Once upon ye tyme in daze of yore (bit of nostalgic atmosphere creation there) Halloween was just an American substitute for bonfire night. America could not have Guy Fawkes night you see on account of not having a King for conspirators to plot to blow up. Halloween was as American as Pecan Pie and Hot Dogs, a party night when children could dress up and eat sweets until their eyes bulged.
As in most things Britain has been railroaded by capitalism’s pursuit of ever increasing profits and world domination. Bonfire night was too cheap, there was not enough money to be made from people lighting fires to burn old rubbish and standing around eating baked potatoes, roast chestnuts and home made treacle toffee. Chestnuts could be had for free if you knew where to look, ingredients for treacle toffee were a few basics and a tin of molasses and Potatoes were cheap as chips. That was back in the days when elephants were sevenpence for twenty of course. The only money spinner was the annual sale of fireworks and that was small beer compared with sales of costumes, masks, make up and sweets across the Atlantic. Perhaps we could start a new bonfire night and burn an effigy of globalisation?
Trick or treat was not in the same league for fun opportunities as Guy Fawkes night, preparations for which started in the long summer holiday. First job was forming a conspiracy as the neighbourhood children split into groups and planned their strategy to build the biggest bonfire of "bonnie."
Soon on selected sites piles of rubbish started to grow, scrap wood, old furniture, cardboard packaging, anything that would burn. As the day neared and competition became more intense the conspiratorial element of bonfire building emerged. Raiding rival piles was common so guards had to be mounted while raids on rival fires were planned and organised. It was not uncommon the see and entire ten or fifteen foot high pile of rubbish moving along a street propelled by a multitude of little legs that protruded from the bottom.
In the final week before the night of conflagration, in addition to guarding the fire and final frenetic efforts to enlarge it there was a Penny-For-The-Guy effort to be considered.
In order to be successful at raising money for fireworks by begging "penny for the guy please" from people passing your pitch the first requisite was a Guy – the effigy of Guy Fawkes to be burned on the fire. Most Guys were fairly simple, an old shirt or sweater and a pair of trousers stuffed with newspaper, straw or old clothes created a vaguely human form. This was topped by a pumpkin, mangol wurzel or burst football adorned with a Guy Fawkes mask as a head.
One year my friends and I were particularly creative. We took the smallest boy in our gang, a skinny little lad called Alan Jones put him in an adult’s sweater and trousers stuffed with paper to get the shapelessness right, made up his face with talc, greened by adding the kind of paint used in kindergarten, drew bright red blobs on the cheeks with lipstick and added a moustache and goatee beard with eyeliner begged from somebody’s elder sister, stuck him in an old pram and set up our pitch on a busy shopping street.
It was going well, people were highly amused by our lifelike guy who winked at them and said Thank You for contributions of sixpences and shillings. Unfortunately the scheme came unstuck when one mean and humourless, literally minded old man actually gave us a penny.
"Tight fisted old bugger," said our guy. Not long after a police officer moved us along after we had been given a lecturing on respecting our elders. how unfair was that? I am sure to this day the old man was not told off for not respecting his juniors.
In recent years the whole bonfire thing has been killed by health and Safety fascists.
Naked flames, can’t allow that say the Politically Correct police, people can be burned by flames. Big piles of burnable junk, absolutely not , they could collapse injuring people. The mere mention of fireworks is enough to give these hand wringing do-gooders an apoplectic fit. Put all these things together with simple pleasures like potatoes baked in their skins (WHAAAAAAT? Potato skins have been exposed to soil bacteria and also may contain potentially dangerous pesticide residues.
The Politically Correct police and the forces of Corporate Darkness joined in one of those silent cabals. No agreements were ever made, no plots were ever plotted but they found their interests lay in the direction of downgrading bonfire night a) so that is could be properly supervised by bureaucrats and all the fun squeezed out of it because fun is bad for people and b) so that something more commercialised and profitable could take its place.
Well now that bonfires have to be licensed and firework sales are restricted naturally Halloween must come under scrutiny. It is not as much fun as Bonfire Night but it is fun and so must be properly monitored and controlled. The rot has already set in.
Going round ASDA which being Wal Mart owned has a very extensive range of American Halloween goodies, I noticed on goods in the section for stick on wounds and scars a warning on the packaging. THIS PRODUCT IS MADE OF LATEX AND MAY CAUSE ALLERGIC REACTION.
I imagine that if any parent picks p one of these novelties a health and Safety Inspector will leap out from behind the display and shout "SSSSTTTTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPPPP! Do you know that product is made from latex which some people are allergic to. Put that on your child’s skin and you may trigger an allergic reaction which could cause a mass of suppurating sores. Should these then become infected with an MRSA type flesh eating bacteria your child could DIE because you are a bad parent who did not heed health and safety warnings."
So when you are shopping for the kid’s treats remember the Politically Correct Mantra: Safety first – fun nowhere.