Wednesday 10 November 2010

Penny for the Guy (extra)

Pondside commented on my post from yesterday and she has got me thinking, so I'm posting this as a mini extra.
(Normal, photo-accompanied service will be resumed nearer the time that the Alphabe-Thursday linky goes live.)

I neglected to mention a couple of Bonfire Night traditions in my post.

One is the tradition of burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire. Even though Guy himself wasn't actually executed by burning at the stake, we have still tended to throw him on as a warning to all others who would consider filling the Houses of Parliament cellars with gunpowder!

And the other is the practice of trawling the streets with a home made Guy asking for a "Penny for the Guy" ; a custom which I much prefer to Hallowe'en, but which has, sadly, all but died out. There was a time when it would be common to see small groups of children standing on street corners with a home created Guy made by stuffing some of Dad's old clothes (usually, stuffed with straw for ease of burning), but I don't think I've seen more than two such groups in the last five years!

I do think it a great loss that so many of our own traditions are overwhelmed by those from elsewhere; especially the States. It's so much easier to buy a Hallowe'en costume than it is to make a guy and the shops push Hallowe'en very hard these days. There is profit to be made!

Also, for the children, I suspect that there is much more reward to be gained from a one night trawl of 'Trick or Treat' than there is from loading a Guy into a wheelbarrow and going door to door. I do wonder though, what message we are sending to our children with the whole concept of "Give me a treat or I'll play a trick on you" and I know that some elderly people dread the event, to the extent that they will turn off all of the lights and sit in darkness pretending the house is empty.

Our local library also give away window display cards produced by the Derbyshire Constabulary (police) to politely inform people that Trick or Treaters are not wanted at this house.

I'll be very interested to hear what you think on this one.

(And I'm going to be very careful not to slip as I climb down from my soap box.)


  1. I normally agree that I love the traditions for the States but wish they would stay in the States. However I'm sort of perturbed by the fact that people don't want to join in simple because "it's from the States." Halloween was a wonderful part of my childhood and I cherish the fun memories. At the risk of offending (and I know that you are understanding about this) I wish people would get over themselves about Halloween and let the kids enjoy it. IT'S FUN.

  2. Hi Paige,

    I have no problem with kids having fun and I don't dislike Hallowe'en simply because it's from the States (some very good stuff comes from the States), but I don't want to see our own traditions disappear. In some ways, the 'village' nature of our planet is fantastic, but I wouldn't want to see humanity all becoming the same. I'm not by any means a nationalist, (and I hated history at school LOL), but I have grown to understand that our roots make us who we are and help to shape our identity. Britain has a long, rich, colourful (and sometimes shameful) past and I think we need to hold on to it to retain our true identity.

    I'm sure that there are people who refuse to join in with stuff simply because it originated in the USA, but I'm not one of them. And I have no objection to 'ethnic monority' festivals and celebrations being observed in UK. Watch out for the post later today. But I do think we are in danger of becoming a mini-USA in ways that are not true of us becoming a mini-India or Pakistan or China or Poland, simply because our media is so dominated by programmes and music from the States and those things have a powerful influence on culture.

    I know that you understand because you love to travel. You appreciate the cultures you are visiting. I'm guessing that Peru would have been a little disappointing if it had looked and felt just like home.

    Absolutely no offence taken or intended (and I love to watch some of the American programmes and films). I also love to read your blog, which is why it's on my sidebar :)

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  4. No offense taken at all. In fact, I COMPLETELY agree with everything in your comment. It's funny because I've had this conversation (almost verbatim to some of the things you said above) with the Bear and he agrees. I love my heritage too (if you can call it that) because there are so many wonderful things about my life that would never been if I weren't American. I also think that American culture should stay within the States completely. I detest the effect that the US has had on the world. Passionately detest it. Japan, anyone?

    I absolutely adore British culture (the real thing, not the watered-down bits) and I want it to stay alive. I love the people here (apart from maybe the people in the MK Sainsbury's - those people are just mean). You're absolutely right that I want the world to remain culturally segmented. I know that we can learn from each other, but, frankly, I don't want that. I'd rather be able to experience unspoilt REAL.

    So I'm sorry if I sounded offended at you particularly. You just have no idea what a hard time the world gives Americans and the prejudice that comes from just being born there. Most people are okay face to face but I had a Spanish friend tell me that people in Spain wouldn't celebrate Halloween JUST BECAUSE it was from the US. I think that is annoying. Everything can coexist and I don't by any means think celebrating new cultural traditions should replace your own.

    In short, we agree and I'm bitter about being American. LOL.

    I wish we had a forum to discuss this other than our blogs. I try to keep anger out of my blog if I can help it.

    Sorry for the epic comment. This is a good subject.

    I like reading your blog, too. I'm here practically every day. :)

  5. Actually the practices of Halloween was brought to the US from Ireland by Irish immigrants in the 1800's.The practice of having a Christmas tree was brought to the US by German immigrants.

    Almost all of our customs originated in Europe, as part of the traditions of the immigrants who came to this country in the 1800's.