Sunday, October 11, 2020

Creeper and Pumpkin

Olga and I took a long walk around the neighborhood yesterday morning, and went to check out the Virginia creeper vines on a corner not too far from our flat. I knew they'd probably be changing color by now, and sure enough, they're a wall of red. Olga dutifully posed while I took some shots.

We're seeing a few more changing leaves, too -- the trees in Fortune Green are beginning to go yellow, and the fruit tree down our street is orangey-pink. In another week or so we'll be at peak leaf time, I suspect.

Olga and I also walked through the cemetery twice yesterday, in morning and afternoon. As often as we go to the cemetery, I'm not sure I've ever been there two times in one day. It seemed like a very Halloweenish thing to do.

At Waitrose, there's a big display of Halloween pumpkins. I've been told that Halloween is primarily a recent American import to the UK, based (ironically) on pagan traditions that originated in the ancient British isles. But I went down an Internet rabbit hole this morning after reading this column, which makes the point that UK Halloween traditions are alive and well -- just not necessarily the cartoonish variety associated with American Halloween. In other words, we Yanks have naturally taken it to commercial extremes, buying loads of candy and inflatable decorations.

I especially enjoyed the comments below the column, where many readers related how they celebrated Halloween as children, mainly -- it seems -- in Ireland and Scotland. For example: "The US import is a recent thing. When I was growing up in Scotland, Hallowe'en followed a more traditional path. We had turnip lanterns, and went door to door 'guisin' (i.e. being in disguise). If invited in, we had to perform a party piece in return for sweets, monkey nuts, or whatever. Hallowe'en parties had the traditional games such as dookin' for apples. All the trick or treat stuff, and pumpkins, is a recent development."

("Monkey nuts" is another name for whole peanuts.)

Also, the UK has Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes Night) just a few nights later, in early November, so that steals some thunder from Halloween. That's when people light bonfires and set off fireworks, while in the United States, if fires occur at all, they tend to happen on Halloween or "Mischief Night" (and tend to be illegal vandalism).

Anyway, Waitrose is sure pushing those pumpkins! I do like a good pumpkin display. It's very autumnal.


Frances said...

Halloween was never a " thing" when my boys were growing up ( now in their early 40s) and certainly not when I was a kid!
Some years ago a group of teens rang on our door, not even dressed up, and said trick or treat.....they wanted money! One of them was showing that he had a knife. A neighbour came up the drive behind them , as they had ripped out some bushes from his garden, and they luckily retreated, not doing any damage to our cars. Police were called and they were obviously " caught" as the next day one of the boys was brought to our door by his father and made to apologise. My husband was rather caught by surprise and muttered something about choosing his friends more wisely.

Unknown said...

Interesting about Halloween and Britain. It was never a thing here but retailers now try to push it hard but it is mostly ignored.

Unknown said...

Two buts in one sentence! Ugly writing. I meant to also say how great is the Virginia creeper, also called mock grape here.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

When I was a boy Halloween was unimportant. The focus was very much on Bonfire Night. It was very special to me and all other children in my village.

Regarding Halloween in modern times, I find the sale of all that plastic shit in supermarkets quite disgusting. Plastic pumpkins, wands, masks and capes are all unnecessary. I would also be happy to criticise the cultivation and transportation of all those orange pumpkins. Such a waste.

gz said...

The Celtic celebrations of the new year on 1 November got hijacked...if people are celebrating anyway, just give it a new name and everyone will be happy!!

That creeper is giving a good show!

Mary said...

Olga should have a career in modeling. The fact that you can get her to pose just about anywhere is pretty amazing.

I grew up in UK (Brit mom/US dad) in the 1950s/early 60s. Never celebrated Halloween back then, just Guy Fawkes Night.

Ursula said...

Before you read this, Steve, you may wish to bring out your violin to provide the sound track for what follows.

When I was little, and in the motherland, on 11th November (St Martin's Day) we used to go out, wrapped up in warm coats, with our lanterns. Early evening - so the candle could shine. Those lanterns so simple I could weep with nostalgia. You held a stick with a home made lamp shade at the end, a candle inside. We'd sing "Laterne, Laterne, Sonne Mond und Sterne . . . " and some ardent wish at the end of the song that OUR light wouldn't go out. Luckily, where I lived at the time (snow galore) there was little wind, only the odd lantern's flicker to induce some trepidation.

Waitrose does indeed provide the most marvellous shapes and colours of the decorative kind to be displayed around the house. The rich colours of harvest and autumn.

Next stop: Thanksgiving. When the Americans steal the English Christmas turkey's thunder. Which is not the only reason I serve goose on 25 Dec.


My life so far said...

The Virginia creeper is beautiful, as is Olga.

You mentioned Fortune Green and it reminded me of something my mum said, her grandparents lived in Golders Green. I looked it up on the map, small world.

Not sure what Halloween will look like here either. I guess we'll see.

Ms. Moon said...

Yesterday when August and I were reading he learned that "scarlet", "crimson", and "ruby" are all words that mean red. He was quite amused at this. Your Virginia creeper is all of them.
It's odd how American holidays can spread everywhere. In Mexico, which already has the beautiful Day of the Dead celebrations, over the years I've seen Halloween growing in scope and popularity immensely. Day of the Dead is still very much celebrated but now, Halloween is right there with it. There are displays in stores and children dress up. It makes me just a tiny bit sad.

Red said...

Halloween has changed greatly. It's been commercialized. Yard decorations and lights are a big deal. Very little trick or treating is done. Malls have taken over entertaining the kids. sound like commercialism?

robin andrea said...

Olga and the Virginia Creeper look beautiful together.
When I was growing up we "celebrated" Mischief Night by ringing doorbells and running. Strange "holiday." Yes, we sure do commercialize everything.

Moving with Mitchell said...

