Monday, 1 November 2010

Lord Of The Fires.

Thoughts following reminiscent conversations with friends.

When we were young Halloween night held a wildness to it, a lawlessness that shook the trees and sent an unruly wind snapping at our heels, a dark and sinister sky closing in like a cloak, some looming spectre just beyond the gloom.
For weeks it was building. And it was the bonfires that did it.

For in the months leading up to this most wicked of nights, in suburban Dublin every housing estate became a military-like scene of organisation and strategy, of planning and plotting.
Us against Them.
For there is only so much wood to be had in a given area.
Who would get it first?

We would start by asking parents and neighbours, knocking on doors and begging for any old bits of furniture that was no longer needed, anything wooden that could be burned was taken. Then we moved further afield, knowing the estates that had grown older, the children now moved away, or the houses that always had a yard full of junk out the back just waiting to be pilfered. And in someone's garden or yard nearby we would build our stash, accumulating a growing pile that needed guarding and protecting from poachers!

It was gang warfare. And we meant business...

I remember so many standoffs between gangs of children from neighbouring estates that the rest of the year we got on fine with, and some we didn't. We found ourselves face to face with gangs who were much more used to confrontational behaviour but we always amazed ourselves at our own newfound tenaciousness!

No one was going to take our fire!

And the satisfaction when the day came and we built our fire in the field at the end of the road. Dads passing on their expertise on bonfire building, the whole road coming out to lend a hand.

Hands down best costume last night!
And then home we went for colcannon with money hidden inside it, and brack with a ring in it, for our homemade costumes made out of old clothes and a mask, or if you were lucky like us and had a mother who sewed, something more elaborate.

Snap Apple!
And there was Snap-apple and Bobbing-for-apples to be played, and then off we went into that dark and scary night, knocking on doors with a chorus of "ANY APPLES OR NUTS?" And that is all we got!!

Bobbing for apples!
Coming home at the end of our journey we emptied our bags on the floor, sure there were one or two sweets lurking somewhere in amongst the mountain of nuts, and maybe even a 50p! And we were the lucky ones, because our mum made TOFFEE APPLES, so we were always sure of callers in their dozens, eager to hunt down whatever sugar they could.

And at the end of the night we had the bonfire to look forward to, and oh! how wonderful and marvelous that was. Creatures looming out of the darkness, voices we knew but faces unrecognisable, and everyone riding on a wave of chilling thrills that pushed the energy of the night somewhere into another realm of danger, of electrifying spookiness, rousing us like no other.

To this day a most very favourite night of mine!

What did you do?


Anonymous said...

we had a Halloween party last night and i was shocked to find that most aussies lack a clear understanding of what it actually is. first, every single one of them thought it was american in origin. oh! no! my dears. notso! said i. when i told them of how i used to celebrate with hayrides (because after the harvest there's just so much) and bonfires, bobbing for apples and homemade apple cider, ghouls and screams and good natured, but spirited nonetheless, taunting... ahhhhh! we get it. and then i taught them the secret to getting the apple on the first bob ;)

we are both country girls, methinks (at heart atleast)! wild haired girls with scratched up mosquito bitten legs, soggy toes and sunkissed freckled cheeks. am i right?

Ciara Brehony said...

Absolutely right, Cyndi, I think we are!

And although the Irish like to lay claim to the origins of the festive celebration that is Halloween as we know it now, almost every tradition would have had their own version of a harvest celebration. I think we just got carried away with the ghosts and ghouls take on it!!

MissKris said...

Oooooooooh...bonfires! And goblins! And apples! And...well, just everything about Halloween is magical, isn't it? What a wonderful celebration you had!

Poetry24 said...

Our daughter had a houseful. Wheeling, spinning children, in and out, with torches and hands, sticky from quickly grabbed food. Grown-ups, huddled around the pumpkin lanterns, cupping hot drinks in their hands and musing over the wonders of being a child.

CJ Kennedy said...

I can feel the excitement leading up to your Halloween. Wonderful blog post.

