One of my favourite things to do when travelling is to go to local festivals. I absolutely love seeing towns and cities come to life as residents celebrate local traditions. And for me, the crazier the custom, the better. Over the years I have got soaked in Songkran in Thailand, I’ve watched the Spanish bull run in Pamplona, I’ve been to a Dragon Festival in a village in Wales and I’ve seen Miss Colombia get crowned in Cartagena. For me, it’s the quirkiness and eccentricities of festivals that really show the true spirit of a country.
So now that I’m settled back in the UK it’s made me more conscious of our traditions, some of which I’ve been doing ever since I was a child but had never really thought that much about. For years I thought that everyone called Shrove Tuesday Skipping Day, like we do in my home town of Scarborough!
Take Bonfire Night, for example, it’s an event which commemorates the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes and his chums to blow up the Houses of Parliament on November 5 in 1605. And what better way to celebrate that important historical moment than with bonfires and fireworks?
The event is celebrated in different ways across the country, some more extreme than others. In Lewes, different bonfire societies defy health and safety worriers by marching through the town with burning torches and in Devon they roll flaming tar barrels through the streets. But in my friends’ back garden we just made do with a bonfire and a few fireworks.
For me Bonfire Night always brings back memories of being a kid. Getting home from school and being hurried into wellington boots and so many layers of clothing we could barely move; arriving at the fire and edging closer and closer when our parents weren’t looking in order to feel that glorious glow on our cheeks; watching firework displays which seemed to go on for ages; trying to write my loooong name in sparklers with my cousins and eating sticky toffee apples and sugary candy floss.
And over the years not that much has changed. I may have grown up in some ways, but there will always be the child in me that ‘ooohs’ at the fireworks and gets giddy when I get to hold a sparkler. Because if I’m going to get ridiculously excited about traditions; I may as well start with my own.