August 18, 2022

The Editor Speaks: Halloween and Guy Fawkes

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October 31st was Halloween and November 5th is Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes.

Both are celebrations that children and grownups can enjoy together.

Halloween is the biggest of the two events in the USA whilst the other is the biggest in Great Britain.

When I grew up Halloween was hardly celebrated at all, although I expect over the passage of time, and the US media influence through television and movies, it has become much bigger.

My recollection of it was just pumpkin lanterns and apple bobbing in a large metal pan or bucket. Seldom did children dress up and visit neighbours for trick or treats.

Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes began some weeks before when children made a effigy of Guido Fawkes called “The Guy”, comprising a head with a horrible (normally grinning) mask and a body made of small sacks filled with straw or rags, arms and legs of rags and covered with male clothes. Stuffed gloves were added to the arms to portray hands and this effigy was then shoved in an old pram or wheelbarrow and paraded around the neighbourhood with a sign “Penny for the Guy”. Money collected was used to buy fireworks to be lit on November 5th around a bonfire.

My money was added to nearby friends, and yearly turns were taken where the bonfire was located, so as to make the firework spectacle bigger.

There were also large community events, the two biggest I ever attended were at Lewis, in Sussex and Ottery St Mary, in Devon.

The latter was really dangerous and I expect it has been stopped because every year someone got injured by fire. The fire coming from the lighted tar barrels that were rolled down the streets on the hillside to the town centre below and picked up (yes, I kid you not) by persons and carried on their shoulders to run into and through the crowds. Very exciting and very scary.

And what do these events actually celebrate?

Both, something to do with death.

From Wikipedia:

Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain; that such festivals may have had pagan roots; and that Samhain itself was Christianized as Halloween by the early Church. Some believe, however, that Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday, separate from ancient festivals like Samhain.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising), attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night and Firework Night, is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November, primarily in Great Britain. Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

Within a few decades Gunpowder Treason Day, as it was known, became the predominant English state commemoration, but as it carried strong Protestant religious overtones it also became a focus for anti-Catholic sentiment. Puritans delivered sermons regarding the perceived dangers of popery, while during increasingly raucous celebrations common folk burnt effigies of popular hate-figures, such as the pope. Towards the end of the 18th century reports appear of children begging for money with effigies of Guy Fawkes and 5 November gradually became known as Guy Fawkes Day. Towns such as Lewes and Guildford were in the 19th century scenes of increasingly violent class-based confrontations, fostering traditions those towns celebrate still, albeit peaceably. In the 1850s changing attitudes resulted in the toning down of much of the day’s anti-Catholic rhetoric, and the Observance of 5th November Act was repealed in 1859. Eventually the violence was dealt with, and by the 20th century Guy Fawkes Day had become an enjoyable social commemoration, although lacking much of its original focus. The present-day Guy Fawkes Night is usually celebrated at large organised events, centred on a bonfire and extravagant firework displays.

Settlers exported Guy Fawkes Night to overseas colonies, including some in North America, where it was known as Pope Day. Those festivities died out with the onset of the American Revolution. Claims that Guy Fawkes Night was a Protestant replacement for older customs like Samhain are disputed, although another old celebration, Halloween, has lately increased in popularity, and according to some writers, may threaten the continued observance of 5 November.

There we have it. Here in the Cayman Islands, both are celebrated with Camana Bay being the main centre (or culprit) for both.

Commercialization has changed both festivals over the years.

This morning I attended an early morning service to celebrate “All Saints Day” that was attended by only a few. In the past it was an evening service where, with lighted candles, we all would go to the altar and light a candle in remembrance of our loved ones who had died.

Apparently, things were “too busy” this year, so it will be celebrated on Sunday as part of the normal Sunday morning service.

I did not make myself popular by showing my irritation at that decision!

Sadly, Ghouls, Vampires, Guy Fawkes’ and even Donald Trumps are the things we celebrate more than our Saints.

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  1. […] Source: Cayman Eye News October 31st was Halloween and November 5th is Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes. Both are celebrations that children and grownups can enjoy together. Halloween is the biggest of the two events in the USA whilst the other is the biggest in Great Britain. When I grew up Halloween was hardly celebrated at… Link: The Editor Speaks: Halloween and Guy Fawkes […]

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