Has Halloween Killed Bonfire Night?

05/10/2015 17:29 | Updated 05 October 2015

Has Halloween killed Bonfire Night? The thought occurred to me as I was ordering costumes for my three kids this week (a vampire, a werewolf and a zombie, since you ask - the costumes, not the kids) before humping three massive pumpkins home from the local market.


For at least the last month, my children have talked about nothing else but spooky stuff.

They've bought chocolate, sweets and plastic tut in the shapes of bats, ghosts and skeletons.

They've played scary practical jokes on each other involving spiders and fake blood to get them in the mood for next Wednesday's big event.

My 11-year-old even swears there is a poltergeist in her room (thought that might have more to do with her changing hormones).

It has been relentless – and not just for them. I've had to set up tables, make spooky cupcakes and carve the aforementioned pumpkins for their school Halloween Party.

And I've made plans as elaborate as the Normandy Landings to liaise with other parents for the Halloween Trick or Treating/ Neighbourhood Pestering Tour.

It is over-the-top overkill – and it's biggest victim is Bonfire Night.

When I was growing up, Guy Fawkes Night was the Big Event of the Autumn. Remember, remember, the Fifth of November? I do. It was brilliant.

Me, my brothers and our mates would spend weeks touring our estate cadging wood for our bonfire. We'd build it high,high, high, right up to the sky – only for rivals from other parts of the estate to try to come and nick it.

Then we'd recruit our mum to help us make a stuffed, cloth 'Guy', that we'd put stick in a wheelbarrow and wheel down to the local precinct to beg passersby for a a 'Penny for the Guy'.

On the night itself, my dad would come home from work armed with enough fireworks to start a third Gulf War.

Then he and other dads would roll up great balls of newspapers to set alight to get the bonfire going while our mums would feed us with baked potatoes, Parkin and toffee apples.

And then, as the fire raged and our faces glowed from the heat, we'd toss our cloth guy onto the top and cheer as he burned.

We even knew why we were doing it, because we'd been taught it at school. Guy Fawkes was a bad lad who tried to burn down the Houses of Parliament in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Yay, burn the bugger! Happy days!

My kids know none of this now. They've never heard of Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night. They have an idea that 'Fireworks Night' is coming up soon, but it is an irrelevance to them compared to Halloween.

Health and safety means they can't build bonfires like me and my brothers used to. Health and safety has put a massive lock and key on firework sales. And even many local councils that used to have an annual bonfire and display have cut back because it's deemed burning money.

OK, there will be a lot of whizzes and bangs and lit-up skies on and around November 5, but it will be nothing like the event of my childhood. And nothing like the commercial monstrosity that is Halloween. And the kids won't give a monkeys.

Ah well! I appreciate this is an old man's rant. Better get with the times. Back to carving those pumpkins. If you fancy joining me, here's how...

1. First lop off the top of the vegetable, where the stalk protrudes. Imagine you're a Red Indian scalping General Custer. Easy peasy.

2. Next, recruit a small child. Arm him with a spoon and tell him to scrape out all the slimy, sticky innards while you go and have a cup of tea.

3. After they've stopped bickering over who gets the biggest pumpkin, encourage your children to draw faces on their chosen sphere. Square eyes and a jagged smile are very fashionable these days.

4. Now take the sharpest knife you own and hide it from the kids. Then use a blunt knife to hack away at the pumpkin skin and flesh until you're sweating like a sumo wrestler in a sauna. Be careful not to let your kids see you crying when you almost cut the top of your finger off.

5. Locate some craft paints, taking great care to choose paints that have virtually no sticking attributes and thus will be guaranteed to slide off the pumpkin no matter how many layers you apply. Give the children paintbrushes and leave!

Happy Hallobonfire Night.

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