Why I hate Hallowe’en
PUBLISHED: 15:02 30 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:56 30 September 2013
If the children want to dress up in white sheets, then so be it, but I refuse to let them knock on our neighbour’s doors asking for sweets.
It is still weeks till the end of October, yet the shops are already filled with ghouls, zombies and pumpkin paraphernalia. The children are positively beside themselves with excitement. Dressing up is second only to eating sweets on their list of Things We Enjoy, which makes Hallowe’en a veritable Mecca. There’s just one tiny problem. I hate it. I suppose I’m fairly ambivalent about the fancy dress element (although fake blood’s a bugger to get off the carpet) but trick or treat? Not a chance. I object as a matter of course to the Americanisation of British culture, which has seen us awash with school proms and options to ‘go-large’, and I draw the line at the legalised begging which masquerades as a seasonal festivity. If the children want to dress up in white sheets, then so be it, but I flatly refuse to let them knock on our neighbour’s doors asking for sweets, particularly not when I’ve spent a significant amount of time hammering home to them the dangers of strangers laden with sweets (and puppies, although at Hallowe’en these are probably offered less frequently than Haribo). And don’t get me started on the sinister side of Hallowe’en door-knocking. Up and down the country there are elderly or otherwise vulnerable people who are so terrified of the ‘tricks’ this time of year brings, that they switch off their lights at 4pm and sit in the dark, shaking at the sound of voices outside. Sure, I can make sure my children aren’t armed with eggs and flour, but by trick or treating they are perpetuating the whole horrid phenomenon. I know – bah humbug. But look, I was never allowed to go trick or treating as a child, and I don’t feel emotionally scarred by it. My kids will do just fine.
Last Hallowe’en my husband, who sees nothing wrong with a spot of harmless sweet-harvesting, decreed that the children could visit neighbours we knew well enough to ask in advance. I decreed they could not. We attempted to out-decree each other for a while, before coming to an uncomfortable compromise. The children could dress up and visit the neighbours to show them their costumes, but on no account would they utter the words ‘trick or treat’, and they would absolutely not ask for sweets. In fact, we would give out little cakes instead, thereby doing our own tiny bit to reverse the hideousness of Hallowe’en. I whipped up a batch of treats while the children were turning themselves into the undead, and as soon as it got vaguely dark we began our tour of the street. It had all seemed such a good idea in my head, but I have to confess I felt faintly ridiculous as we chorused ‘happy Hallowe’en’ in lieu of the traditional greeting.
“Oh goodness, what scary ghosts!” our elderly neighbour said. The children beamed with pride and threw in a couple of ghostly ‘woooooo’s for good measure. The neighbour reached for an enormous basket of goodies by the front door and the children’s eyes lit up. “Oh, no thank you,” I said, whipping out my own batch of cakes. “But would you care for a Hallowe’en flapjack?” “Um... okay then.” I felt she could have been a little more enthusiastic, to be honest. We bade her farewell and repeated the process a further three times before calling it a day. “You see!” I said brightly, “you can have fun without begging for sweets!” Three pairs of eyes gazed dejectedly back at me from under their ghostly hoods. I offered them all a flapjack, and they chomped miserably as we made our way home. In the cold light of day I realised my plan – whilst well intentioned – was perhaps not wholly commendable. The children had me pegged as a mean old witch (how very seasonal), and the neighbours thought I was barking. And so I am giving in. This year the children can dress up and run riot through the streets of Chipping Norton. They can wield buckets to collect their chocolatey stash, and throw rubber spiders at anyone brave enough to ask for a trick. But they can do it with their dad: I’m staying home with the lights off and the curtains drawn. Hallowe’en? Bah humbug.
Clare Mackintosh is a regular contributor to Cotswold Life.