Hallowe’en (31st October) and All Saints’ Day (1st November)
On Hallowe’en children all over the English-speaking world and beyond go out ‘guising’ – dressing up in costume (often as ghosts, witches, monsters or their favourite superhero) and knock on neighbours’ door to ask for sweets. In North America this is called ‘Trick or Treat’ – if the neighbour doesn’t oblige with a handful of sweets, the children will play a prank on him. Hallowe’en (or All Hallows’ Even) is an old Scots term for the night before All Hallows or All Saint’s Day. In Ireland Hallowe’en originated from the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain which marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter. In Mexico, All Saints’ Day is known as Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) which celebrates the life of deceased relatives. In France people put chrysanthemums on the graves of their family members on La Toussaint.
*How do you celebrate Hallowe’en or All Saints’ Day in your country?*
Guy Fawkes Night (5th November)
“Remember, remember, the Fifth of November – gunpowder, treason and plot!”
Guy Fawkes Night is a British celebration of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 which was designed to blow up the Houses of Parliament to kill King James 1st and his government. The plot was betrayed and a search of the cellars below Parliament was conducted. Guy (or Guido) Fawkes was discovered before he could ignite the 36 barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes was executed along with his co-conspirators and the King ordered an annual celebration with bonfires for this ‘divine intervention’.
In modern times, children would make a ‘Guy’ – an effigy of Guy Fawkes – out of cushions or pillows, dress it in old clothes and push it around in a cart asking for ‘a penny for the Guy!” The effigy would then be burnt on the top of a large bonfire and fireworks set off.
*Have you seen V for Vendetta? His mask is based on Guy Fawkes’s image and is now used by political protesters around the world.*
Thanksgiving (4th Thursday in November)
Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States and one of their most important family celebrations. It also marks the beginning of the ‘Holiday Season’. Americans often travel many miles back to their home town to spend the Thanksgiving Weekend with their extended family. They eat a large Thanksgiving Dinner – usually turkey with all the trimmings and pumpkin pie for dessert. The origin of Thanksgiving was a harvest festival where thanks were given by the English settlers to the Native Americans who helped them settle in the New World. Today at Thanksgiving Americans generally thank God for their blessings – family, health, freedom etc. The following day is now known as Black Friday, where many retailers take advantage of the holiday weekend to hold sales promotions in the lead up to Christmas and this has become the busiest shopping day of the year.
*Many American movies have used Thanksgiving as their theme – have you seen any of them? I recommend Trains, Planes and Automobiles where Steve Martin and John Candy desperately try to get home in time for Thanksgiving. It’s a laugh a minute!