Hallowe’en didn’t exist in 1950s Lincoln. Apart from my birthday, the only exciting thing that happened at this time of the year was Guy Fawkes’ Night or Bonfire Night, on 5th November. And it really was bonfire night – we had a bonfire in the back garden and daddy lit a few Roman Candles, sparklers, jumping jacks and bangers from the local shop. Health and safety didn’t exist then, but once the local bobby stopped us kids setting off fireworks in a field in the runup.
I would only have known about All Hallows Eve – the day before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day – if we’d been into churchy things. My brother and I were sent to Methodist chapel, and none of that nonsense went on there.
So it was a bit of a slow motion surprise to me as Hallowe’en gradually emerged over the years, as a festival to be widely ‘celebrated’ in a particularly ghoulish manner, pumpkins and all. It eventually even seems to have lost the apostrophe. I believe this emergence has been driven by school teachers spotting a good project, businesses spotting yet another good commercial opportunity and parents struggling to keep up. It seems to be more widely ‘celebrated’ in the US, but the UK is rapidly catching up.
Well I guess it’s fun for a lot of kids, so I shouldn’t be churlish. But, trick or treat? What on earth is a treat for some of our rather spoilt kids these days?
Maybe if we celebrated this as the beginning of winter, the dark part of the year, as were the origins of this festival in pagan days, it would seem more appropriate. There is actually a very rich and respectable tradition that has evolved from the earliest days, involving ghoulish things, closeness to the spirit world, bonfires, etc. eg as outlined in the Wikipedia entry. So maybe I need to get with the programme! But shouldn’t it include the bonfires as well?