Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Start of the Festive Season

One of the benefits/sacrifices (depending on your viewpoint) of living in Saudi Arabia is that traditional Western festivals are not observed (well, not officially anyway).

:-) Avoiding Halloween
I hate Halloween, always have done. Actually that's not true; I have a dim recollection of quite liking it as a child, and have fond memories of Halloween parties round at a friend's house where we did all the old-fashioned stuff like bobbing for apples and using tomato ketchup for blood. Since the onset of adulthood though I'd rather switch off all the lights, lock my doors and windows and hide under the bed than take part.

"Ha! Scared of monsters are you Chris?" I hear you scoff.

Well in a way, yes, although not the kind you're probably thinking of. It's the dreaded Trick or Treat isn't it? Well... isn't it? ...or is it just me? My American readers will probably switch off at this point, assuming I'm going off on some mad British rant. After all, they're famous for celebrating Halloween, and Trick or Treat in the U.S. has that "E.T. movie" image associated with it: young children being led up and down the street by Mommy, in costumes they spent months designing, knocking on neighbours' doors to be received by smiling, supportive adults who hand out home-made goodies and reminisce about "their day". What could be wrong with such a wholesome scene?

Well it ain't like that in the UK buddy. My recent Halloween memories are of local gangs of spotty teenagers terrorising the neighbourhood, their costume no more inventive than the Adidas "hoodie" they go shoplifting in, banging on the door to "Trick or Treat" you. The Treat of choice these days being hard cash, and the Trick you get for non-compliance? Eggs thrown at your front windows -- if you're lucky! They should try knocking on Michael Myers' front door; John Carpenter's "Halloween" is one of the best horror films of all time and the one positive thing I can recommend about the festival.

Yesterday was the best Halloween of my adult life: it was just an ordinary day.

:-( Missing Guy Fawkes' night
Hot on the heels of Halloween comes Bonfire Night, on November 5th. This time my fond childhood memories of Bonfire Night parties didn't fade as I grew up. Whether a private get-together in someone's back garden to let off a modest box of shop-bought fireworks, or an organised display with hundreds of paying spectators, sometimes even set to music (the fireworks, not the spectators), Bonfire Night memories are full of the heat from the flames, choosing where to stand so that the wind doesn't blow all the smoke your way (which never works), jacket potatoes, the smell of gunpowder, rain, gloves, sparklers, hot toddies, torches (flashlights), woolly hats & scarves, wellington boots, mud, and the "Ooh"s and "Aah"s of the crowd as rockets explode in the sky.

It looks like we're going to miss this too this year, although I have heard the odd rumour about an underground party being organised; ...not literally... that would be silly (and quite dangerous). You know what I mean.

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