Lost Halloweens

Halloween in Northern Ireland is unique compared to the rest of the UK. It comes with its own unique traditions, and we even got the week off for half term.

For example, after tea, usually hot dogs and monkey nuts, there is apple pie for pudding, in which would be a 10p piece wrapped in greaseproof paper. It was exciting to see which of us would get the 10p (which later became 20p, on inflation- if my maths is correct, we should be up to £1 now for inflation)… if it was you. The winner was often not terribly gracious about it (and, I might add, this was not confined to the children *cough* Dad *cough* ), so eventually, there was a coin for each of us. I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed when I discovered a coin in mine only to discover everyone else had one too, but such is sibling life.

After that would be bobbing for apples, and/ or the hanging apples game. I am starting to think Halloween was originated by the apple industry.

Bonfire night isn’t a thing in Northern Ireland- at least not November 5th, bonfires are lit at other times of the year when the heat is less needed- but fireworks do form a big part of the Halloween celebrations. The only problem was, the general public was banned from buying fireworks until 1996- even now you need a licence to buy them (I do not know the exact reason for the ban, but I suspect it may have been due to the fact openly selling gunpowder at that particular time was not the wisest idea). The solution to that was indoor fireworks, which were an entertaining enough way to spend an evening. We’d take it in turns to choose the one we want and dad would light it. From what I remember, most of them were pill-shaped things which turned into carbon snakes.

Trick or Treating wasn’t really something we did when I was younger, they we did often have some kind of scary mask, except one year when we dressed as ghosts to scare dad when he came back from work. It kind of came in when I was a teenager, but you did sometimes get kids coming round asking for money singing

Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny
A ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny
Then God bless you

which Wikipedia tells me is in fact an American Christmas Carol. Still, can’t fault them for trying. What was puzzling was the chancers (usually 13-14 year old boys) who’d come round about ten days too early without a costume.

Public fireworks displays were allowed, so on the Saturday nearest halloween, we’d go off to the Seapark in Holywood to watch the fireworks there and enjoy the heat of the massive bonfire they put up there. Later, when the ban was lifted, my dad would buy a big box of fireworks and we’d set them all off in the garden. The evenings of the two weeks prior to Halloween would be punctuation by random screams and bangs as people set their fireworks off as and when they got them. They were supposed to stop at 11PM, but they’d go on all night as people used it to justify a party.

And then the next day, some would put their Christmas decorations up…

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