Halloween - the day where kids rule
Ah autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and pint-sized wretches knocking at your door demanding sweeties with menaces. Halloween is nearly upon us and the streets will soon be thronging with tiny zombies, blood-soaked vampires and howling werewolves. Woe-betide the unsuspecting homeowner who hasn’t bought up the corner-shop’s entire Haribo selection – or who has the audacity to offer apples – unless they toffee apples of course…
But even weirder than the weird sisters is the fact that many people will be perfectly well prepared. Not only will they have buckets of Haribo, lollypops and tooth-rotting confectionary at the ready, they’ve probably got cobwebs strung from the door and a glowing ghoul hanging from the window. Some people might really push the boat out with dry ice, a spooky soundtrack and a scary clown on a tricycle pedalling up and down the garden path, cackling.
For Halloween has become quite the party since the days when the 31st October was celebrated by the pagans as Samahim, or the end of the harvest - literally ‘summer’s end’ – when spirits who might seek to ruin the next harvest were appeased. Inevitably, perhaps, the Christians conjured up their own vigil for the dead, All Hallows eve, to quash that of the heathens. It was taken to America by Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 19th century whereupon it was magicked into the almighty celebration we now know.
Over the past decade what was once considered a rather vulgar American invention has cast its spell on Britain.
Over in the States it is massive: 81 per cent of the population spends upwards of $7billion on getting spooked. While we’re not quite there yet – we spend about 500 million – it’s still the third biggest event in our social calendar after Christmas and Easter.
You can’t make your way down a supermarket aisle without getting tangled in fake cobweb or persuaded to pick up a pumpkin. And the costumes are phenomenal. In the seventies we took to the lonely streets dressed in a sheet with two holes for eyes, or wrapped ourselves up in loo roll mummy-style. These days, the kids look like extras from a Tim Burton movie: you name it, they’ll have spooked it up. Corpse brides, zombie rabbits, witches, warlocks and axe-murderers galore - although you can always find at least one pink unicorn and a footballer.
In truly horrifying fashion, we’ve even started dressing up our pets – if it moves, turn it into a pumpkin!
Obviously, some people are going to moan about the commercialisation of a once meaningful festival. It was and mutter darkly about obesity, only a truly heartless harpie could resist the sheer delight and enthusiasm of the mini monsters as they bomb from doorstep to doorstep hopped up on their edible booty.
This, perhaps more than Christmas, feels like the real children’s festival: the usual rules – no sweets; no talking to strangers; mind your manners – are turned on their head. The kids take charge. They pick out their outfits, pull on their boots and venture into the dark to make their sugar-based fortunes. And it’s oddly heartwarming – rather than bone-chilling – that rather than being scowled at for their “trick or treat” impertinence by the neighbours, the befanged ghastlies are invited to come closer. So let the killjoys sit with their lights off, the rest of us have got some blood-curdling to do.