Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Pop

I can't believe I forgot this Bizarre Orcadian tradition when I made my compilation last year, but this one is just as fitting. In recent years the tradition has died out as my local community bonfire has not been on after some firework scares but I see this year it is back and I expect plenty of Pop's in the street!
No idea who these children are but they are the only good Pop photo on the internet.
There is somewhat of a similarity between trick or treating and the Pop tradition of Stromness (my hometown) but the Pop allowed us Stromnessian kids to make a sweet few pounds rather than gaining them. The Pop is also similar to the burning of the Guy that traditionally occurred around Britain. However, instead of standing watching an effigy of a man burn it's the children throwing the burning heads in the fire. Now I know that makes us sound more savage and archaic than ever but what traditions don't stem from something gruesome?

November 5th was the one day of the year the local shops ran out of turnips and instead of making us eat the otherwise foul vegetable my parents would carve a face into it and turn it into a lantern. I would then paint it using my primitive painting skills and mount the head on a stick to make what is called a Pop. The Pop could resemble a local or a topical figure but most of the time they ended up becoming like an alien or a grotesque witch of some sort. My friends and I would assemble at a house and with our army of heads on sticks to go door to door asking " A penny for the pop!" All locals knew to then hand us some change and send us on our way. We'd head along the street with our pockets becoming heavier and heavier until we reached the community bonfire. Once we'd exploited all the adults there and compared Pops to each other we'd then throw our Pops into the fire.

The Pop tradition is thought to originate somewhere between the Halloween traditions of trick or treat and carving a lantern and the burning of the Guy on Bonfire night. However, why is it called a Pop? Well this is thought to actually stem from anti-Catholic sentiments just as the burning of the guy ( Guy Fawkes was Catholic and so burning of a guy is also originally a sign of Protestant triumph) and this is again seen in the pronunciation of Pop. In Orcadian the word 'Pop' is pronounced more like 'pope' and so when kids go round with their grotesque head on a stick called a Pope and asking for money with the intentions of burning that head you can see the gruesome back story unfolding. But as with the majority of British traditions the original reasoning is somewhat neglected and the perks of the tradition are kept to make it an enjoyable and unique celebration to keep the community together.

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