Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Trashing Tradition: Halloween eclipses Guy Fawkes

GUY Fawkes is under attack from American cultural imperialism!  That at least is the view expressed in the International Herald Tribune [IHT] today by Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura.  I've not seen any Penny-for-the-Guy folk trying to get us to copper-up our loose change for their image of Guy Fawkes for years, and they don't seem to come around to our houses anymore. 

The journalist de Freytas-Tamura makes the point in today's IHT:
'Much to the consternation of some Halloween, with all its silliness, is eclipsing Guy Fawkes Day, the 400-year-old ur-English festival that falls five days after Halloween.'

The writer continues:
'Normally marked by bonfires and fireworks, the celebration commemorates the execution of Guy Fawkes, a Catholic, a member of the failed plot in 1605 to assassinate King James I and blow up the House of Lords.'

Perhaps Halloween provides commerce with more opportunities to make money these days with health and safety representing more of a threat from the Guy Fawkes celebrations.   Yet, for centuries we in Britain marked the death of Guy Fawkes by burning his effigy, and more recently by eating parkin, warming-up sausages and baking spuds in the embers of the bonfires.  Of course, the building of bonfire was always part of the street gangs that use to operate in our towns, cities and villages. 

The Guy Fawkes historian and author, James Sharpe said:
'I find it rather sad that Guy Fawkes Day is edged out by Halloween.'
and he added:
'I would say it's because of U.S. cultural imperialism.  It was something unique in England, and even celebrated in the American colonies in the 18th century - it's a pity that it's gone.'

It may be pointed out that the Irish and Scots can point to older Halloween traditions such as jack-o'-lantern that was originally squash, not a pumpkin, and apple-bobbing began as a matchmaking ritual, people wearing costumes to ward off evil spirits etc.  Halloween was, it seems, an ancient Celtic celebration in Ireland and Scotland, exported to America through the immigrants.  But commerce is everything these days, and there is money to be made out of selling Halloween costumes it seems.

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