I love autumn. I love the cool days and crisp nights; the changing leaves that swirl in the wind whispering their way through the sky. Of course this fall has had none of that. Jeeze, it has been hot as balls these past few weeks. Feels like we may just skip fall and dive head long into winter- though at the rate we are going, it looks like it will be a green one.
Aside from the weather cliches, I love autumn because of all the traditions that go with it. Many of my favorites begin at harvest time, it has become and annual tradition for my husband and I to pick apples at Archibald's Orchard , and pick up a nice fruit wine for Thanksgiving at the same time. We also head on over to Pingles Farm to pick our pumpkin for Halloween- and deck the house out so it looks like a tribute to Vincent Price. And now it is something we do with our son.
Many of the autumn season's customs are historically related. Although there was no Thanksgiving Day holiday in Newfoundland Pre-Confederation, many people celebrated it as part Harvest and it included Halloween. The whole season of Halloween is a little different back home on the Rock. There are at least a half-dozen Halloween-related customs that are unique to Newfoundland, though their roots, like our ancestors, reach back to other places. We just made them our own.
For example, the few days before Halloween and sometimes after it used to be called Mischief Week. Old Newfoundland's children traditionally believed that there are certain kinds of mischief allowed at that time: stuffing sods in chimneys, soaping windows, taking pins from gate hinges, and so on. It in no way resembles the Devils night insanity that sometimes goes on across Canada and the US. Mischief week was just harmless little pranks.
In Trinity Bay North, many people participated in Torch Night, when young men would carry torches around the community in a parade. Torches were made from just about anything: from old boots soaked in fish oil, or barrels of kindling, even old dried-up tar mops; in fact the name Tar Mop Night was used in the White Bay area. And come on, is there anywhere else on the planet that still celebrates Gay Fawkes night besides the UK and Newfoundland?
I miss all that kind of stuff now. Not just because that the weather here in Ontario is all off, but that deep rooted sense of tradition and community is so lacking here. Cripes, some neighborhoods and apartment buildings don’t even allow Halloween. It is kind of sad really. And we are losing it back home too, slowly but surely. I don’t think Tar Mop Night has been seen in about 60 years or more now.
I know some traditions die out for practical reasons- imagine Guy Fawkes night downtown Toronto! The police would show up in Riot gear. Seriously, we need to sit down and look at all those wonderful traditions we had for so many years, and really give some thought to preserving them. If not in practice, definitely with photos and stories: our own recording of our history. These traditions are what make us unique, they are an essential part of that constant internal pull of the island: they draw us together as one. And that my friends, is a beautiful thing.