Practise your B2 English reading skills with these short articles, written specifically to help you with your English comprehension skills at a B2 level.
Holidays and festivals in the UK form an important part of British culture. In the UK, holidays like Easter and Christmas are celebrated but they’re also celebrated in many other countries. In the following articles we wanted to tell you about some holidays that are particular to the UK so you can learn about British culture while you improve your B2 English comprehension skills at the same time.
Once a year on the fifth November, the people of the UK celebrate Bonfire Night. The origins of this festival come from 1605 when a group of Catholics devised a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament due to the poor treatment of the Catholic people by the then monarch King James I.
On the 5th November they laid 36 barrels of gunpowder underneath the Houses of Parliament with the intention of blowing up the King. Luckily the gunpowder was discovered and the men responsible for the plot were found and killed. The king ordered that every year after to celebrate his survival the people of the United Kingdom would celebrate with a bonfire. As this holiday became more popular it expanded to include fireworks and structures of the leader of the plot Guy Fawkes would be placed on top of the bonfire.
In modern times, Bonfire Night is still a British favourite holiday and is celebrate every year all over the country. It also remains a relatively controversial holiday with some groups of Catholics refusing to participate. Although today, the religious element to the festival is almost non existent.
As time has passed, health and safety regulations have become stricter in the UK and most bonfires are either conducted in someone’s garden or ran by professionals with a license. It’s rare for someone to be able to have a bonfire in a public space without express permission from the city council. There are also TV adverts leading up to Bonfire Night to remind people to behave safely with bonfires and sparklers.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Britain without reminding people to watch out for wildlife that might make their homes in the bonfires. The bonfires themselves are often constructed well before the actual night. These constructions often provide dry and warm shelters in a cold season and animals such as hedgehogs make their way into the bonfires to keep warm. Therefore it’s important to check that your bonfire is animal free before you set it alight and avoid making it in advance to prevent this from happening.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Fringe is a comedy festival held in Edinburgh throughout the month of August. It’s world famous and attracts some of the biggest stars in addition to new comers who will get their big break at the festival.
The Fringe Festival is currently the world’s biggest art festival and holds approximately 5000 acts in the three weeks that it’s on. The first festival was celebrated in 1947 and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be stopping or slowing down anytime soon.
The Fringe is beneficial to the local population of Edinburgh as it brings money into the city. Throughout August, the hotels and restaurants of Edinburgh are full and the citizens make more money in this month. This doesn’t mean that the festival isn’t also a burden sometimes. Although loved by many, the Fringe disrupts the everyday life of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, and as fun as it is, the citizens are definitely pleased when it’s over and they can relax for another year.
Notting Hill Carnival
Every year at the end of August Notting Hill celebrates Carnival. The Carnival that originated in 1966 is the biggest in Europe and celebrates Caribbean culture, food and heritage.
Close to one million people flock to the streets around Kensington to eat, dance, drink and celebrate, and not just those of Caribbean heritage. The Carnival was first introduced to help ease race relations between Caribbean immigrants and the then inhabitants of London. As London has become more diverse this holiday has become even more popularised and is the biggest celebration in London.
The Carnival is free to all, but of course you’ll need to pay for food and drinks. At the Notting Hill Carnival you should be aware of pick pocketers but the majority of people want to enjoy themselves and just have a good time.
Pancake day is a favourite holiday of children all across the UK. Most Christian countries celebrate lent, where you give something up during the forty days leading up to Easter, but they don’t necessarily celebrate pancake day.
The idea of pancake day is that you clear out your cupboard ready for lent and make food with the staples that you have there; eggs, flour and water. These ingredients are used to make pancakes that you have for dinner instead of a normal meal.
Of course, in this day and age, no one in the UK cleans out their cupboard in preparation for lent but they do make pancakes. Every year on Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday before lent), families all across the UK eat pancakes for their dinner and cover their pancakes with delicious toppings such as chocolate, sugar or orange.
The pancakes are more similar to crepes found in Europe than to the pancakes found in the USA. They’re light and crispy, meaning you can go back for as many as you like. Pancake Day is a true British holiday.
We hope you’re found these reading exercises useful. Reading in English isn’t always the most fun thing to do but it can dramatically increase your levels of comprehension and as a result output.
If you want to improve your English reading, then check out some of our English books. Although it’s necessary to read articles in English, it’s always more fun to improve your English reading skills through the world of fiction.