Spooks, flowers and bonfires

Published on 31 October 2022 at 08:00

Halloween, like many other notable annual dates, originated from a pagan festival. However, I don’t remember much about Halloween from my childhood, it was the USA influence that brought children going from house-to-house trick or treating, and people dressing up in ghostly apparel. More latterly Halloween has been a good excuse for a party in the UK.


I remember one occasion when I was travelling to France on Brittany Ferries from Plymouth, we stopped for something to eat before catching the overnight ferry. The pub was decorated with cobwebs and spiders and the landlady was very white faced with a long white flowing wig and dress, somewhat resembling Dracula’s bride. However, the landlord had his back to us and apparently was dressed quite normally in black trousers and a white shirt. When he turned around though, everyone gasped! His shirt was ripped and it looked like his entrails were hanging out! He explained that he had been to the butcher and bought some pigs offal and had (somehow) attached it to his clothing. It was truly gruesome, but very ingenious and clever. By far the best Halloween costume I have ever seen.


Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is followed by All Saints Day. Not being a Catholic, this has no significance to me, but I cannot help but be impressed by the efforts made in Spain leading up to this very important day. The cemeteries are given a “wash and brush up” before the main event, where families gather to pray and remember their dearly departed. Many flowers will be bought and laid in the cemeteries.


Then ... “Remember, remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot!”

This quote is from a poem written by John Milton about Guy Fawkes who in 1605 attempted to blow up The Houses of Parliament in London. The reason for the attempt on Parliament and the King was the persecution of the Catholics in England.


To this day Guy Fawkes Night, now more commonly known as Bonfire Night is still celebrated. When I was young my family would have a bonfire in the back garden, in which jacket potatoes would be cooked. A “guy”, an effigy made by stuffing old clothes with newspaper, would be burnt on the fire, and there would be fireworks. Many children would make “guys” and would put them in a wheelbarrow and take them to the railway station, where they would tout for money by yelling “Penny for the Guy”. In modern times the bonfires and fireworks are communal, with bigger bonfires and more spectacular fireworks.


Three important dates within one week, celebrated or not, depending where you live, and your faith. I think it is interesting to remember traditions like Bonfire Night and also to respect other countries traditions if you live abroad, as I do, in Spain.

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