Two Truths and a Lie: British Traditions Edition


By: Teresa McGlothlin

7 Min Quiz

Image: oversnap / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Both British history and modern times are full of fun, strange and royal traditions. You don't need to have ever watched the Speech From the Throne to know that some of them are traditions you won't find anywhere else in the world. You might be a regular British pub trivia master, but can we trip you up by throwing in a lie? 

No one really knows what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, but there are rules of the traditional Highland Games that must be followed. It's not known what the Queen does behind closed doors, but there are facts about her traditions that might make you scratch your head. As you go through this quiz, read each question about these types of traditions carefully before you decide which two answers are true and which one is an out-and-out lie. 

We're not saying that they roll cheese down a hill in the nude or go bog snorkeling while wearing an orange tutu in Britain, but we'll leave that for you decide. Will you be able to find the 35 fibs, or will our professional powers of deception get the best of you? Make like the Queen and wave at us when you find out! 

It's fascinating to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. What have we made up about the guardsmen?

The Queen's guardsmen are highly trained soldiers, and their hats are made from bear fur. Some of the hats are nearly a century old! It's a common myth that they are forbidden from speaking. Speaking is simply reserved for when a more forceful means of communicating is needed.


November 5th is reserved for celebration! What's not true about Bonfire Night events?

Since Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament in 1605, the British have been telling the world to "remember, remember the 5th of November." There's no official curfew for Bonfire Night, but being respectful is encouraged. You can be fined for setting off your own fireworks when it gets too late.


Boxing Day is observed on the day after Christmas. Which statement about it is a flat-out lie?

During Victorian times, those who worked as servants were given boxes filled with meager gifts. Though that tradition has died out, Boxing Day is still celebrated every December 26th. There are no boxing matches held at Buckingham Palace, though.


The British have an interesting way to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. Can you spot the lie about pancake races?

In the U.S., it's called Fat Tuesday, but the British take the celebration before Mardi Gras to a whole new level. Contestants who participate in the traditional pancake races have to wear an apron and flip their pancakes a few times. Hitting someone with a frying pan will get your disqualified!


Royals like Meghan Markle are required to follow strict royal traditions. Which of our rules is not one of them?

From not being allowed to sit with her legs crossed to the color of nail polish she uses, Duchess Meghan has a lot to remember. Thankfully, there are no traditional rules that say she must always wear pantyhose. If she chooses, bare legs are acceptable.


There are enough royal wedding traditions to write a book about, but which one of these things does not happen when one takes place?

Fruitcake and all, royal weddings have always been considered reasons to celebrate. Citizens often enjoy their day off by flocking into the streets. They are permitted to drink as freely as they like.


Every year, a cheese-rolling competition takes place near Gloucester, England. Can you decide what we're not being honest about?

No one really knows how Cotton Hill's cheese rolling tradition began back in the 1800s, but hundreds gather every year to chase a 9-pound block of Double Gloucester down a hill for 200 yards. Thankfully, all of the contestants are clothed — mostly.


Are you able to tell us which of these facts about the British tradition of Maypole dancing isn't a fact at all?

You'll see more Welsh Maypole dancing on May Day than any other time of year, though, other celebrations can involve it. Participants use ribbons to dance around a pole that symbolizes fertility.


What's the explosive mistruth about the tradition of British Christmas crackers?

The British are crazy about the cardboard tubes knowns as crackers. Every Christmas, crackers are handed out, then pulled by two people. The person with the biggest half wins the prize.


In the U.K., they drink 20% more of it than in the U.S., but what's not true about the British tea-drinking tradition?

Dunk away! In the United Kingdom, the biscuit industry is a three-billion-dollar industry. It's more uncommon to be served a "cuppa" with biscuits than without them. Dunking is highly encouraged.


Where's the whopper in these sentences about the Queen's birthday traditions?

We're not sure that Prince Philip knows how to bake a cake, but the Queen does get to celebrate twice and ride in a carriage. Although her birthday is in April, the traditional Trooping of the Color ceremony doesn't take place until June.


St. Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland comes with its own set of traditions! Which one of these is not one of them?

If you want to find green beer on St. Patrick's Day, you'll have to head to the United States. Although many of the holiday's traditions have crossed the pond, this is one that the American's came up with all on their own. You won't find green beer in Northern Ireland.


It's a solstice tradition to visit Stonehenge. Can you figure out the untruth about it?

Historians and archeologists estimate that Stonehenge is around 3,000 years older than the Pyramids of England. You're no longer permitted to climb them, but years ago it was part of the adventure. Visitors were even given chisels to carve their own souvenirs!


Which one of these reasons is not a reason that six ravens are superstitiously kept at the Tower of London?

Legend says that if the six ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the nation will fall into chaos. Visitors are welcome to see them, but they might want to hold off until after meal time. Every day, the ravens each eat six ounces of raw meat and blood-soaked treats.


Can you spot the fake ingredient in haggis — the traditional dish of Scotland?

Traditionally served on the birthday of national poet Robert Burns, haggis is the national dish of Scotland. A sheep's stomach is filled with all sorts of offal, oatmeal and a battery of spices. It might be the only time you'll ever hope to find peas on your plate! Sadly, you will not.


Oxford University is the oldest university in the world. Which tradition doesn't actually take place there?

Over 21,000 people apply to attend Oxford University every year for the academics — not the wacky traditions. Though there are plenty of them, there's no ceremony that asks professors to stay single. You would have to go back a few centuries to observe those Oxford rules.


