Things that go bump…. and bang in the night
So here we are at that very cosy and twilight-filled time of the year. The afternoons are getting darker with the clocks changing, the rusty leaves continue to tumble and flutter down, and it’s half-term for the kids, which means we’re into autumn properly now. It also marks the arrival of 2 great events for families: Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes Night!
Hallowe’en is celebrated around the world in different ways including as Day of the Dead in Mexico, as the Christian festival of All Soul’s Day, and as the more familiar pumpkin-filled festival. Kids have always dressed up in ghostly and witch-inspired costumes, but Hallowe’en has really grown in the last 10 years, adopted and celebrated in the North American style. Hampstead is a great place to look out for glowing pumpkins (with some quite impressive carving!), excellent costumes and of course trick or treating! I’m sure plenty of you will be out with your little witches and wizards this weekend, but I thought I’d share with you some other ideas to enjoy locally.
First up, head to the Adventure Playground at Hampstead Heath on Friday 30th October where they’re planning a fancy dress competition, games and an art competition from 2:30pm to 4pm. It is for over fives only and under eights must be accompanied by an adult. Please bring some food to share. Tel: 020 7482 2116 for more information.
If you fancy getting into the Hallowe’en spirit with some spooky animal friends, how about Boo at the Zoo? Get to know more about amazing spiders in their unique walk-through spider forest, have fun with arts and crafts in the Bat Cave (Batman not guaranteed) and pop into their Owl Emporium to learn how owls use their special, “magic” powers. The Hallowe’en events will run from Saturday 24th October to Sunday 1st November, 11am – 4pm. Events are free after you have paid entry to the Zoo.
And once the celebrations are over and you’re stuck with a sad-looking pumpkin and a tonne of pumpkin flesh? I think the Pumpkin Rescue Festival is an awesome idea, encouraging people to cook and recycle their pumpkins. Their goal is to stop 3.5 tonnes of food being wasted (the same as the weight of three small cars). The main event is over in Islington, but if you want to recycle your pumpkin, you can head to our nearest composting drop-off point at Camley Street National Park (just near King’s Cross) on 4th November from 11am to 1pm (and why not combine it with a visit to the beautiful nature reserve there?)
So once we have eaten pumpkin every day for a week, what then? Well, the celebrations aren’t over yet, as we get together for Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire or Firework Night) on 5th November. For those of you new to the UK, this is a celebration of a historical event from 1605 when Guy Fawkes was arrested for trying to blow up Parliament and kill the King. The festivities were meant to celebrate the survival of King James I but most of us associate it with Guy Fawkes himself. We even have a little rhyme which kids learn in school:
Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I see of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Locally, I have 3 recommendations for watching the fireworks. There’s a big display every year at nearby Alexandra Palace on 7th November, which is pretty bang-tastic, as well as having great views over London. They suggest the lower fields are best for families to keep warm by the fire and watch the display. 8pm start for the fireworks (check website for details and costs, bookable in advance).
Alternatively, why not head to Primrose Hill or even better Parliament Hill (where allegedly Guy Fawkes was hoping to watch his plan come to fruition, which is why it’s called Parliament Hill) on 14th November, where you can get a brilliant view of the fireworks happening on the river to celebrate the Lord Mayor’s Show (events also during the day in central London). The fireworks start at 5.15pm and you should be able to see them at the top of each hill, as long as the weather is clear.
So despite the gathering darkness of the coming days, enjoy these fun-filled family festivities. We would love to see your pictures if you make it to these events: do share them!
Victoria Rennoldson of Perfect Cuppa English was born and grew up in north west London; she currently lives in West Hampstead with her family.
She offers English language, culture and orientation programmes including walking tours to get to know the local area.