Monday 9 November 2020

November memories

"Remember, remember the 5th of November". This was an oft quoted chant from my childhood.

I learned later, much later... that it was to do with a historic gunpowder plot that went awry. Historic, in that it was a failed assassination attempt in 1605, nearly 400 years ago! And historic, as far as I was concerned, as it seems to have nothing to do with our celebration of an annual fireworks display. 

There can't be many children who know or understand the significance of what they are celebrating on the 5th November. Or many adults either, come to that! 

We also celebrate the coming of November, or rather the end of October, with fancy dress! I have many happy memories of dressing up and parading round to the neighbours, to perform my party piece and get a handful of monkeynuts, some sweets and if very lucky, a "thruppenny bit"!

 I even subjected my own children to the experience...  

 And Gordon is carrying on that tradition...

Rosie as Elmo
Guess who is the skeleton?

However this event is even older than the Gunpowder plot. 

It is an ancient Celtic tradition when, on this night, magic was said to be about. Hallowe'en, was a night to stay at home, as it was believed that ghosts and ghouls prowled abroad, due a weakening between this world and that of the "spooky".

Alternatively dressing up in strange clothes, to disguise yourself, meant that you could venture out and not be recognised by the roaming spirits. This is a far cry from the "Trick or Treat" experienced by youngsters nowadays. Although this year their trick and treating was curtailed by the covid restrictions. Covid, an unseen force, reminiscent of what kept our fearful, pagan forefathers at home.

 So many of the festivals we celebrate now have nothing to do with the original event. Easter seems to be about chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies and Christmas is more about presents and turkey stuffing. Not decrying these traditions just flagging up that they are not part of the Christian story, as I remember it from my Sunday School days. 

 Even the turkey is relatively new, traditionally speaking, from when we imported it from across the pond, as we did the tricking and treating! However we haven't imported America's Thanksgiving Day from across the pond. How could we when it is celebrating their freedom from our oppression. 

It is held on the fourth Thursday in November and the traditional meal is... you guessed it... turkey. 

 We do however have a Harvest Thanksgiving tradition when we celebrate the abundance of what our annual crop has brought and share our surplus with the less fortunate. 

I remember this fondly and vividly from attending church as a child when the usual, pristine altar was covered in food, and the aroma of the church was one of fruit and veg. The display is still one I treasure, as was the activity that followed the church service. This was when the Sunday school children were given boxes of groceries to deliver to various, housebound members of the church. It always took all day as everyone we visited, invited us in, wanting us to stay a while...

 I also remember wearing mittens, that were tied together with elastic, threaded through my jacket sleeves so that I wouldn't lose them. Seemingly losing mittens was a habit of mine! 

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday and this Wednesday, the 11th of November, is Armistice Day. These days are inexticably linked to remembering past times. Not as celebratory occasions that have changed their meaning over the years, but to hold on to the necessary memory of loss and sacrifice. This year, more than any other, we need to be grateful for what we have, for what others have done for us and to never allow that memory to fade or to be altered by the passage of time. 

Teaching our children the real meaning of what we hold dear is perhaps the greatest gift we can give them. Whether it is as America welcomes a new era, with a different President or whether it is as we honour a past time, with different values.  

 November is the month of remembering to be grateful.