Many of us enjoy celebrating festivals and events through the year, including Christmas, Halloween and Bonfire Night. As we get older, watching younger generations enjoy the same traditions we enjoyed as children brings back fond memories and sparks nostalgia. In our lifetimes, we will see some traditions change or die out. Most of us will find ourselves uttering the immortal line ‘in my day …’ at some point in our adult lives.

Researchers from the University of Leeds in the 1950s and 60s valued and celebrated traditions as an important part of our culture and heritage. Alongside words and phrases, they collected and recorded cultural traditions in the Survey of English Dialects and the Folk Life Survey.

Two people, a dog and a tractor with hay in a field

'Two males placing armfuls of hay onto a wooden hay sledge drawn by a tractor in a field near Gayle (Wensleydale)' ( LAVC/PHO/P1047) by Werner Kissling.

When the fieldworkers were gathering data, Britain was not as culturally diverse as it is today, and events in the Christian Church calendar were often the main focus of celebrations. Many of the 313 locations the fieldworkers visited were agricultural, and therefore the collection is also rich in material relating to seasonal celebrations such as harvest. See below for a snapshot of the culture and traditions recorded by the fieldworkers and see how many you recognise or still take part in today. 

Two people standing in front of buildings

Have your say

Some of the events and celebrations explored here are still widely celebrated today, including Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Bonfire Night. Others are less common but may still take place in villages. Do any of them still happen where you live, or perhaps where you have spent time on holiday? You may also have superstitions or sayings that have been passed on to you by a friend or family member. Find out how you can take part in our ongoing research into local cultures and traditions by sharing your own memories and experiences.

Get involved

Find out more

Come and celebrate with us as we look back at some of the main events in the calendar year. Which do you still celebrate? The fieldworkers also recorded many sayings and superstitions. See if any are familiar to you.