Once upon a time November 5th was Guy Fawkes Night. Poor old Guy Fawkes effigies were trundled out every year and burnt at the stake (our bonfires) in remembrance of the real Guy Fawkes who was a very naughty man who tried to blow up The Houses of Parliament on the 5th November 1605.
Guy Fawkes was demonised by his enemies and the celebration of his death went on for 300 years till modern times that even I can remember. It was really ghoulish to burn the Guy that we had spent many loving hours creating out of old stockings stuffed with hay and dressed in clothes we had once worn and filled with sqibbs and firecrackers. We prepared for Guy Fawkes. We collected wood, saved our money to buy fire works, spent hours making our Guy and the families that I knew, celebrated with a personal display in their own gardens. The daddies set off the big fireworks and we had sqibbs and jumping jack and sparklers - loads of sparklers. I loved Guy Fawkes Night. I never once thought it was ghoulish because, like Christians eating the body of Jesus and drinking His blood, never stop to think of the way others might interpret their actions, it didn't seem strange for ordinary people to execute annually a poppet of a man long dead.
So Guy Fawkes went out of fashion but was replaced with "Bonfire Night" and this seems to encompass all sorts of fire events. Most seem to be co-ordinated by local authorities and you go out to see the fireworks instead of staying at home with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grannies and Grandpas all together for a family gathering.
Now kids run around with glow sticks and dress up in Halloween costumes. In our village, they have a Halloween Pumpkin competition and all the entries are on display on tables so everyone can see them. Our display of fireworks is shortish and much more humble than the London Eye at New Year! But the kids love it. It all starts at 6:00 o'clock and that's early enough for the very young and the extremely old. And there's a hog roast to raise funds for next year's Bonfire Night.
Once upon a time, we kids revelled in lighting matches, scaring people by lobbing jumping jacks at their feet, writing our names in the air with sparklers, removing gates (why did we do that?), and finally setting the old Guy to death in the flames on his stake in the pyre and nimbly avoiding the blasts and explosions that emanated from him in his final moments. The frisson of danger was just wonderful!
But the village kids here where I live, seem to enjoy their glow sticks and the firework display put on for them, that they cannot approach because of health and safety, the mixture of the foreign Halloween celebrations, pumpkins, witches and broomsticks and Munch's "Scream" masks. The fact that they can never experience the danger like we did, or the wildness of it, the fear, the laughter and the relief from near misses or even the ghoulish execution that repeated itself in millions of English homes, doesn't matter. They will remember their own sanitised Bonfire Night with love - and that's what really counts. The world has changed.