‘REMEMBER remember the fifth of November’ I muttered in earshot of Jacky’s dad this morning as I poured myself a coffee.
“Por que?” (Why?) he asked.
Oh, um… because it’s Guy Fawkes night in England.
“What is Guy Fawkes?” he asked pressing further.
Oh god, I thought. How on earth, after criticizing Mexico’s bizarre behavior in celebrating a national ‘Day of the Dead’, can I describe this?
I ended up giving it to him straight.
“There was this man, centuries ago, who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He got caught, and was burned at the stake on a pyre.”
Cue bizarre look from my adopted father figure which hints of shock, surprise and confusion in equal measure.
“We celebrate it every year by building bonfires and throwing a ‘Guy’ effigy… onto the fire.”
Cue further raising of eyebrows.
“But we do let off fireworks too, which are nice…”
“Ah, si si…” he adds.
I think that little dit was lost in translation and he now thinks England is a country of sadistic Satan-worshipping weirdos.
Oh well. On reflection our acts on November 5th are pretty strange when you actually sit down and think about it.
We celebrate the murder of someone by re-enacting it thousands of times in one day across the whole breadth of the country.
And it’s a real family event.
Here in Mexico Halloween and the days that follow are a big deal.
It’s actually a three-day festival centred around remembering and celebrating the lives of those that have been lost in time.
Of course there is Halloween on October 31st, but there’s also the ‘Day of the Dead Children’ on November 1st, and the ‘Day of the Dead’ on November 2nd which is a national bank holiday.
Jacky told me it’s one of the most traditional festivals in Mexico.
Everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE you go there are displays marking the occasion.
You go to a supermarket and there, next to the traditional Halloween costumes, sweets and devil forks, are shrines complete with brightly-coloured flowers, lit candles, and food offerings to the gods.
‘Pan de Muerta’ (cake of death) is also sold all over the place.
I’m not sure what ‘death’ tastes like, but these things are good.
|Dun dun da... cake of death!!!|
This week I've also been practicing my ‘idiot abroad’ skills.
For example, we’re in town and I’m looking for a cashpoint.
I see a sign stating ‘banco’ and amble off to get some money.
It’s only when we’re approaching the building that Jacky starts laughing at me.
“You won’t get money here,” she tells me grinning.
“They’ll take something from you, but they won’t give you money.”
Of course it’s a ‘banco de sangre’ or, in English, a ‘blood bank’.
Hmmmm… that could have been weird…