Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Halloween doesn't fit my definition of a holiday. It's a working day. As the years passed when I was running a business, it became increasingly common for our employees, especially younger women, to show up for work in costume. I soon learned that this particular aspect of American culture was irresistible. I remember that when a friend's parents visited the East Coast in 1938 they were shocked by "Trick or Treating". They thought it terrible that parents allowed their children to go around demanding candy from strangers. No, you can't easily fight the culture! Every year, Halloween is a major item in newspaper articles, and especially in newspaper comics. This year, my Episcopal Church parish asked us to give "unwanted" candy to those organizing Hot Meals for the homeless. (Why anyone would have "spare" treats before Halloween I cannot imagine.) Most of those reading this will know that Halloween is also known as the Eve of All Saints' Day. In the UK, most children are looking forward to November 5, "Guy Fawkes Day". They probably know that this commemorates the day when a Roman Catholic was caught attempting to blow up Parliament. With present-day concerns about the environment, my guess is that the bonfires which were a major feature when I lived in England, are no longer permitted. However, it is the fireworks to which children look forward so eagerly. It was - and may still be - the custom for children to build a scarecrow-like effigy, their own version of Guy Fawkes. Never so insistent as trick-or-treaters, they would nevertheless trundle their creation around town, calling out "Penny for the Guy!". Those effigies were usually burned on the bonfire, with little thought given to the concept of death by a cruel torture. In fact, Guy Fawkes was tortured, and only avoided the customary fate of traitors (being hanged, drawn, and quartered) by leaping from the scaffold and breaking his neck. It gets dark quite early in November in the UK, where daylight saving time (known as "summer time" there) has already ended by November 5. One advantage of this is that young children can enjoy fireworks before bedtime, not possible (unless they have indulgent parents) on July 4.