How Do You Do Halloween?

19/10/2009 09:03 | Updated 22 May 2015

I know that many people feel that Halloween has become too commercialised, or perhaps too Americanised. Certainly it's celebrated on a much larger scale in the UK now than it was five or ten years ago.

But I take the opposite view in that I welcome Halloween becoming a bigger deal.

I grew up in Northern Ireland, where we do not mark Bonfire Night on 5th November. I used to wonder why there was all that fuss about "gunpowder trees in a pot" on Blue Peter, but that was about the height of it. Fireworks were not on sale to the general public, as we tend to get a bit antsy about explosives in Belfast.

But we loved Halloween. We totally owned that festival, which is as it should be, since Halloween is Celtic in origin. The ancient Irish called the festival "Samhain" (pronounced Sa-Wain), which is now the Gaelic word for the month of November. The word Hallowe'en is of Scottish origin, and comes from "All Hallows Evening". So if you've been a bit meh about the import of Trick or Treating from the US, just remember where it came from in the first place.

In our Irish Halloween, we didn't do trick or treat or collect sweets. Instead, we would wander round the local neighbourhood in fancy dress, knocking on doors and singing this song to whoever answered:

Hallowe'en's coming on and the goose is getting fat,

Would you please put a penny in the old man's hat,

If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,

If you haven't got a ha'penny, God bless you.

And then if you were lucky, you'd get a couple of coins. I know - Children roaming the street accepting cash from strangers!

To light our way, we didn't have pumpkins, we'd never even seen a pumpkin outside of Scooby Doo. Instead we had hollowed out turnips with candles inside. So it was kids roaming the streets, asking for cash, holding naked flames. These days you'd get locked up for that sort of behaviour.

Then after all that we'd go home for a gnaw on some toffee apples and a session of indoor fireworks. Anybody else remember the little pyramid that made a huge snake of ash? What was that all about?

So these days I keep the Halloween vibe going by dressing up with the kids and going trick or treating around the local streets. Sometimes we have a house party where we play Thriller on repeat and bob for apples with the neighbours.

So that was how we did Halloween in Belfast - how did you do yours? And how do you celebrate now, if at all?

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