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Samizdata non-spooky quote of the day

“The globalisation of Hallowe’en, however, is a bit of a problem. Unanchored from any cultural connection, it has now become a gigantic exercise in mass scariness. I wonder if this contributed to the tragic crush in South Korea on Saturday night which killed more than 150 people. Those Christians who say that Hallowe’en is satanic are being too literal-minded. It is, in principle, harmless. But it would help if more people knew its context. Hallowe’en is short for All Hallows’ Eve, ie the eve of the day which commemorates all holiday people ie, the eve of today, All Saints’ Day. Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day. Take the three days together and you get the balance right.”

Charles Moore. Of course, expecting people to grasp these points is a bit of a stretch. How can one make All Souls’ Day work on TikTok?

On November 5 we have the Guy Fawkes’ Day.

16 comments to Samizdata non-spooky quote of the day

  • WindyPants

    When I was a wee whippersnapper in the northern England of the early eighties, Bonfire night (or to give it’s correct Lancashire accented pronunciation “Bommynaat” (all one word)) was a massive celebration combining elements of history, tradition and a vague anti-popish sentiment. Bangers were designed to be thrown at people, pennies were always for the guise and safety was, at best, second placed.

    As I’ve got older, this peculiar British tradition has been steamrollered by the commercialism that is Halloween. This was always seen as a crass “Americanism” and I can’t help but wonder if the clampdown on firework sales, our risk averse society and helicopter parenting is to blame.

  • Deep Lurker

    From my point of view here in America, Halloween was a children’s holiday back when I was a sprout. It has since been crushed between the twin grindstones of Safetyism and Political Correctness, and is now an adult’s holiday considered Not Suitable For Children. Or at least not one where children are allowed to have fun – and certainly not WrongFun.

  • WindyPants (November 1, 2022 at 9:04 am), except that I’m pretty sure there was no hint of anti-popishness in my Edinburgh suburb’s firework night (there was some awareness that we were commemorating Parliament not being blown-up – but to us kids that aspect had a ‘schoolwork’ feel to it), I recall the same:

    – the first stage of launching all the rockets and air bomb batteries and stuff – us kids grabbing all the lighting opportunities, of course.

    – the sparklers and bangers stage, after we’d lit all the big fireworks we’d brought. Sparklers were fun but tame – the real excitement was lighting a banger, guessing how long to hold it as the blue touch paper burned down, and then throwing it at one’s friends, who were doing the same in reverse, in a sort of mock grenade fight.

    – the final stage where all the kids at the lighting ground went round to a side room in the nearby house of a local Polish family (who’d originally arrived in the neighbourhood in connection with WWII, I’d guess), who had gotten into the habit of handing out hot dogs and suchlike to all comers as a way of rounding out the evening (to young me in those far off days, it seemed like a formal part of the ceremony).

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    We used to have a bonfire night here in Australia, but it just seemed to disappear over the years. I don’t recall people actually being injured…

  • Sam Duncan

    When I was a wee whippersnapper in Glasgow during the ’70s and early eighties, Halloween was, as it had been for my parents and grandparents, a time for going around the neighbourhood dressed in costume, the youngest sometimes – to their horror – accompanied by a parent, doing party-pieces in return for sweets and “dooking” (bobbing) for apples. Personally, I hated it. But it was our tradition.

    Yesterday evening, I went down to the local Tesco for milk and entered what seemed to be a street party, adults and children alike dressed up, the kids screaming, “Trick or treat!” and babbling about “candy”. That’s not our Halloween.

    And we had bonfire night as well. I always preferred it. I remember some of our Roman Catholic friends weren’t allowed to attend, Niall.

  • Peter MacFarlane

    Nicholas, it was probably the insurance companies that did for it. Here in my village, the local authority nazis decided that this year we must increase the third party liability cover for our firework display from £2M to £5M. This cost us an additional £600 in premium – nearly as much as we spend on actual fireworks. We don’t charge spectators, because if we did we’d be a “commercial” display, thus opening up a whole new world of pain. Not many small local volunteer-driven outfits can afford that sort of cost, so most of them just give up.

