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Remember, remember the fifth of November! - Helen's journal and online home
In which an old dog attempts to learn new tricks.
Remember, remember the fifth of November!
One of my LJ friends (in a locked post, so I won't link) has been complaining about Halloween replacing our tradition Bonfire Night. This is an expanded version of what I posted as a comment:

Bonfires at this time of year are far older than Guy Fawkes and date back to the Celtic fire festivals. There are echoes in some of the Welsh folklore of ancient human sacrifices too.

I therefore have very mixed feelings about Bonfire Night. I mourn the death of an old tradition. I miss the dark and dangerous Bonfire Nights of my childhood and teens, with the smell of gunpowder on the air and baked potatoes and treacle toffee. However... There were always terrible injuries every year if not actual deaths, which in these more safety conscious days we are not prepared to accept. It was a wild night, at least it was in the working class area of Manchester where I grew up. There was also bullying, intimidation and vandalism. In the weeks beforehand, youths would throw bangers and rip-raps at people in the street and put fireworks through old people's letterboxes. The fire brigade were kept busy in the run up to the actual night due to the rivalry between the gangs who wanted to have the biggest bonfire and would burn other gang's bonfires prematurely in order to ensure they won the contest. Even then, back in the 1960s, there were moves to have more regulated events where adults were in charge. We often went to the church bonfire, which was a great evening with a good display of fireworks, treacle toffee and potatoes baked in the embers of the fire to eat at the end of the evening.

Things change, you can't go back. For one thing there's the practical problem of where the kids would build their bonfires these days, even if you gave them free rein. We built them on bomb sites left over from WWII and bits of waste ground, like the site of the old brickworks and the council rubbish tip, but they've long been cleared away or fenced off and made safe. And also you have to remember that Halloween was originally exported to America from Europe and is therefore simply returning home in a slightly different guise. If it does take root again here, I'm sure we'll soon British-ise again. We'll do it slightly differently and make it our own.

Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic

3 comments or Leave a comment
ritaxis From: ritaxis Date: November 6th, 2014 12:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for this clear-eyed look at culture change. We're all losing traditions every day, and gaining new ones. I do think it's legitimate to complain about it, and even more legitimate to take steps to retain traditions people are fond of. But when the people of the world borrow US Halloween festivities, I think it's less USian cultural imperialism than people picking the cool stuff off the rubbish pile and polishing it up for their own use.
khiemtran From: khiemtran Date: November 6th, 2014 07:49 am (UTC) (Link)
We used to have Guy Fawkes in Victoria, but I haven't seen or heard any sign of it for ages. All the fireworks were banned many years ago, and, while there are still lots of illegal fireworks around, people tend to use them on New Year's Eve. Oh, and bonfires in November in Australia was never a terribly bright idea, now I think about it...
poliphilo From: poliphilo Date: November 6th, 2014 10:11 am (UTC) (Link)
That's rather what I think too. Guy Fawkes is just Halloween with a patriotic, anti-Catholic makeover. As it fades away I expect its traditions- bonfires, parkin and the rest- to be incorporated in the "new" improved British Halloween.
3 comments or Leave a comment