Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wither Halloween (I hope)

Into November and the curse of Halloween seems to be wearing off. <northern voice on> When I were a lad, we had no truck with these faked up Yankee commercial junkets <back to normal rather posh sounding standard English accent> no, we had Guy Fawkes night to look forward to and there was excitement from the moment the first fireworks appeared in the local newsagents. Pocket money was saved, window displays drooled over, leaves gathered and old clothes for a guy begged. October 31 meant nothing at all to us.

Then in recent years thanks to the impact of American TV and the ghastly supermarket marketing campaigns (Sainsburys – buy scary veg, uggh) designed to shift pumpkins, a food nobody eats and nobody likes, coupled with the realisation by kids that this was another way to get money from strangers, not to mention the implicit threat of violence behind “trick or treat”, one has begun to dread the knock on the door at night on Halloween. At least carol singers announce their presence first and don’t demand money with menaces (not in Ruislip anyway, we are much too genteel for doorstep thuggery from men in cassocks).

This year however, we were visited only by four small children, shepherded by an adult (and at such an early hour I was not even home, so thanks to Mrs Commuter for this report). Perhaps people are getting bored with it. The origins of Halloween lie of course both in pagan and medieval Christian practices and are not as alien as may appear, but the Americanisation of it really does irritate. The original idea that on All Hallows Eve one may commune with the dead is a fairly spooky idea but this has been lost in a mush of confusion about witches and vampires and those sodding pumpkins. Not that Nov 5th has retained much of its original meaning, the spontaneous lighting of fires by Londoners when the news about the foiling of the gunpowder plot was announced. Now it is just an excuse for fireworks and fires, but bonfires are so apt at this time of the year, especially with the darker evenings as the clocks go back, that it works and has an enduring appeal.

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