    Which no doubt was the “authorities” plan all along.

    Needless to say we’ve been running our show for more than thirty years without incident…

  • Paul Marks

    I do not really understand the post. However, the terrible mass death on Korea appears to have been caused by too much crowding and not enough, and not large enough, exits.

    I am always disturbed when I see entrances to a pub (or whatever) sealed off – yes it makes such an establishment less difficult to control, but in the event of a fire (or whatever) it can lead to terrible tragedy.

  • On November 5 we have the Guy Fawkes’ Day

    Which is good. For the first time since 2019, Perth (Scotland) is having its annual bonfire and fireworks display, since the usual numpties threatening the return of COVIDian horrors have been ignored.

    A certain “return to normality” in these difficult times.

  • bobby b

    In the US, you have to be in the right neighborhood to properly do Halloween.

    I ran over to a niece’s house in a local nice suburb, so that I could man the candy-giving at their front door while they took their little kids, along with about 20 other kids, in a long loop of like-minded suburban homes.

    I gave out candy to probably 75 kids while there. My niece’s kids came back with pounds and pounds of candy.

    It’s still alive here!

  • Paul Marks

    I bought some sweets for the children for Halloween – but none came to my house.

    I think my place has something of a reputation – even burglars avoid it (unlike the rest of the street).

    I do not really understand where this reputation comes from – I do not really kill people, I am just an old man. No one would come to any harm by visiting this house.

  • Mr Ed

    As a child in 1970s London, Guy Fawkes Night was a big thing. 1. Fireworks, freely availably to an under 13 year old, were a source of endless fun and antics. Sadly the commercial bangers were fairly weak*, but rockets were a great source of fun (and the Apollo missions were huge to boys at that age). 2. Guy Fawkes, Some old clothes would be stuffed with leaves to create a ‘Guy’ and you would display him in the street and ask ‘Penny for the Guy’ in the run-up to Bonfire Night. Halloween was nothing really, and Trick or Treat was only known from Peanuts (Snoopy) cartoons. 3. Bonfires were of course, the nightlight, even better if you could hide a banger or two in the bonfire (or better still a full soda syphon CO2 canister, what a fantastic surprise that would make for the unsuspecting spectators).

    A few years earlier, delighting in Guy Fawkes and with a period of high inflation and the choices of Prime Minister being Ted Heath and Harold Wilson, I had assumed that we were celebrating what might have been had Guy Fawkes succeeded, and I was a bit shocked when the facts were explained to me, surely Guy was the great ‘What might have been?’ rather than the ‘Eco-loon’ of his day.

    * every now and then, an acquaintance would make it to France and come back with same (I now know) Chinese fireworks, which were proper cartoon ‘bangers’ and didn’t mess about, great for pranks. Also the ‘Air Bomb’ was a fantastic exception, a flare placed in the ground which burned sparks for a minute or so then fired a fantastic charge about 20 feet into the air with a fantastic blast ensuing. If placed in a Wheelie Bin (they continued on sale into the 1990s) they could blow open a lid which had a full bucket of water on it.

    And I still have all my fingers.

  • John

    Here in Sussex I’m pleased to report that our bonfire societies remain a very big deal.


  • JohnK


    You have to place a lighted pumpkin or some such at your window, to show you are willing participant. Otherwise the protocol now is to leave you alone.

  • Bruce

    Guy Fawkes?

    Reputedly the only man to ever enter Parliament with “honest intentions”?

    That Guy Fawkes?

  • Paul Marks

    JohnK – now I see, well there is next year.

  • Earnest Canuck

    Remember, remember
    To phrase it as ‘5 November,’
    Remember, remember,
    To deploy the ‘th’ — or not.
    I see no reason why anti-fun tweetin’
    Shouldn’t be summarily blocked