flag is perhaps the most important tradition observed on this patron saint’s day. In Edinburgh, there's a range of traditional events, including live music and cookery events, whilst Glasgow will hold events such as ‘Homecoming Live’ and ‘Shindig’. Visit the following link for up-to-date information on events taking place across Scotland. More info.
Worldwide Christian celebration
Not many of us need to be reminded of this day, a wonderful (and stressful) time that traditionally celebrates the birth of Christ but these days is also a much-needed public holiday and a time of giving – and eating. Christmas lunch menu.
This traditional Scottish celebration starts on New Year’s Eve and can go on until 2 January. Hogmanay customs vary greatly from region to region, though there are few common ones, including the thorough cleaning of the house on 31 December and the (now widespread) group chorus of Auld Lang Syne. ‘First Footing’ is a still-practiced tradition, where house are entered ritually and symbolic gifts are shared. A Scottish roast.