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Stop messing about with the seasons!

Byline: John Avison ,

On the way to our Monday night appointment with destiny - better known as the pub quiz - our merry gang of four met a group of Trick or Treaters.

A couple of girls dressed as witches and a boy in an Edward Munch Scream mask were being shepherded through the darkened streets by a pair of watchful parents.

Bear in mind, Monday was October 30.

Hallowe'en, all Hallow's Evening, was October 31.

This is a fixed date. You can't alter it to suit your other social commitments.

"I'm sorry kids, but we have a supper date with the Smithkins at Number 27 on Spook Night.

"So you either dress up in some scary plastic costume from Woolworths and a mask from the Pound Shop and go out trawling for tooth-rot sweeties tonight, or not at all. Your choice."

It might be worth pointing out that dressing in spooky costumes and doing the trick-or-treat thing is not a British tradition at all. It's American.

In fact, very little of what we think of as traditional is actually traditional.

Christmas trees are a 19th- century import from Germany, though the idea of overwintering greenery in the home (as a place to hide the Spirit of Spring) is as old as the hills, possibly slightly older.

Santa dresses in red because Coca-Cola thought it would be a nice idea.

Christmas stuff started appearing in the shops while we were enjoying the hottest September on record.

This is not to say that we were celebrating Christmas, technically, but the stores' idea was that people who felt the need to buy in their tinsel, mince pies, cards and nuts could do so.

The trick here is to sell to people with short memories.

Now where did I put those crackers I bought in the September heatwave? Can't find them anywhere.

Oh well, I'll just have to buy another lot.

Did you read about the Christmas mince pies that went on sale in some store down South?

They had a sell-by date of November 2.

It's almost as if we want to get to our festivals without the bother of waiting for the calendar to tick over.

I know it's only November, but let's skip boring old Christmas and get straight to Easter.

How about a bit of lamb and a chocolate egg? No problem.

No? How about strawberries and cream then? I know it's not June, but do you honestly think you can't get strawberries and cream in November?

This blurring of the natural seasons and their linked festivals is commercially driven, a product of the secularisation of our lives.

You see very little of it in other cultures.

Eid and Divali, Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah stay pretty much where they're put, and heaven help anyone who tries to shift them because they have a week in Blackpool coming up and it's inconvenient.

What we are trying to tell ourselves, I suppose, is that we are in control of the seasons.

We are masters of every ceremony and festival and holy day.

They are not masters of us.

If you want to sunbathe in winter, or ski in midsummer, you book your flight and off you go.

We have the buying power to change it all, to move it around, to create or demolish or ignore or jettison every truth that linked us to the earth, the past, our faith and our mythology.

Fly yourselves to holidays all over the globe, by all means.

Disrespect the natural seasons and ship in whatever you fancy, from wherever you fancy, whenever you fancy it, and beggar the carbon footprint, whatever that might be.

Play God and mark the time-honoured and elegant celebrations of new life, the harvest, the winter solstice according to the vagaries if your personal social calendar.

Well, it looks to me as though the Earth, bless her, is starting to answer back.

She's slow to anger and very, very patient with her children, but - call me Al Gore if you want - it looks to me as though Mother Earth is starting to get slightly hot under the collar.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Nov 2, 2006
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