Thursday, 30 October 2008

Now and Then or Then and Now!

I answered the bell of my front door at about 9.30 pm last night to be confronted with a guy, certainly not a child, standing on the step wearing a hideous mask on his face. I rather jumped at the unexpected sight of him and was so glad that both my son and husband were not too far behind me. I courteously declined a 'trick or treat' at which point he walked away and took off his mask and walked up the street.

I got to thinking how this Halloween thing has come from America and become big retail business in recent years. Whole areas of grocery stores taken over with hideous costumes and anything to do with witches and the like.

It took me back to October 31st when I was a young child. We did not celebrate All Hallowes Eve, this being a night of the supernatural, and the occult side at that when witches and evil spirits were believed to be roaming freely. What we did have was 'duck apple night' where parents filled a large container with apples and the only way to get one was to duck for it with ones hands behind ones back. We also had apples hanging on string from some high beam and again had to eat them with hands behind backs. Sometimes there were home made toffee apples. It was soon after the main apple harvest season so I guess apples were more plentiful.

Continuing the picture of then and now took me to Guy Fawkes night which is celebrated here on 5th November in rememberance of the foiled Gunpowder plot to blow up parliament in 1605. Some Catholics led by Guy Fawkes were out to murder King James I.

Today there are very few private bonfires and people go to hugely organised bonfires and watch masses of very sophisticated fireworks where 'health and safety' play a huge part. Added to that there are fireworks being set off every night for some time before this event and well afterwards with the odd ones going off right into the New Year or later.

Wind back to my childhood. Just about every street had a bonfire in the middle of the road (very few cars around then) and the only fireworks would be maybe a small catherine wheel or rocket and maybe a couple of penny 'bangers'. Mostly we had hand held Sparklers. Children would build a 'guy' by stuffing old clothes with straw and he would be taken around the street where neighbours would hand out small change with which we would buy fireworks. What we did enjoy very much were the potatoes that we would roast in the fire. No baking foil then, just a potatoe shoved in the fire. If the fire got too hot it was not unknown for a window pain to shatter and the houses nearest to the fire would be showing blistered and peeling paint on the front door the next morning. Lots of innocent fun and I was too young to wonder what happened about the paint. I'm sure there were complaints but childhood amnesia is a good thing.

Ending this little tome brings me to an interesting conversation I had recently with a 23 year old friend. She is a bright third year medical student and this conversation brought home to me how little our young people are aware of our recent past.

Some of the young people in our house church were talking about things one had to go without when camping. When I said that we did not have central heating when I was young, one 35 year old asssumed that we must have heated the home with an electric fire. She could not believe it when I said that we did not have electricity, the only heat was from a coal fire. We discussed some more of the things that we did not have, during and just after the war, and when I explained that we had to cut newspaper into squares for lavatory paper, my 23 year old friend very seriously said, "Why didn't you use kitchen roll (paper kitchen towels)". She was serious.

Things have changed so rapidly in my lifetime that one forgets that young people of today have only ever known, and take for granted the little luxuries of life. I guess my grandparents would have felt the same about my generation.

Which brings me to the big '0' birthday that is coming up - more in next post - this one was just a little extra that I have shoved in!


Elizabethd said...

You are so right about the perceptions of the young. I talk about having no such thing as washing up liquid, no dish washer (WHAT??!), no Television etc, and the young are amazed. These things just werent available after the War.

Willow said...

I used to teach US History and I always required my students to do an interview with someone who had lived through America's Great Depression. I hoped the 16 yos would see that their lives were so very easy compared to the older people. Now I think it would be good to keep those interviews and ones with people who lived throught WWII and the early 1950s and make sure that young people read them.

Penless Thoughts said...

Interesting!!! We called it "dunking" for apples and it was always a part of a Halloween party.

Anonymous said...

Here a lot of the older Lancs ladies were talking about Mischief Night on the 4th November and how no one bothers much now only going to big firework displays on the 5th.

I lived a lot with my grandmother, -the electricity was a tad eratic so we would go to bed early with a candle and book.

A few years ago when we lived on a Welsh mountain the electricity went. My thought process was as follows: ok no computer, I'll watch TV, ok no TV, I'll boil the kettle, ok no kettle, I'll do the laundry, ok no washing machine I'll sew, ok no sewing machine...rock back and forth. Hubby could see me stoppping and turning on the spot and stop again and turn and was doubled over. I think we forget how much we rely on electricity.

Barbara said...

I remember the Guy Fawkes evening when I stayed in Cambridge, more than 30 years ago. Then my landlady warned me not to go out, saying it was too loud outside ;-)! But of course I went despite her advice. And finally it wasn't so noisy...we are used to this as we celebrate our National Day with big fireworks too. Oh this "now and then or then and now"...there are a lot of stories to tell...and our children like to listen to it, as I like to listen to the ones of my MIL (who soon will be 95).
Have a good week!

Sara said...

Halloween is HUGE here and it gets bigger every year. I don't enjoy it.

It is interesting though, how ancient customs and beliefs from centuries ago have morphed into what we have today.

My DH taught high school for many years and he would tell his students about what life was like just 100 years ago or even further back. Half the time they did not believe him...they could not imagine it.

Betty said...

Neither do we celebrate Halloween....I want no part of it....

How would young people and even older people survive today without so many things and conveniences they are accustomed to having.....I think I could....we may have the opportunity at some point to find out.....

Mmm said...

I find it remarkable how halloween has taken off in teh the UK too now. It certainly wasn't that way when I lived there. Yet another commercialized, Hallmark driven 'holiday'. Personally, I don't like Halloween at all. kids running around, demanding candy and decorations celebrating the macabre is not my cup of tea at all.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

So interesting, Barbara. And back in Texas, it was "bobbing for apples".