Cultural Exchange

I’ve learned a lot about Mexico and the country’s history over the last five and a half years. But it’s not a one way conversation. People want to know about my own country and our history, particularly when festivals and celebrations are in the air.

When is Independence Day in Britain, I’m asked. Ummm…we don’t have one. We tended to grant independence rather than gain it. Revolution Day? No, I’m afraid not. We’re far too polite to revolt. Saints days? No, we put those in the bin a long time ago. Day of the Dead? No, nor Halloween. We just put them in the ground, or slide them into the furnace and have a beer. Deed done. Christmas? Oh yes, we have Christmas! The baby Jesus? Goodness me no! It’s all for Father Christmas!

Then I remember, we do have one annual celebration. Should I even mention it though? Well every 5th November we remember a Catholic plot to assassinate the king and his government. Don’t worry, I tell them. We caught them, tortured them, executed them in the most painful way known to man at the time, and celebrate it with bonfires, effigies of Guy Fawkes and fireworks.

And so Catholicism, as a serious rival to the new Protestantism, was extinguished, and those loyal to the Vatican sidelined, discriminated against and excluded from English society. The Protestants are often referred to as Christians, as if an entirely separate religion, akin to chalk and cheese. I point out that they could also be referred to as Reformed Catholics. And that they needn’t worry about discrimination on my part. I think they’re all equally nuts!

But back to the Gunpowder Plot. It was for a long time debated whether the plot could have worked. Whether or not the explosives would have gone off. If the king and parliament could have been killed. A few years ago, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the plot, Top Gear’s Richard Hammond set out to discover what would have happened. The key part, the explosion, is in the video below.

 

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  • Happy belated Bonfire Night! Though it doesn’t mean much to me personally..my other half does celebrate it, along with everyone else around him. Being Mexican-American and knowing that we have a celebration for everything, its a bit weird to see another culture not have even a 1/4 of what we do, though its not necessarily a bad thing. You don’t sound too enthusiastic either way, so I suppose I need not feel bad for you..you’ve probably had enough of celebrations in Mexico so as to last you the rest of your natural life. I am actually heading to the other side of the pond in around 2 months time (Manchester) for what may be a permanent move, so perhaps we shall meet paths some day. My other half was telling me how this year a certain WAYNE Fawkes was being burned to his own effigy…so even though your lot don’t have the number of festivities that we do…I think I may still appreciate what’s there.

    • I don’t think it really means an awful lot to anyone in the UK any more, bar perhaps a few of the more bigoted sort of Brit that you’ll find in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, who’ll revel in any sort of anti Catholic event.

      And yep, I did hear of Rooney Fawkes! After their performances at the World Cup, I think he should have had the rest of the England team join him for a good roasting!

      But yeah. Very few big celebrations in the UK. We have a reasonable number of public holidays. New Years Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Bank Holiday, Spring Bank Holiday, Summer Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Hopefully in 2012 we’ll get another day or two in celebration of the Queen’s 60th year on the throne, like we did in 2002.

      There’s lots of other ‘special days’ but few of them are important in England. Burns Night being a Scottish thing. A lot of people will use St Patricks Day as an excuse for a pint of Guinness. But few people could tell you when St George’s Day is – April 23rd I think. Although I could be wrong!

      • It was in my knowledge that St. George Day was a big holiday in England.

        So, don’t you celebrate your victory over the nazi Germany?, how about one of the multiple victories over the Frenchies (like Waterloo) ? or the English fight against the “Armada Invencible”?… or the Queen’s birthday?, the John Lennon’s birthday?, your only WC Championship or the Wickerman Day’s or something?….you English need some masive Mexican migration to learn how stay in party mode 24/7.

      • Fraid not. St Georges Day isn’t a holiday, although some of the more….nationalistic (?) red top papers have an annual campaign to make it so. But it usually passes without anyone noticing.

        The War – yes. I forgot. Remembrance Sunday. It’s just coming up. Two minutes silence, but it’s always on a Sunday so no holiday. Just lots of poppies for a month or so. And it’s for all wars, not specifically the Nazis. Under no circumstances do we ever mention the war.

        The Queen’s birthday, one of her two annual birthdays anyway, is celebrated by Trooping the Colour. For old ladies and tourists…

  • The strangest question I ever fielded from a Mexican about my country was about the water supply.

    “They put vitamins in the water in Canada don’t they?”

    And of course, every spring someone berates me about hunting baby seals.

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