I always used to be a Halloween hater. I'd draw the curtains and refuse to answer the door on October 31st, moaning endlessly about irresponsible parents letting their offspring go 'begging' and causing a nuisance. I deemed Halloween a stupid, commercialised waste of time and money that served only to give certain elements of society a licence to misbehave, and producers of plastic tat a licence to make a mint...
Then I had a child.
To be honest, I still deplore trick and treating – especially when groups of teenagers descend mob-handed on my doorstep – but in terms of letting my little boy dress up, have some friends round and scare himself silly with spooky decorations, clanky chain and creaky door sound effect CDs and freaky food, I'm all for it.
Being seven, my son sees Halloween as a celebration up there with Christmas and birthdays; a magical, fun time, where the house gets decorated, special food is laid on, and excitement prevails.
It captures his imagination, and indulges his innocence – he wants to believe he'll see a witch silhouetted against the moon if he looks up into the sky on Halloween night, and that my carefully constructed mini-roll 'severed fingers' have really been freshly chopped from a monster's hand.
To him, Halloween isn't about rowdy youths throwing eggs at windows, intimidating elderly folk or dumping bags of flour over cars; it's just a fun night where his imagination can run riot.
When I was a child, my parents did not approve of Halloween at all, and it was not celebrated in any way – I was lucky if I was allowed to buy a witch's hat from the local newsagents. My parents saw it as an American custom, not something the British should be celebrating, and there was no way in the world they would have ever let me go trick or treating or have a party at home.
And I adopted the same mindset as an adult - until I became a parent myself. Through my son, I learned that a child's excitement and zest for life are infectious, and once William was old enough to spot the decorations in the shops, and ask about Halloween, I found myself embracing it full on. I discovered that it didn't have to be expensive (we buy everything from decorations to costumes to sweets and prizes for our party games from Poundland) or offensive or annoying to anyone who chooses not to participate.
We decorate the house days in advance – ( every room, even decking out the bathroom with hanging witches, garlands of crepe paper ghouls, and battery operated pumpkin lights). We drape fake cobwebs over the furniture, replace the regular light bulbs with flickering candle ones, and light tea lights in pumpkins on the porch. The day before, we ice dozens of fairy cakes with spooky slogans, spiders' webs and scary faces, and make jellies with gummy snakes, insects and creepy crawlies in.
On Halloween night itself, I traditionally throw a party – either a complete open house for adults and children, or just a glorified tea party for my son's school friends and his little cousins. The kids spend the evening playing hide and seek in the dark, bobbing for apples, or 'pinning the nose on the witch', whilst the adults drink my luridly coloured 'spooky' cocktails. And a good time is had by all. We don't go out begging for 'treats' in exchange for not damaging property or playing practical jokes. We don't ask anyone to join in who does not want to. We simply have fun.
Because that's what Halloween should be about – a night of fantasy and make believe for little children, and a bit of childish escapism for parents. And I am happy to go along with that for as long as my child's innocence allows for it.
Are you a Hallooween hater or embracer?
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