One of the things I love about living in Canada is Halloween. It’s a large celebration, most people are happy to get involved and it’s the perfect opportunity to release that inner child.
On the flip side though, Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night) is pretty much unheard of by most Canadians, unless they are of British heritage. I was pleasantly surprised therefore, last October to notice a small poster stating that there would be a Guy Fawkes Night held in the city.
When I mentioned this to friends, I was met with a few blank looks and had to explain the tradition and who Guy Fawkes actually was. “So ... the British celebrate by burning a dummy representing Guy Fawkes on top of a fire? Interesting traditions you guys have!” was one response.
Leading up to the 6 November (the night of the bonfire), I couldn’t help but feel a growing sense of nostalgia and excitement. I was looking forward to my first Guy Fawkes Night in Canada!
I managed to convince two friends to come along and we set off dressed in plenty of warm layers; this is Alberta after all and the temperature was forecast to be -15 degrees!
The evening was hosted by the Alberta St. George of England Society (which I will be honest, I knew nothing about prior to this evening) and the poster boasted a bonfire, fireworks, baked potatoes and hot chocolate, for only a $10 ($CAD) fee per car.
Upon arrival at the venue, one of the local community centres, I was amazed by the number of British accents in attendance. Okay, so I know I am not the only Brit in the city, but I’m no longer accustomed to be surrounded by them; it was a fun experience.
I was impressed to see that the bonfire, prior to being lit was neatly stacked with timbered logs and a couple of almost new wooden pallets. This was the tidiest looking bonfire I had ever seen! Not an old door, sofa or table in sight!
The tidy stack was lit at 7.30pm and although modest in size in comparison to the average British bonfire, it was still greeted with the same enthusiasm.
One hour later, the fire had started to die down and the firework display began. Memories of childhood bonfires came flooding back and I entertained my companions with tales of mushy black peas and mum’s homemade treacle toffee that used to stick to your teeth for the whole evening.
Once the fireworks were over, everyone trudged inside to warm up and collect baked potatoes and hot chocolate.
It was an interesting mix of old and young; British and Canadian accents. As I queued for my baked potato, I heard a teenage boy ask if there was sour cream and chives for his, only to be told quite briskly by the server that this was an English event and that there was plenty of salt and butter on the table!
“Hmmm ...I don’t remember ever having bacon bits for our spuds in England though!” I commented, which was met with a wink and a grin!
All in all it was an enjoyable evening. I can see Guy Fawkes Night in Edmonton becoming a new tradition for me and as many of my Canadian friends that I can drag along.
Only next time, I may just make some treacle toffee to take along with me; where did that recipe go?!