So with the rumblings of Halloween everywhere I was reminded yesterday of the somewhat bizarre and of course twisted Halloween traditions I grew up with in England. I was walking my son home from school and he said mommy “clap your hands”. I did and out popped this tremendously scary skull out of a bucket. I can’t tell you how much I screamed and then realized this was part of the lovely decorations put up for Halloween. The amount my son laughed though reminded me of Halloween while growing up in England. I enjoyed them thoroughly, though looking back they were completely twisted and morbid! So much so I just can’t see me carrying on those traditions with my wee ones.
In England Halloween falls very close to another and arguably bigger celebration (if you can call it that) on November 5th called Guy Fawkes. In a nutshell Guy was the unfortunate man who tried to blow up the House of Lords and assassinate the King to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne…we are talking 1605 by the way. This doomed man was tortured for days and eventually spilled the beans. In order to avoid being drawn and quartered Fawkes leapt from the scaffold from where he was being hung and plummeted to his death. To celebrate this event and survival of the protestant monarch, children make large dolls resembling Guy Fawkes. Huge bonfires are then lit and the dolls are burned on the fire while fireworks are released in celebration. There may be a little bit of toffee apple eating (in the U.S. you call them caramel apples) and of course apple bobbing which in retrospect felt more like I was being forced to drown myself in a competitive frenzy than collect apples in my teeth.
So next time you think dressing up as goblins and ghouls is a tad scary think of the kids in England burning Guy at the stake! Goblins and ghouls suddenly seem warm and fuzzy as a tradition! And remember that after Halloween is All Saints Day and whether you are religious or not most parents do get to a point when they have to try and explain Halloween to their wee ones. I like to say that we dress up to scare all the bad things in our life away. So when we wake up the next day there are only good things. Simplistic perhaps but it puts a nice spin on all those ghosts running around my neighborhood scaring my wee ones.
As for Guy Fawkes I have yet to come up with a good reason to explain to my kids why burning a doll on a bonfire in a ritualistic fashion every year is a good idea! Perhaps I can just chalk it up to a lesson in British History…oh and why not to try and assassinate a royal but somehow that doesn’t seem relevant to my wee ones!