Remember, Remember the 31st of October: Halloween and Bonfire Night

Ok, kids…you won’t believe this, but once there was a time when Halloween wasn’t a big deal.

And nor was Bonfire Night.

And to be honest, I don’t really care for either of them.

Which is why I’ve come up with a solution.

Yes: I propose we combine the two.

“Remember, Remember, The Thirty-First of October!”

Now this isn’t completely without a precedent.  We’ve managed to combine the Santa-y bits of Christmas with the Jesus-y bits and they seem to work fine together.  Chocolate-delivering rabbits and the resurrection seem to sit less comfortably but have still managed to agree to disagree.

Now, I’ve got to admit that this isn’t an entirely original idea.  I got it from that paragon of forward-thinking, respectful acceptance, and peaceful coexistence and compromise…


That’s right!

Belfast in the 1980s!

In Belfast the boundaries between Halloween and Bonfire Night were purposely blurred.

We only had public firework displays. This helps to minimise the annoying sleep-disturbing, child-upsetting, pet-terrifying single unpredictable bangs in the night, which occur at random points in the week before and after Halloween, which is nice.  But the main reason is obvious to those of us above a certain age: basically, it didn’t seem a great idea to have over-the-counter explosives freely available in troubles-era Belfast.

Similarly, having the firework displays at Halloween helps because some folks in Belfast wouldn’t take kindly to the celebration of a Roman Catholic paramilitary cell’s failed attempt to assassinate the king and blow up the UK parliament.

And that’s why, in memory of my dad taking us to Seapark in Holywood (the naff one in Northern Ireland, not the cool one in California) you’ll find me standing with two shivery children at the bonfire and fireworks in Heaton Park, Manchester, where we will be having fun whether we want to or not.

So. When we combine Halloween and Bonfire Night we will obviously need snacks.  Now whose idea was the toffee apple? 

Neither relevant to the souls of the dead nor the gunpowder plot.

A pointless and (let’s face it, horrible) Bramley on a stick coated in molar-shatteringly hard caramel so sweet it makes the sourness of the apple entirely inedible. Like a chocolate coated dishwasher tablet. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well, a toffee apple a day may keep the doctor away but at the cost of a season ticket at your local NHS dentist.

Still, we’ll have one while we wait impatiently for the bonfire to be lit.  In the cold of a November night.  No longer able to feel our feet.  I mean come on!  Get a move on!  If you can’t rush an enormous open fire in a crowded park in the dark, what can you rush?

If you can’t rush an enormous open fire in a crowded park in the dark, what can you rush?

And what else can we get rid of?  We can at very least combine “Penny for the Guy” with “Trick or Treating”.  Again in the 1980s, if a masked stranger in Belfast banged on your door at night and demanded a treat lest something bad should happen to you, you would feel it so much a charming seasonal tradition as a protection racket.

Apple bobbing stays to get my daughter to have one of her five a day without a fight every 365 days.

Sparklers go because I can’t bear watching my neighbour’s daughters distractedly waving white hot spits of burning metal at my son’s eye level.

Shortbread bats stay.

Pumpkin flavoured coffee: get lost.  If it was nice, we’d have them all year.  Take the hint that you’re only on sale for two weeks a year, while Brer Shortbread, though changing shape, is available for fifty-two.

Massive tubs of Haribo for trick-or-treaters?  These are the worst for lots of reasons.  One of my practice nurses complained they were a con because she’d bought one at the weekend and finished them herself by Tuesday three weeks before Halloween.  It also encourages middle-aged, middle-class men like me to complain, just like we do at Christmas. “You know what? It’s the commercialisation of Halloween that I can’t stand!”

So that’s my plan.

The Doctor Brown Is Getting Better solution.

Now, get off to your firework displays before I get hard-line and lump in Children in Need, Thanksgiving and Diwali.

6 thoughts on “Remember, Remember the 31st of October: Halloween and Bonfire Night

  1. What a shame – Bonfire Night for us was such a magical evening. First it was always held on the exact date. None of this “we have to do it at the weekend’ – before or after. If 5th Nov was on a Tuesday, then Tuesday it would be. We would spend weeks collecting bommie wood and guarding it from marauding kids. (We used to get an upturned butchers wicker basket to hide in). We faithfully made our Guy Fawkes with parental help and he was usually propped up in the kitchen until the time arrived.

    We had neighbours who didn’t like kids – except on Bonfire Night – when she would
    come with homemade treacle toffee and hot Oxo or Vimto. The bonfire was always in our large side garden and my mum handed round home made parkin

    We were 3 kids and each had a tin with some fireworks in. My brother always waited
    until ours were spent and then peevishly produced his. My dad never got the
    Catherine Wheels fixed up correctly and they would spin off their fixing nails and we would all laugh! Our fireworks were lit on the night – not 2 weeks before and 3 weeks after.

    What’s better than baked potatoes done in the bonfire embers. All burnt and crispy!

    I say lets keep our traditions and let the Americans keep theirs i.e.Halloween, because all that has done it dilute ours. A local supermarket last week put up a Christmas tree and
    then decorated it with Halloween stuff. No wonder our kids are confused !!

    Usually the morning after, it rained which made it misty and smelling of doused bonfires.

    Wonderful memories

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny – we had a lot of traditions that I don’t know if they are just my family or universal- we had apple pie and gingerbread men every year. Was that just us?


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