Halloween goblins scaring off Britain's Guy Fawkes

Thu Nov 5, 2009 2:31pm EST
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By Catherine Bosley

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The modern-day ghouls and goblins of Halloween are steadily frightening off a British tradition that stretches back 400 years.

The widely commercial attraction of Halloween trick or treating that is a mainstay of North American life is gaining popularity at the expense of Guy Fawkes celebrations, a night of bonfires and fireworks which commemorate a 1605 Catholic plot to blow up England's Parliament and bring down King James I.

Traditionally, children made an effigy of "Gunpowder Plot" conspirator Guy Fawkes and paraded him down streets, asking passers-by to "spare a penny for the Guy." They would then use the money to buy fireworks and burn the effigy on a bonfire.

Although British municipalities still hold large public fireworks displays, few people say they make effigies or light bonfires in their own gardens these days and are more likely to participate in Halloween festivities.

"It's really shifted to Halloween from Guy Fawkes in the UK," said Robert Fisher, 56, taking a break near his office in central London. "Halloween has really taken off."

As a child Fisher said he never went disguised as a pirate or goblin from house to house to beg for candy, as children in his neighborhood do today.

"That was an American thing."

Critics blame the shift on excessive municipal safety regulations and the commercial exploitation of Halloween.   Continued...

<p>Local bonfire societies parade through the town at the annual Lewes bonfire and procession, Lewes, East Sussex, November 5, 2004. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>