Nov 122017

Halloween and Bonfire Night have recently passed and these have led me to reflect on the changing traditions around these two celebrations over the years (too many to own up to!) that I have been in and around my place. I am not going to get into the discussion of whether Halloween is a pagan or Christian festival of ancient or medieval origin as that is not relevant to Springhill over recent years. A fascinating topic, but for an other time.

Rather I am remembering Halloweens and Bonfire Nights of my childhood, my children’s childhood and today and the changes have been quite marked.

Taking Halloween first, it was relatively low key when I was growing up. There were parties with parkin and games of bobbin apples and ducking apples, usually held in the church. No fancy dress as I remember. By the time my children were young (thirty years later!) the churches had stopped Halloween parties and the old games had gone. Trick or treat was becoming popular but still no fancy dress or focus on horror. Now the stores are full of zombie or scary clown costumes as soon as the ‘back to school’ promotions are over in August, trick or treating is possibly reducing in popularity and Halloween parties for adults are growing. The churches are now holding ‘lite nite’ parties with different games, a spiritual focus and no fancy dress.

Bonfire night was a bigger event during my pre-teen years with gang-built bonfires being fiercely guarded against raids from other groups. Home made guys were still touted around the village for the ‘penny for the guy’ then burned on the fire. There was, however, a trend away from making our own guy and putting a jacket and cap on a teddy. Financial returns tended to be lower with that approach. We had treacle toffee and black peas and Dad struggled to light the fireworks in the garden. A few years later council-run bonfires on the ‘rec’ replaced home-built ones, still with treacle toffee and black peas but now at a cost. By my children’s pre-teen the council-run bonfire had been replaced with a council-run firework display on the local sports field, more recently these have ended and we are back to smaller fires and displays, not usually organised by local groups of kids but by the scouts, the cricket club and the like. In general though bonfire night has reduced in prominence and Halloween increased, becoming more commercial in the process.

Have there been similar changes in these customs in your places?

Janet Barrie

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