British abandoning old traditions in favor of Halloween

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Halloween is big business here now. According to The Observer of London, Britons spend an estimated $228 million a year on Halloween-related items, a tenfold increase from five years ago. Sainsbury’s, one of Britain’s largest supermarket chains, has sold 450,000 pumpkins and 40,000 sets of glow-in-the-dark fangs this year, not to mention items like fake cobwebs and cookies that look like severed fingers. “It’s a very important time for our customers,” said Melanie Etches, a spokeswoman.

But it is still a rude culture shock for a generation of older people whose need for a macabre fall festival was traditionally satisfied by Bonfire Night. That holiday is celebrated by building a fire around a homemade effigy of Guy Fawkes, the Catholic perpetrator of the failed plot to blow up Parliament in 1605, and shouting happily as it burns to a crisp. Fireworks are set off, sausages are eaten, and some people toss effigies of unpopular politicians on the fire for good measure.

But Bonfire Night tends not to be celebrated on Nov. 5, the day the plot was discovered, but on the nearest convenient Saturday. And many local bonfires have been canceled because of new safety regulations — requiring guardrails, fire marshals and the like — that are proving prohibitively expensive to meet.

This withering away of homegrown tradition makes people hate Halloween all the more.

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