HALLOWEEN: Petr Bokuvka thinks it's strange that Halloween seems to be on the uptake here. Maybe in Prague and one or two other places. But even it did catch on here, of the handful of theme "holidays" on offer during the year I don't find much to object to with Halloween. It's at least interesting historically. Valentine's Day? Do me a favor.

All Soul's Day is an old European custom. Longer ago still it was called All Hallow's Eve, and the American term "Halloween" evolved from it. Dusicky, the Czech day, is from the same tradition. In each case the premise was the same: that round about the end of October or early November, take your pick, the souls of the dead by pre-arrangement rise up and go walkabout to stretch the limbs and acquaint themselves with how the neighborhood has been getting on the past 12 months. Why should this be? That I will leave to someone else to fill in. But it all probably has a lot to do with autumn fog and clouds of mist and the active imaginations of people in ages past.

But if you think that's odd, you haven't heard of Guy Fawkes Day and Bonfire Night, the peculiar festival of the British Nation. Back when I was grad student in London, I remember once walking along and nearly falling over a pile of old rags and sticks some idiot had left in the middle of a sidewalk. I will admit it had a peculiar shape to it, but it resemled a human figure about as much as a pile of leaves does.

For a human figure is what it was supposed to be: a "guy" - an effigy of some fool called Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up Parliament once and got the hung-drawn-and-quartered version of the Tower of London VIP Tour for his trouble. As I was looking at this pile of garbage, two pimply kids ran up and stuck out their hands and shouted, "penny for the guy!!" This was about the extent of their verbal skills, so when later someone explained the whole thing to me I realized they were asking for money as a reward for their hard work in creating their wonderful effigy of Guy Fawkes. Little hustlers - the cheek! That's about the same as the loutish teenagers who go trick or treating on Halloween dressed as gang bangers, i.e., in their ordinary clothes, the lazy slobs. Put some heart into it, for God's sake.

Which is why I'm glad to hear that the important British Institution of Bonfire Night looks set to enjoy a new burst of energy and creativity. This year, boring old Guy Fawkes effigies are out - and George W. Bush effigies are in! Here's why, according to
This November 5th, burn George W. Bush on your bonfire instead of Guy Fawkes.

Burning Bush is our way of sending a message to America: we don't like your President (sic), we don't like his policies, and we don't want him here!

Too lazy or untalented to make an effigy that would be recognizable as Dubya? Here is help for you (.pdf).

Steve | 20:29 |