When I was a young girl, the excitment was tangible, but didn't revolve around bonfires. We were concerned with costumes, carving our Jack O'Lantern, and candy. The night before Halloween was Cabbage Night in my area or Mischief Night. running wild in the neighborhood tossing eggs at houses, smashing pumpkins, cutting closelines and soaping car windows. Hurling rolls of toilet paper high up into the trees in front yards. And hoping not to get caught! Halloween was roaming through the streets, ringing doorbells and shouting "Trick or Treat" and getting candy, or homemade treats like popcorn balls. We might also be invited in for a doughnut and cider. At Halloween parties we bobbed for apples or tried to bite doughnuts suspended from string. Along with ghost stories and trying to scare each other silly.

Stephanie V said...

I'll just bask in the warmth of your fire.

If Halloween were like that here, I know I would like it better. Even when there is the innocence of the little ones in their princess and pirate costumes, it's all about filling the swag bag.

Ciara Brehony said...

Kris, it truly was magical!

Martin, so do you get to celebrate Halloween AND bonfire night on Friday? Lucky ducks!

CJ, sounds like you were (the best kind of) right little hooligans!! But you have reminded me of egg throwing and loo roll escapades that came in to play when we were hitting our teens! Thank you!

Stephanie, it's no longer quite like that here now either. Our seven year old commented that they "went to an 'old person's' house and they gave us apples and nuts!" It's really is all about the goodie bags, which is why I am determined to keep up the traditional dinner and games for my children!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

My husband creates a haunted "tableau" under our magnolia tree, complete with music and fog. All the children, and their parents as well, seem to love it. We also have Howloween in our neighborhood. People take their dogs trick or treating for dog biscuits. You put a special sign in your front garden if you will be participating, and it's so much fun to hand these dressed-up dogs their treat. They leave crunching their biscuits, a bit confused about what's going on, but happy to be a part of it anyway. Edward stays home to greet everyone.

Bonfires sound so much fun!

Charlie and Caroline said...

As ever, this is a brilliant post. I remember the aggressive electricity of Guy Fawkes' when we were young, but I don't remember Halloween at all. I am not sure that we -as a family- have quite figured out what to do with Halloween yet; we want to so something but we are not sure what that should be. x

Emma said...

Yes, I remember them as wild and lawless nights (from a child's perspective): dressing as witches, ghouls and goblins; finding money and talismans in our dinner; eating as many sweets as we wanted; setting fire to a 30 foot pile of wood that we had been collecting for weeks. I love the magic of it all.

O'Daly John said...

A piece of Irish culture that I really don't know. Here, it's not something popular. Thanks for sharing this !

Gray said...

I miss the bonfires back home. Here you get them but only for certain occaisons and since Halloween here is so new thats not really the thing. I miss like crazy guy fawkes night. An excuse to eat sausages and burn things. Hmmm. On the 11th here there have a lantern festival where the kids make paper lanterns and then walk through the streets singing lantern songs. It can be fun but lets be honest sometimes its just more of a nightmare.
Thanks for sharing the photos... =)

Elaine Prunty said...

This post is the closest i've got to celebrating halloween this year, st brigid had me intensely enthralled and we worked the entire weekend installing her. At six o'clock on sunday i found myself unloading the car with tools and begging some of my neighbours (out of earshot of their children ) NOT to call as i had NOTHING......not even a potato !!! i swore i'd make it up next year....( and yes i did get a potatoe once ! and horror of horrors once my bag of goodies was grabbed off me , never to be seen again!

looks like real fun at yours....i love ET'S little finger.

Gemma Mortlock said...

Hi Cyndi
I just love your blog it makes me want to jump straight into yor life!
Beautiful photos the bonfire looked fun :D

Rebecca S. said...

The most fun to be had this Halloween seemed to be at my youngest daughter's school. They played spooky games, invented ghost stories and told them in the dark with a flashlight and then a dance, or as we call it, a sock hop, in the gymnasium with Halloween themed music. My daughter came home exhausted to the point of tears, but full of "Oh Mom, but it was so much FUN!" Halloween night seemed a little lame after that.
People here like to decorate their houses and we do too. I wish I knew what your favourite dishes actually are made of!
I've never been to a Halloween bonfire, but it certainly sounds like a great way to rally the neighbourhood children!