I spent New Year’s Eve 1993 (turning into 1994) in Beirut.
There was much celebration by way of firing sub-machines and sundry death-dealing devices in the air.
I stayed inside my hotel on the seafront that night on the basis that what goes up must come down and that, if people were firing hundreds of bullets vertically up into the air, the last place I would want to be would be under the airborne missiles which would inevitably succumb to the force of gravity.
Tonight, I was reminded of that night in Beirut.
In the erstwhile innocent days of my youth in Britain, we used to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Night on 5th November with firework displays, parties and children begging in the street – a joyful, innocent time when we celebrated an attempt to overthrow the government with high explosives by setting fire to effigies of people (not all of them Guy Fawkes – sometimes politicians).
Then, in 1982, along came Steven Spielberg’s movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which imported the European and American concept of Hallowe’en on 31st October with loads of fireworks, fancy costumes and parties.
The UK had largely ignored Hallowe’en until then. With the impact of Elliott, ET and international marketing, that worldwide commercialised concept soon mostly overwhelmed simple old Guy Fawkes’ Night.
A bit later, along came Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights which lasts for five days sometime between mid-October and mid-November, with fireworks and parties.
So we ended up, the last few years, with about two or three weeks of fireworks going off.
With the advent of COVID-19 this year – and with the UK in various national stages of lockdown – the two weeks of parties have mostly disappeared or been scaled-down dramatically. But we have had erratic firework outbreaks for the last couple of weeks or more and when I went out this evening – Diwali started on Thursday; this is Saturday – there were bangs and bangs and rat-a-tat-tats going off all over the place in the darkness.
Diwali’s Festival of Lights seems to have changed into a Festival of Bangs.
Either that or I am having flashbacks to Beirut.
Diwali commendably symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. But this is Britain, so it may eventually turn into a festival of loud bangs, scared domestic pets and maimed children.
It strikes me that, as we already celebrate Hallowe’en (Death) and Guy Fawkes’ Night (Treason & Death), perhaps in years to come, we will – or should – nominate a day when we celebrate the coronavirus and everyone can dress up in blue masks, have parties, cough a lot and set off fireworks. For neatness’ sake, it should be held around mid-October to mid-November to coincide with the existing triumvirate of banging firework celebrations.
Only a suggestion.