If you're a British citizen and lucky enough to live to age 100, what will Queen Elizabeth II not send you?

Assuming your birthday card comes with an envelope, the Queen will not send you a birthday cake. If you make it to age 105, she'll send you a personalized card every year, but you'll never get a sweet treat from her.


Can you figure out the mistruth about the Welsh tradition of bog snorkeling?

Should you want to become a bog snorkeling champion, head to Wales! Every year, a competition takes place in Llanwrtyd Wells. Swimmers must race through a bog and swim for 60 meters only using their flippers.


In 1840, the British began the tradition of using postage stamps, but what's not at all true about it?

Printed with black ink and an image of Queen Victoria, the Penny Black was the world's first postage stamp. The self-adhesive version wasn't invented until 1974, but it's still considered an act of treason to place it upside down.


Queen Elizabeth has broken a lot of traditions for Meghan Markle. Which one is not one of them?

Queen Elizabeth II is one of the more modern monarchs to ever sit on the throne. She's broken over 10 royal traditions for the new duchess, including allowing Harry to wear a wedding band. No other male royal has the same liberty.


We're lying when we say that every British person gets a passport at birth. Who never got one?

Horses, dogs, donkeys, Prince Philip and every U.K. citizen are required to have a passport. Even Meghan Markle has to have one because she has dual citizenship. Since they are issued in her name, Queen Elizabeth has never been a passport holder.


We're trying to pull the wool over your eyes about Remembrance Day traditions. Can you point out the lie?

Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day, is always celebrated on the Sunday that falls closest to November 11. Silence is observed on the 11th, but it doesn't last for eight minutes. Two minutes are observed on that date, and another two minutes are observed on the second Sunday of November.


Queen Elizabeth has traditionally raised corgis since she was small. What's not true about the pups?

Susan, the Queen's first corgi, is the great, great granddog to her current two pups Vulcan and Candy. They don't have their own room in the palace, but they do have a shared room. Servants provide their pricy beds with clean, pressed sheets every day.


If you were to visit Windsor Castle, what would you not learn about the Queen's traditional residence while you are there?

With 20 chefs, 33 kitchen staff and three pastry chefs, no one ever goes hungry at Windsor Castle. The Great Kitchen is only one of the kitchens found within the castle. It's the country's oldest.


Britain's highest mountain has its own traditional whiskey. What's not true about Ben Nevis?

You have to pay to park at the base of Ben Nevis, but there's no fee for attempting to climb its 4,413 feet. Once you've conquered it, you can same the local whiskey at a nearby pub that uses a recipe that originates in that region of Scotland.


In Wales, it's a tradition to sing carols on Christmas morning. What's not true about Plygain?

Plygain is a Welsh tradition that goes all the way back to the 13th century. While there may or may not be an official version of it taking place every night at a local pub, it's traditionally held in a local church in the wee hours of Christmas morning.


London's Big Ben is the hot place to see New Year's fireworks every year. What's our bogus claim about Big Ben?

Watching New Year's fireworks at the Tower of London is the British equivalent of New York's Times Square. The annual display of over 70,000 fireworks doesn't take place until the hands on the clock strike midnight and Ben Ben chimes. FYI ... Big Ben is the bell inside the tower, not the clock!


Trafalgar Square is one of the visited places in London at Christmas. What are we fibbing about when we talk about its famous tree?

Since 1947, a 196-foot-tall Christmas tree has been donated to London by Oslo. It's a gesture of gratitude for the defense in WWII. Thousands gather for the lighting ceremony, and plenty of selfies are taken. We're totally lying about that.


Mother's Day is a big deal in the U.K., but what's the exaggeration about celebrating it?

Get your mum a Mother's Day card before the fourth Sunday of Lent! There's nothing wrong with giving her a card or taking her out to dinner. She might want to skip the boiled whole grain called frumenty, though!


Hot cross buns are an Easter Staple across the nation, but what are we stretching the truth about?

Shrove Tuesday is reserved for pancakes, but hot cross buns can be eaten all year round. Traditionally served warm on Easter, Elizabeth I once banned them because she didn't care for the religious symbolism.


What's not true about the Royal Christmas Broadcast that takes place every year?

The first Royal Christmas Broadcast didn't go very well for Queen Elizabeth II. Many missed it because of radio interference. Since 1959, she's solved the problem by pre-recording the message that airs at 3 P.M. on Christmas day.


Which of these rules is not a rule of the traditional Scottish Highland Games?

The Highland Games have taken place in Scotland since 1836, but a lot has changed about it. Until the late 1990s, women were not allowed to participate in the festival celebrating Scottish and Celtic heritage, but they now make up a huge portion of participants.


Can you figure out the truth from the lie about traditional Scottish kilts?

Every tartan print is representative of a Scottish clan, and kilts were originally worn to symbolize them. There are no hard and fast rules about what must, if anything, be worn under a kilt. 55% percent of men who have worn them to admit to going commando, though.


British Morris dancing dates back to the 17th century. Do you know what we've lied to you about?

The earliest reference of Morris dancing goes all the way back to 1448! A dance filled with color and music, Morris dancing was the original form of entertainment. You can still find Morris dancers at festivals throughout the country.


Do you know what isn't right about the Speech From the Throne?

When the Queen delivers her Speech From the Throne speech, the British government listens. Given while wearing the Imperial Crown, she lets everyone know the direction she wants to see lawmakers take.


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