>> Tuesday, 4 November 2014
Want to hear a rather unfashionable secret?
I hate Halloween.
There, I said it. And if you want to accuse me of being a boring old fuddy duddy, go ahead, I really don't care. It's not that I hate the Halloween I grew up with, you understand. No, it's more that I hate the way that we (as in, those of us who didn't grow up in North America) are being shoe-horned, cajoled and emotionally blackmailed, however you want to put it, into the Hallmark-isation of what was previously a low key event on our festive calendars.
As a kid growing up in the UK during the far distant days of the 1970's and 80's (or as Boy #2 so charmingly put it yesterday, 'The Olden Times'), Halloween was celebrated, but slightly differently. It saw a profusion of pipe cleaner spiders festooned across classroom windows, the exuberant use of black and orange sugar paper, perhaps a small pumpkin Jack o' Lantern at the window, and maybe a school event or a party featuring apple bobbing*, iced ring doughnuts hanging from string**, and teens or adults running a Dark Room*** which you went into to be scared, if you dared. And if the grown-up running the festivities was particularly imaginative they might turn out the lights, put a candle in the middle of the floor, and in a suitably sepulchral voice tell a story that began 'Once upon a time, in a dark dark room, in a dark dark house....' and so on.
There might - MIGHT - be call to dress up at said party, but generally a black cape with a touch of glitter and a home-made black witch's hat made out of black card, or a white sheet destined for a second life as a duster doing temporary service for Halloween with holes cut for eyes would do the job.
But spending a small fortune on plastic tat to dress your child up as some kind of monster or ghoul, or walking around knocking on strangers' doors begging for sweets?
*Assumes best Lady Grantham stare*
I think not.
However, my point of view on this matter is extremely unfashionable, especially living where we do right now. 'Little America' doesn't begin to cover it when we are talking about October 31st. So rather than following my instincts and locking the doors before turning the lights off, I grit my teeth, stock up on on enough 'candy' (SWEETS! They are SWEETS!) to sink a battle ship, and turn my children loose on neighbours who are far more excited about this event than I am and who are generous enough to allow my kids to experience a Halloween more suited to the one the kids take part in in 'E.T.' than the paltry celebrations I grew up with.
This year it was a little more challenging; we had unseasonably cold weather in Moscow on the night it was celebrated (because, you know, half term and all that), and the temperature on the Halloween Trail was a balmy -7degC. As you can imagine, that rather put paid to some of the more adventurous costumes. It didn't slow Boy #1 down, mind you. He disappeared with a couple of friends wearing a viking helmet and brandishing a plastic axe (a very practical nod to dressing up, I thought, what with also needing to wear snow gear due to the freezing temperatures) and turned up blue-lipped and shivering an hour later, clutching a bag of booty and grinning from ear to ear.
Boy #2? He's more like me. I think we made it to 2 houses, where he accumulated a grand total of 4 pieces of candy (Candy? See? They've got me at it now...) before telling me it was just too cold, that he had enough, and anyway, he wasn't interested in the sweets on offer.
"Because, well, none of them are 70% chocolate, mum."
Chip off the old block, that boy. Now. Anyone for apple bobbing? No?
This post was inspired by my good bloggie mate over at Talk About York. Solidarity, sister!
*Apple bobbing: fill a bucket or barrel with water, float apples in the top, and children need to pick them out with their teeth. And yes, there are germs. Adds to the excitement, I suppose...
** Iced doughnuts hanging from string, have to be eaten with your hands behind your back. And why not?
***Dark Room: Take one darkened room, add a number of plates covered with black cloth and invite the children to lift the cloths to put their hands underneath to feel the eyeballs (peeled grapes), intestines (sausages), maggots (chopped up cooked spaghetti). Such fun!