Halloween is not a Spanish holiday, but it has become to trend. Oh well. An expat English couple we know stubborn took their son trick-or-treating every year to the great frustration of their Spanish neighbours. Fortunately, he's now 18 and tricks on his own.

I had forgotten about Virginia Creeper and how glorious it can be in autumn. We had it along a fence in Connecticut.

Edna B said...

Halloween was such good clean fun when I was a child. Things are so different these days. That wall of red leaves is beautiful. Have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

Sharon said...

We yanks tend to take almost everything to an extreme! I remember my mother making treats like popcorn balls, candy apples and cupcakes for trick-or-treaters. Obviously, that would not go over these days. I actually forgot all about dunking for apples. I remember doing that when I was about 10 at a Halloween party. Your post reminded me, I need to get out and get some Halloween photos. I should see if my former neighbor has all this skeletons out yet.

Allison said...

We live in a NORC (naturally occurring retirement community), so between the fact that half the people are still in their summer homes, an abundance of no soliciting signs and zero street lights, we don't get kids. We have lived in neighborhoods where they bused them in, literally, buses. In the past, it's been a lucrative holiday for retailers, but I guess that's over for awhile. American retailers can take the most insignificant holiday and turn it into a retail bonanza.

Linda Sue said...

How did you get Olga to stand so far from you so perfectly??? Amazing feat, The ivy is remarkable to be sure, such a brilliant autumnal photo.
I think that we will turn out lights off this year so that the car loads of children will not come. They do not need that much sugar anyway, and we are old and cranky- I would shove them all into the oven. last year older kids came wearing t-shirts and jeans, then they would change by putting a sheet over them and ask for more. that is the spirit of halloween? Get outa heah!

ellen abbott said...

I've heard peanuts called goobers but never monkey nuts. not just American Halloween has taken over the world but pretty much American culture I think. Not always a good thing.

when we lived in the city some years we got no trick or treaters and some years just a handful. out here in this neighborhood with no young kids no one comes around and no one decorates, not even carved pumpkins. maybe I'll do one this year. haven't for about 10 years.

oh and that virginia creeper. it's a horrible invasive plant here. I spent all summer trying to eradicate it and a few other things off the fence. not sure I succeeded.

Catalyst said...

Love that Virginia Creeper plant. And patient Olga.

Michael said...

That's a great picture of the Halloween pumpkin display. It puts me in a fall festive mood.

The Bug said...

Wow - I didn’t realize how big that Virginia Creeper was until you said Olga was in the picture. Went back & found her & marveled at those vines! Gorgeous!

Steve Reed said...

Frances: I kind of remember that story! I've never heard of trick-or-treaters demanding money. That's definitely NOT an American tradition.

Andrew: Apparently it is also called woodbine and some other things. (Maybe slightly different but related species.)

YP: I agree about all the plastic shit. There's so much ridiculous waste surrounding these holidays -- even Easter, which is sort of the spring equivalent. (Not to mention Christmas!) The carving pumpkins seem relatively harmless -- biodegradable and an activity that kids really do enjoy. In the states the unsold ones get fed to cattle, as I understand it, so they're ultimately not wasted.

GZ: The Celtic traditions weren't hijacked -- they evolved. Given that so many settlers of the USA came from Ireland and Scotland, they brought those traditions with them, and in America, the turnip lanterns became pumpkins and "guisin'" became trick-or-treating. It seems people growing up in modern Ireland and Scotland are still acquainted with Halloween-type traditions, while in England they don't seem very prominent -- overshadowed, perhaps, by Bonfire Night.

Mary: Olga is very obedient. If I tell her to "stay" and walk away, she'll stay. Unless she sees a cat or a squirrel, and then all bets are off.

Ursula: Do people still follow that lantern custom? Are the lanterns now pre-made in China out of toxic plastic?

Lilycedar: Golders Green is right up the road! I often walk up that way. When I mention going to Childs Hill or the Clitterhouse Playing Fields with Olga, that's practically in Golders Green.

Ms Moon: Yeah, it's always sad when local traditions get steamrolled by a dominating culture. I completely understand why some people (YP!) would feel resistant to our Americanized Halloween.

Red: Yeah, these huge yard decorations are such a thing!

Robin: "Mischief Night" is mainly a northern and northeastern phenomenon, I think. I never heard it called that until I moved to New York. In Florida there was no "Mischief Night." (But plenty of mischief!)

Mitchell: I love Virginia Creeper at this time of year. Those Spanish neighbors must have wondered what they were supposed to do with this costumed child ringing their doorbell! LOL

Edna: I think it's still good clean fun for the most part. I agree with YP, though, that we need to stop producing all the plastic garbage that goes with it!

Sharon: Yeah, I remember getting popcorn balls in my trick-or-treat bags. We knew all our neighbors, though, so there was no danger in eating them. I think a lot of parental worry about Halloween treats is all based on urban myths.

Allison: I can't imagine busing them in! LOL! THAT's a little extreme. Although I remember when I was a kid some neighborhoods had a reputation for being a good trick-or-treating spot and other kids would travel there. My mom, of course, never took us. She argued that we needed to stay in our own 'hood!

Linda Sue: Olga will stay put if I tell her to, provided there are no cats or squirrels in the vicinity!

Ellen: Goobers! Now THAT's a Southern expression. I remember learning a Confederate Civil War song in music class in elementary school called "Goober Peas." (Of course, we sang "Dixie" too.) Creeper can definitely become invasive, but at least it's pretty! (And native to North America.)

Catalyst: She is very patient, although sometimes she barks at me when I get out the camera. Out of annoyance, I suspect.

Michael: Doesn't it? I'm thinking I may buy one or two just to put on the porch.

Bug: Yeah, it's a big ol' fence! Always nice to see in the fall.