Monday, 1 November 2010

Trick or treat - or kindly leave the British culture?

Oh, how I hate Halloween. And how all my friends and neighbours know it. We had no pumpkin in the window. The pumpkin, I'm given to understand, being the established "we are joining in" symbol. We would have had one but the Hire Shop didn't do Kalashnikovs to go with it ... We had neighbour's kid saying to the other kids, "Don't go to Sharon's house. She says it's a Bomber Nation" They rang the door bell incessantly anyway and then put mud in our letterbox. Oh, how lovely. Thank you so much, American cousins, for bringing us this horrible "tradition" that we're now stuck with.

Yes, I know Halloween is a pagan festival. Yes, I know witches were originally European etc etc. I have several good friends who are pagans, though I can't for the life of me understand why someone would want to follow a set of beliefs that declares that people who are ill gradually have their soul taken away until there's nothing left and they don't "pass over". It does seem to lack compassion for the sick. Become ill and you're off the team. Fortunately they can accept Jesus Christ as their saviour and be with him it heaven, not left behind. He didn't condemn the sick.

Yes, I know Christmas and Easter are based on old pagan festivals. So what? Those festivals were probably based on whatever the cave man did and anyway they are much improved with Jesus. I get it that traditions evolve and are based on someone else's.

My pagan friends and those of other religions, including those who believe there is something out there then go on to offend that something on a daily basis, can do as they please. My objection is to a "holiday" imposed on us not by Americans as a people but by American TV and marketing. Just as there are marketing sciences (anyone see the Head and Shoulders woman in the lab advert?) there are whole traditions thought up by companies who decide what we celebrate by the amount of plastic tat they can sell.

Halloween might be fun in the US. I can see the attraction of the kids dressing up and lots of candy. Two issues, then:

1) Our kids don't play so nicely. Halloween is a chance to be nasty and older kids even use it to menace the old, lonely and vulnerable. I can't think of anything more horrible.

2)We already HAD our autumn festival with Bonfire Night and that has now been pushed out by Halloween. Our local Rotary Club holds a big public fireworks festival. A few years ago when Bonfire Night actually fell on a Saturday they held it the weekend before so it could be a Halloween festival as well. What ?????

My American friends and anyone over 30 CLICK HERE to see what Bonfire Night is all about. It falls on November 5th.

The independent shops can't afford to stock fireworks and Halloween tat. The chain stores are told they must stock Halloween tat. The parents can't afford both and, with the excuse that fireworks are dangerous - as opposed to knocking on the doors of strangers and causing criminal damage, which is apparently OK - they "celebrate" Halloween instead. So no making a guy, building a bonfire for weeks beforehand, eating sausages and potatoes cooked in the fire, writing your name with sparklers. Forget that. Here's a plastic pumpkin instead.

We've had hundreds of years of Bonfire Night. It's an important part of our heritage and you'd think, as the first anti-terrorist festival, it would be important. It's wiped out with one generation of marketing cheap plastic goods from China. How utterly depressing.

My family celebrates Bonfire Night. We even had my Dad's funeral party (photos below) on 5th November because his funeral was the next day. He loved Bonfire night and would have thought it a huge joke if he could have been cremated on 5th November but in 2006 that was a Sunday so we couldn't arrange it for him. We had a wonderful time although building the bonfire without him was heartbreaking. We'd had such wonderful bonfire parties as children. The whole neighbourhood would be invited.

We celebrate on 5th November, not some more convenient day near it. We even set off fireworks in the pouring rain if we have to. The only reason we don't have our own fireworks at the moment is that the rocket launching site is a bit too near the rabbit hutch! Once the elderly bunnies are gone we'll have the rockets back.

I urge all British people to celebrate Bonfire Night and eschew Halloween. Let's take our autumn festival back!

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