Thursday, 31 October 2013


There are a lot of festivals associated with this time of year. But in the fantasy Westcountry of my childhood, the 31st of October was always celebrated as Allantide (or Nos Kalan Gwav in Cornwall but the Cornish always insist on being so Cornish). Every Allantide, every child would be given a large Allan apple to shine and put under their pillow (and possibly eat, I never ate mine, I can't stand apples). 

I suspect that Allantide is just not a very marketable concept. With Allantide, the rules were as strict as if they had been designed by the Chinese Communist Party: one Allan apple per child. No more, no less. No room for market expansion. Allan apples are in season just before Allantide - so parents could literally just pick them off a tree. So when the big supermarkets were picking an Autumn festival to push, Guy Fawkes and Halloween had a distinct advantage. 

Guy Fawkes' Night is good for a market economy. Think of all those dad's old suits that have been stuffed with newspaper and ignited. And fireworks cost a bomb. Fortunately, there are now laws in place to prevent the current generation of British thirteen-year-olds indulging in the time-honoured tradition of letting fireworks off in park bins in memory of the man who tried to blow up the monarchy in 1605. But, what do they do instead? They buy a red plastic trident and demand Haribo from such neighbours as aren't too scared or elderly to open the door at night.

The marketing of Halloween (especially Halloween decorations) is a triumph of the free market so great as to make every anarcho-syndicalist (even the pommophobic ones) want to crawl under the covers and polish an Allan apple. Supermarkets literally sell the unsellable at Halloween.  There must have been a marketing meeting once where the question was asked: What are we going to do with all these giant orange squashes that don't taste of anything?

Pumpkin carving with the NRA
Halloween tat of terrible quality is manufactured in third world factories and then shipped in vast quantities to England where it is brought by parents responding to pester power from children responding to weeks of hype on television. Unlike Xmas decorations (which are usually just about of sufficient quality or expense to be kept in a box in the attic until next year) Halloween decorations are cheap bits of ugly plastic vaguely formed into a bat or spider or ghoulish mask all festooned with fake cobwebs and the only thing that can be done with them once November comes is to throw them all away and start the whole ghastly process again the following year.

I'm approaching what I imagine to be the limit of your patience, so I'll save 'Fancy Dress' until next year.

Oh and... Happy Sauin to my sole reader on the Isle of Man! (Probably Jamie).


  1. Verbal fall out last night when buying large glass red in local Wetherspoons. Female customer next to me said it wasn't Halloween, that was purely American, it was sauin. I said I am not a believer, I hoped people were enjoying themselves. She then told me "Beware Smartmeters, they will kill you with microwave pulses, whilst registering every detail of your life, including which tablets you take." I tried to reassure her that micro waves are so called because they are very very very short. Luckily, I am a humanist, as from her contentious response, I feel sure that I am now cursed by a witch! Happy Allantide! xx

  2. Your sole reader on the Isle of Man31 October 2013 at 17:42

    Agree with all your sentiments about Halloween, although I do have a strong recollection of requisitioning a good collection of rockets at the age of 14.

    Interestingly, I had to look up "Sauin", which, as you say, apparently is Manx Gaelic for the new year, but actually here on the Isle of Man they're quite certain that 31st Oct is called Hop-tu-Naa, and have found every tenuous link possible to claim that all the "traditions" the Americans made up were actually made up by some guy in a pub in Douglas beforehand.

    Here's someone's facebook profile I've copied and pasted, arguing the case (which she has almost certainly copied and pasted from somewhere else)...

    "While 31 October may be known to many as Halloween, any Manx person worth their salt will give a stern look and say the festival in question is Hop-tu-Naa.

    No connection
    This custom of singing around the houses goes back into history, although the turnip lanterns, now irrevocably linked with the practice, only seem to appear about 100 years ago.

    Pumpkins are more traditionally linked with Hallow...een
    With the passing of time and mixing of cultures as "incomers" to the island bring their own customs, things do become rather confused and today many see Halloween and Hop-tu-Naa as one and the same.

    In reality there is no connection. Hop-tu-Naa is really a celebration of "Oie Houney", the original New Year's Eve.

    As such it is a sole reminder of these ancient times and the words Hop-tu-Naa are a corruption of Shogh ta'n Oie, meaning "this is the night".

    However, the Celtic New Year was moved to the secular new year on 1 January, a move still remembered in Scotland where "Hogmanay", from the same root words, is still celebrated."

    1. Very interesting! For some reason all your comments get marked as Spam. I can only imagine this is because Spam is the Isle of Man's main export.