Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures
Monthly Archives: October 2013


by Elspeth


Today, is Hallowe’en, the day when witches and ghouls are out and about.  Modern rituals date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, marking the start of the darker half of the year.  It was thought that Samhain, the lord of death and evil spirits, was responsible for the darker days and for causing the trees to lose their leaves and the plants from growing.  Cattle were slaughtered to provide a supply of meat for the winter, the bones of the unfortunate beasts then burned on sacrificial bonfires lit to keep away the abundance of evil spirits which were supposed to be particularly active at this time – hence the word ‘bonfire’.  The festival is, of course, now known as Hallowe’en, although bonfires are saved for 5th November. 

When I was young, Hallowe’en was a time for children to have fun and my friends and I would dress up in homemade costumes and drop in on our neighbours who, in return for a song, a poem or a dance, would give us bags of peanuts and sweets.  The reason behind the tradition of dressing up on Hallowe’en is because that was the night when people believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world and, to avoid being recognized, they would don costumes and masks when they left home after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.  In recent years, adults have hijacked the event and, in some cases, they can be more frightening than any witches, warlocks and evil spirits!

There were also Hallowe’en parties when we would ‘dook’ for apples or try to take a bite from a soda scone dripping with treacle with our hands behind our backs!  Every year, my father would make me a turnip lantern, traditionally meant to frighten away witches, ghosts or evil spirits.  Nowadays, Hallowe’en lanterns are more commonly made from pumpkins as they’re easier to carve. (Having lived in Jamaica for several years, where pumpkin soup is a local delicacy, I always think it’s a terrible waste when people discard the pumpkin flesh instead of eating it!) 

Nowadays, Hallowe’en has become very commercialised and, in the weeks leading up to 31st October, the shops are full of ready-made fancy dress costumes, plastic ornaments and beautifully packaged sweets.  Also, instead of being prepared to do something for a treat, many British children have turned to ‘trick-or-treating’.  However, although we tend to blame the Americans for this rather unpleasant tradition, in parts of England, Hallowe’en has always been called Mischief Night when children would knock on doors demanding treats.

The bears really enjoy dressing up for Hallowe’en and there are always witches and ghosts galore.  Two years ago, Winnie the Witch threw a Hallowe’en Party, but I wasn’t invited as it was strictly for bears and pandas only! Several of the bears used to take it in turns to dress up as a pumpkin (it would be too humiliating for the same one to do it every year!) but, this year, I decided to spare their blushes.  Instead, one of the windows features bears attired in fancy dress ready to go out trick-or-treating, while in the other, there are skulls, pumpkins and lots of a traditional witches, complete with their black cats, all trying to outdo each other in the scary stakes!


by Elspeth

The chances are you’ll know of someone whose life has been affected by breast cancer.  Every year, over 45,000 women and around 300 men are diagnosed and, sadly, 12,300 lose the battle to survive.  (My mother died of this insidious disease when she was only forty.) 

As money is always desperately needed to support vital research, 25 years ago, October was designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month by Cancer Research UK, the biggest single funder of research in the UK.  Throughout the month, we are asked to ‘think pink’ by organising fundraising events or buying something from a selection of pink products, ranging from ribbons to cute rubber ducks, which have been personalised by various celebrities, and bottled water to electric kettles and toasters.  In recent years, companies like Estée Lauder, Avon, Revlon, Swarovski, Next and Crabtree & Evelyn have brought out limited edition pink products, many decorated with a pink ribbon, the international symbol of breast cancer awareness.


The pink ribbon was inspired by the yellow ribbons worn to show support for the soldiers taken hostage in Iran in 1979 and again for those fighting in the Gulf War.  When red ribbons were introduced in 1990 to promote AIDS awareness, the ribbon had arrived and every charitable cause had to have one.  Pink ribbons were first seen in America in 1990 when they were given to participants in New York’s Race for the Cure and, the following year, the pink ribbon was adopted as the official symbol of the National Breast Awareness Month, pink being chosen because it’s the quintessential female colour in western countries, a playful, life-affirming hue known for its calming effect, for the lessening of stress and for its connection with good health. 

