As far as Juliette Burton is concerned, Halloween can do one. Bring on the oohs, ahhs and romance of Bonfire night.
I’m not a fan of Halloween. I LOVE Bonfire night.
There, I said it! You can hate me if you like. Actually, please don’t. I like you too much.
Let me explain.
Halloween is about being scared. I hate being scared. Why is that fun? My overactive imagination means that still, as a fully grown woman, watching even a fairly tame horror movie will set me on edge for days afterwards: unable to sleep and terrified by every unexpected noise or shadow.
As a child I never once went trick or treating (or guising for my Scottish friends). We lived on a farm with no neighbours for miles around. There was fairly little point in even putting on that witch’s hat or carving a pumpkin that no one else would see apart from my mum, dad and sister. And the cows. Cows that never once complimented me on my carving skills. Bloody cows.
But BONFIRE NIGHT. That I can really get on board with. I adore 5 November.
Bonfire night is quite literally AWESOME. Fireworks are awe-inspiring. Hot chocolate. Fire. Community. Romance. Festivity. The ooohs and aaahs – the wonder and spectacle of being alive.
I don’t know how fireworks, er, work and I don’t really want to know. I like the mystery. For days afterwards it strikes me how boring the night sky looks without crackles and sparkles and zooming blazes.
The words! Those glorious, zinging, onomatopoeic words! Frolicking, fun-to-say words fizzing around in my mouth: crackle, sparkle, fizz, burning, spinning, wheeling, rocket, zipping, zooming. The letter Z never had a better holiday.
“Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was ooh-ing and aah-ing at the explosions crackling above us or at the hero standing beside me, my dad.”
And then there’s the cuddles, the warmth, the family time.
I’m not massively close to my dad. He’s a farmer: practical and down to earth. I’m a writer, performer, comedy actress; a dreamer. Our worlds very rarely meet. He doesn’t go to the theatre, festivals or comedy clubs. I don’t go corn carting or to cattle shows. Even as a kid my passion for The Muppets, Shakespeare and Monty Python didn’t really complement his passion for grain prices, feeding up and mucking out.
But Bonfire night was our time to shine.
Dad would pop us in his car, after Mum had tucked us up in our mittens, scarves and earmuffs; he’d walk me from the car across the crowded field, help me get myself a hot chocolate. He’d calmly place a strong hand on my shoulder as I cuddled into his tree-trunk legs. We’d both stare up into the sparkling jet-black sky. And for once our eye-lines matched. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was ooh-ing and aah-ing at the explosions crackling above us or at the hero standing beside me, my dad.
Twice in my life 5 November has involved hospital admittances and also, a different twice in my life, a moving date. I moved into a new home in 2008 when the sky was sparkling and in 2010. In 2000 I went into my very first psychiatric ward, and in 2002 it was the date my three months of being sectioned under the Mental Health Act ended. I remember staring into the endless stars and manmade sparkles as I adjusted my perspective on my space in the world.
“But Juliette!” I hear you well-educated, history-loving readers say. “Isn’t the fifth of November about remembering how gunpowder, treason and plot failed? Isn’t it to remind us that we should never rebel against the powers that be?”
To you, dear reader, I say every holiday can mean to us what we want it to mean. December 25: a celebration of Jesus? Or a celebration of love and peace and goodwill to all men? Is Thanksgiving a celebration of America? Of giving thanks? Or just another day if you are in no way affiliated with the US? Is 31 December a celebration of an old year passing and a new year beginning? Or a chance to get rat-arsed? Or just another day because you refuse to have time defined by a Gregorian calendar and time isn’t even linear anyway?
To me, 5 November reminds me that rebellion is possible and revolution is longed for. The establishment back in 1605 were so scared by Guy Fawkes and his gunpowder plot that they created a national tradition to remind people never to try that again. And I thank them for that. Because now every year I’m reminded that we can all fight our own rebellious acts, that others have before me and others will for years to come, whether rebellion against the establishment, their families or their place in society.2549 Views
Juliette Burton is a docu-comedian, actor, writer, thinker, dreamer, doer and person. She has a history of mental health problems and loves The Muppets. These two things are in no way linked.