October 31st, 2015

Whimsical Witch


I'm growing to like Halloween. When I was a child, it was just an occasion to draw pictures of witches riding on broomsticks with their black cat. The pictures would then be stuck on the classroom wall as a run up to the real excitement of Bonfire Night. But the wildness of the Bonfire Night celebrations of my youth seem less acceptable these days, and besides all the bomb sites and bits of waste land have been cleared, reclaimed and built over, so there's little opportunity for feral bonfires and the fires and fireworks have been tamed and herded into organised events.

So, as I said, I'm warming to Halloween. I used to condemn it as a nasty American import, but of course it was originally a British thing that got exported to the US, though we had turnip jack o' lanterns instead of the much easier to carve pumpkins. So having once celebrated it, it's not that surprising that we're now taking it back, and adapting it to fit our own culture better. And you have to admit, there's so much more that you can do with it. Bonfire Night just meant kids with some sort of homemade effigy in an old pram begging for money in the street to buy fireworks, rival gangs pre-emptively firing each other's bonfires so theirs could be the biggest on the night and the fire brigade were kept busy in the run up to November the 5th and on the night itself. Injuries were commonplace and there was usually a death or two. Halloween, on the other hand, means parties and dressing up which little kids can do safely. I was terrified of fireworks when I was small and would only watch even tame ones like sparklers and golden rain through the window. We're not as big on Trick or Treating over here, but what's not to like about fancy dress parties and dances which can be adjusted to suit all ages?

It has also occurred to me that Bonfire Night as I knew it might not have been so popular in the past. We always tend to think that things should always remain how they were when we were young and that they have always been that way, but that might not be the case. If I remember, I will ask my two friends who are aged 98 and 93 what they did to celebrate either Halloween or November the 5th when they were young.