Halloween versus Guy Fawkes Night

 Judging by the displays in shops, public spaces, and outside people's homes, Halloween (All Hallows Eve on the last day of October) has supplanted Guy Fawkes' Night (Remember, Remember the 5th of November) in the British calendar.

Photo 1: Carved Halloween Pumpkins (Grandaughter & Friends)

When I was a lad up North, 60 years ago, we'd never seen nor heard of Halloween. The celebration everybody looked forward to was Guy Fawkes Night; or Bonfire Night as it was more commonly known. October would be spent collecting firewood for the bonfire and preparing an effigy of Guy Fawkes by stuffing some old clothes with straw or newspaper. Children were allowed to take their 'Guy' onto the streets and ask for money ('Penny for the Guy') that might be used to buy a selection box of fireworks. Individual fireworks were available but the selection boxes were popular and might include Rockets, Catherine Wheels, Roman Candles, Fountains, and Sparklers.

Bonfire Night was very much a domestic affair when I was a youngster (1950s and 1960s). There may have been larger communal events but we did not attend them. Extended families and immediate neighbours might be invited to the party but it was not unusual to see other bonfires and firework displays in nearby gardens.

The brevity of the fireworks display (governed by the size of the selection box purchased) meant there was plenty of time for eating, drinking, and socialising. Potatoes were wrapped in aluminium foil and baked in the bonfire, and there was always treacle toffee and parkin. In doing my research for this blog post, I have discovered there are two versions of parkin cake: Lancashire Parkin and Yorkshire Parkin. The main difference being the Yorkshire version uses black treacle whereas the Lancashire recipe uses golden syrup. Much to our chagrin as proud Lancastrians, it was the Yorkshire Parkin that we ate on Bonfire Night. Fortunately, the evening ends well for Lancashire as 'Guy Fawkes' - Yorkshire-born in 1570 - is burnt on the bonfire!

Commercially, Halloween is now much bigger than Bonfire Night ever was, with Halloween stuff appearing in the shops more than three months before the event itself. I think our only engagement with Halloween this year was to hot compost the pumpkin lanterns on November 1st!

However, we did enjoy our grandchildren's efforts in carving the pumpkin lanterns. Here are a few more examples:

Photo 2: Cat Themes Feature Strongly

Photo 3: Simple but Effective

Photo 4: Intricate


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