One of the best parts of living in London is its traditions. A city steeped in history and tradition American moving here are often surprised to discover how very little they know about a city from which many an ancestor heralded. Since the United States was originally founded by British citizens many of the customs and traditions were transferred to US soil, but many purely London traditions remain unknown to Americans. While enjoying their time here all American expats should make an effort to learn about London traditions, many of them centuries old.
Ceremony of the Keys
With the United States being such a young country it is easy for Americans to forget how old England is. The Ceremony of the Keys is a seven hundred year old tradition that still takes place today. Every evening at precisely 9:53 PM the Tower of London’s gates are locked by the Chief Warder. After all gates are locked a trumpet is sounded and the ceremony is complete. The Chief Warder is part of the Yeoman Warders, or more commonly known as ‘Beefeaters’. They have been responsible for the care and safety of the London Tower since the fourteenth century. The public is invited to view the Ceremony of the Keys but tickets must be reserved.
The Changing of the Guards
Perhaps the most well-known tradition the Changing of the Guards is a tradition that dates back to the seventeenth century when guards were employed to protect the sovereign residences. Since that time guards have stood watch over the palaces and, like clockwork, replace each other in grand style. The most popular sight to watch this ceremony is at Buckingham Palace where at 11:30 AM every other day a colorful and intriguing Changing of the Guards happens. The ceremony is forty-five minutes in length and spectators are encouraged to arrive early to secure a good vantage point. The ceremony in seasonal and occurs every other day so visitors are encouraged to check for days before arriving.
State Opening of Parliament
Every year the new Parliament year is celebrated with an day full of elaborate ceremonies. To begin the festivities a royal procession take to the streets of London leading the way to the Houses of Parliament. Next, the Yeoman (bodyguards of the Royals) search the basements of the Houses of Parliament to make sure no threat lie there in anticipation of the Queen’s arrival (this tradition began in the seventeenth century after a foiled plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament). Next, the Black Rod (the Queen’s Messenger) calls the members of the House of Commons to the House of Lords where the Queen reads the Queen’s Speech before returning to Buckingham Palace.
These are only three of many London traditions that all expats living in London of which should be aware. All those from another countries should take the time to discover the vibrant, interesting and rich heritage that has made this the great city that it is today.