Halloween is upon us - but its far from further evidence of our Americanisation...
- Credit: Archant
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Halloween creates strong feelings in us all: for some its a great excuse for dressing up and having a party, eating too much sweet stuff and scaring the neighbours, for others it’s a reason to sit in your house with the lights off pretending you are out.
I remember working for a newspaper, where the editor proudly came up with a ‘NO TRICK OR TREATING’ poster that readers could put in their windows to discourage local children, while letters (it was before email) flooded in, some in support, others complaining about the killjoys.
I’ll be honest, I LOVE Halloween. I love scary films, I love decorating the house with fake spider webs, sticking up glow in the dark plastic bats, my husband’s proud pumpkin carving and and dressing up myself and my son to welcome the neighbours around to brave our special halloween bowl - which has a skeleton hand that comes out and grabs people as they grab the sweets - and has practically become a family heirloom.
We have endless debates in the days running up to the big night over whether we have enough sweets to satisfy the locals - and then sit back and enjoy the variety of kids’ costumes - and the effort taken - of our young visitors. Many people mention their dislike is founded on it being further evidence of how we have become Americanised - we don’t celebrate it, it’s been imported; we’ve been seduced by those views of New England autumns where amber leaves line the streets and there are glowing pumpkins on every wall. Others that it is simply begging, which I guess it is - in Quebec, children shout ‘charity’ instead of ‘trick or treat’.
But the evidence shows that this time of year, the winter solstice has always been a time of celebration of one type or another. And trick or treating? My Scottish relatives talk about their tradition of ‘guising’ earning them a treat from the nighbours in return for a song or a joke - which dates back to the 19th century at least, while the Portuguese make lanterns called coca and knock on doors on All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s day, (1 and 2 November) singing songs. While Mexico chooses those days to celebrate the Day of the Dead, not the George A Romero horror film, but a 3,000-year-old tradition to remember their loved ones and converse with them, often at their graveside. And there are many similar festivals at this time all over the world.
It may help to mention my birthday is the next day, which is also All Saint’s Day and that this perhaps gave birth to what we know as Halloween - appropriated by the saints’ antagonists for their own celebrations - although which came first? In these days of endless strangers at the door, from selling things you don’t want to asking you to join their charity, church or chosen organisation, it’s understandable that many keep their lights out to avoid being asked for money with menace.
But there are other ways to enjoy the day. Last year we headed to Camborne Fire Station for a truly fantastic and genuinely frightening display by local firefighters who had transformed the whole station into a scary place, without any hint of ‘begging’ - not even for their very good causes. The year before we headed for a monster mash at the Eden Project where giant spider people entertained and frightened in equal measure. So whatever you decide to do, ignore it or celebrate it - Happy Halloween!