If there’s any seasonal festival for which the phrase “Kids today don’t know they’re born” is applicable it’s Halloween. If you’ve ever attempted to carve a jack-o-lantern out of a swede, checked an apple for razor blades (paranoid much ’80s parents?!) or been grounded on fright night because “this isn’t bloody E.T. and it’s not nice to scare old ladies” then we’re probably on the same page. For all its Pagan Celtic beginnings (America has Irish immigrants to thank for bringing the festival to its shores in the 1840s), Halloween as an all-singing, all-dancing secular festival has taken its time to peak in the UK. But peak it has with aisles laden with ghoul costumes in Sainsbury’s, streets lined with glowing pumpkins and sweet stashes that last until Christmas. And you know what? We think we like it.
As far as children are concerned, Halloween is a no brainer thanks to the dressing up, staying up late and off-the-scale sugar highs. But what about the rest of us? What makes Halloween a festival we can all get on board with?
It hits at just the right time
Summer is a distant memory but Christmas is far enough away that the Hatchimal/Ocado delivery slot panic hasn’t quite set in yet. Perfect timing for something lighthearted and fun to jazz things up as the nights close in.
It’s a one-day wonder
Unlike Christmas (which seems to take a couple of months) or Bonfire Night (which takes over whatever weekend it lies nearest to), Halloween is strictly a 31 October affair. If it falls on a Saturday you go big. If it falls on a school night you speed through proceedings and put them to bed late covered in a layer of Snazaroo. There’s something relaxing about a festival where once it’s done, it really is done.
It’s opt in
No one has to have a Halloween party and no one has to go trick or treating. The lit-pumpkin code (if it’s not lit, don’t knock) means you don’t even have to answer the door to a mob of giggling witches if you don’t fancy it. You can choose to sit the whole thing out no one thinks you’re a weirdo.
Like most autumnal occasions all the associated food is a straight-up crowd-pleaser. Hot dogs, Monster Munch, steaming bowls of pumpkin soup and a shed load of cola bottles for pudding.
Zero shopping angst
What’s not to love about an event where household cobwebs are a decorative feature? Forget Pinterest boards, themes, panic-striken tidy rounds or careful planning, Halloween is all about supermarket sweep decorations and massive bags of Haribo. You’re meant to look like you haven’t slept for a week due to an ill-timed zombie apocalypse. Best of all, you don’t have to buy anyone a bloody present. Win.
Not just for kids. Forgo make-up for a freaky mask or simply make your ‘haven’t slept since I gave birth’ look work for the occasion (see above).
No two ways about it, wandering the streets with a crew of over-excited ghosts is fun. A one-night fiesta of neighbourly exchange, community spirit and high-fiving anyone wearing the same polyester hat as you. Plus there’s none of the over-spending (unless you go crazy for glitter skull wall hangings), family arguments or missing people sadness that so often accompanies Christmas.
Produce a pumpkin and some sharp knives and everyone thinks they’re an artist – with predictably comical results. Hold my drink while I recreate an Edvard Munch right here on this butternut squash…
Two birds, one stone
Once you’ve let them loose on the trick or treating spoils and siphoned off the Black Jacks, there’s usually still enough to fill a ‘jolly jam jar’ for the school winter fair.
The C Word
If you’re itching to get stuck into the festive season simply wait for the clock to strike midnight and you can officially drop the fact you’ve finished your Christmas shopping into conversation without being blacklisted by the entire school playground.