The editor of Self magazine enlisted the help of Estée Lauder’s senior vice president, Evelyn Lauder, herself a breast cancer survivor, to distribute pink ribbons on cosmetics counters across America and, in 1994, the pink ribbon campaign was introduced in this country.  Increasingly common are pink ribbons which are pieces of costume jewellery rather than the throwaway items they once were.  This year’s twinkling jewelled creation by Estée Lauder is extra-special as a blue stone has been added to represent the 1% of men who are affected by breast cancer.  

Each year, thousands of fundraising events are organised by members of the public including sponsored walks, coffee mornings and balloon releases, all involving the colour pink.  However, in recent years, the most poignant has taken place during The Show – an evening of chilled champagne, fantastic food,   amazing auctions, dancing and live entertainment – when the 24 models who take to the catwalk in an extraordinary fashion show are either undergoing treatment for breast cancer or are in remission.  So while the glitzy evening attracts all sorts of celebrities, for once, all eyes are on these ordinary men and women whose smiling faces show that, on this evening at least, cancer is the last thing on their minds.     

Every penny raised during Breast Cancer Awareness Month is used to fund crucial research into the illness.  £10 buys 300 glass slides for studying cells, while £20 will equip a scientist with a lab coat and a pair of protective goggles.  The money really does make a difference as dramatic advances in treatment over the last few decades have meant that more people are now beating breast cancer.  Currently 8 out of 10 of those diagnosed now survive beyond 5 years compared with 5 out of 10 in the 1970s.  However, it’s important not to be complacent as our continuing support is essential if that survival rate is to continue to improve.

Throughout October, my windows are decked out in various shades of pink as the Bears in the Windows are tickled pink to show their support for this most worthwhile of causes. 





by Elspeth

Today is Go Purple! day when the Ayrshire Hospice encourages people to go purple, wear purple, think purple and be purple, to raise money for this very worthwhile cause.

The Bears in the Windows decided to accept the purple challenge and, as you’ll see, some of them are wearing something purple, while others simply are purple!  If you’d like to sponsor them, you can make a donation by texting ‘PURP02′ followed by your preferred donation.  The bears and the Hospice can’t thank you enough!



by Elspeth

Today is the birthday of Snoopy, the cute canine well-known for his wit and wisdom.  Created by Charles Schulz, Charlie Brown’s pet beagle actually began life as a fairly conventional dog, but quickly became the most dynamic character in the Peanuts comic strip.  The early drawings of Snoopy were based on Spike, one of Schulz’s childhood dogs but, gradually, the Snoopy we all know and love took shape. 

Snoopy, who wasn’t identified by name until 10th November 1950, was originally going to be called Sniffy, until Schulz discovered that the name was already being used in another comic strip.  He eventually settled on Snoopy after remembering that his late mother had once said that, if the family ever got another dog, then it should be called Snoopy (from ‘Snuppa’, an affectionate term in Norwegian).

Did you know that the brainy canine didn’t actually ‘speak’ until 27th May 1952 when his thoughts were first made known to readers in a thought balloon? At first, Snoopy only ‘spoke’ one word at a time, like ‘Food!’ or ‘Walk’ but, as time went on, he became more articulate.  As time went on, Snoopy’s character became that of a dog who thinks he’s a person or who sometimes forgets he’s a dog!  What makes him different from other dogs is that he refuses to be caught in the trap of doing ordinary canine things like chasing and retrieving sticks.  He also refuses to take seriously his role as the devoted dog who greets his master when he returns home from school!

Snoopy is a kind of Walter Mitty character, one of his most famous alter egos being the World War One flying ace who was often seen fighting with his arch-enemy the Red Baron.  In 1997 Schulz said that the reason for his canine’s somewhat whimsical character was that, ‘Snoopy has to retreat into his fanciful world in order to survive.  Otherwise he leads kind of a dull, miserable life.  I don’t envy dogs the life they have to live.’    

2010 was a special year for the celebrated canine writer and philosopher, as he celebrated his 60th birthday.  And so I decided to make 2nd October an annual celebration because, not only I am a fan of the black and white canine whose simple, everyday wisdom, wit and unique perspective on life never fails to make me smile, but we actually share the same birthday!

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