No, I’m sorry. You can’t force me to like Hallowe’en. Not even with your garish costumes and your festively shaped-and-wrapped chocolates. Have you any idea how long it takes to carve a damn pumpkin? I do, because I’ve done it. Not your V&A appearing masterpiece, mind you, just a simple affair of eyes, nose, eyebrows and zig-zag jagged mouth. It took hours and I’m damned if I’m doing that every year. Just how much time do you think I have to spare?
I don’t embrace Hallowe’en because, growing up, I can’t remember any marking of the event but at this time of year except the odd desultory pumpkin-carving slot on Blue Peter. I know my parents were fairly clueless about stuff, but I’m sure I would have picked it up if there was this degree of general fright-festery going on when I was a child. I know that Guising is a tradition in Scotland and Ireland, apparently, but the only people I saw trick or treating back then were those perfect blonde all-American children in the telly programmes who lived in weatherboarded New England houses with white picket fences in perfect American villages. Or on Snoopy. That was it. For “trick” they got a rock like Lucy gave Charlie Brown every single time. And if they were lucky, they got “treat” sweets. But we didn’t relate to any of that.
People disagree about the roots of it all. Some say it is based on the pagan Samhain celebrations, some say it is uniquely a Christian festival. I mean, I don’t believe in God either and I can’t suspend my disbelief in ghosts, ghouls, the Undead or the whole Vampire thing. What on earth is that all about? – just how did “Twilight,” become a set piece for the Boywonder’s GSCEs this year?- and it strikes me as very odd indeed that some Christian believers celebrate both All Hallows today and All Saints tomorrow. Surely they would cancel each other out? There are, of course, those churches who denounce Halloween, just as some have denounced Harry Potter because of its witchcraft, and celebrate only All Saints tomorrow. It’s simply confusing. And those cards and banners and posters wishing people Happy Hallowe’en: is that even a valid wish? Surely it should be “Have a Spooky Hallowe’en!” if anything?
As far as I’m concerned, Hallowe’en, as it seems to be celebrated hereabouts, was imported into the UK about ten years ago, as an excuse to sell BIG STUFF, most of it made in China. Tap “Halloween” into Google and the first page is all about the STUFF you can buy. In my view trick or treating works in village communities, where everyone knows everyone else and children can walk around safely in the knowledge that everyone they hassle for moulded confectionery will be in on the deal. But it’s not for Suburban London, where many, especially older people, are just not familiar with it. Imagine being a frail old man answering a knock at the door to be confronted by two hooded youths in ghoulish make-up and costumes, maybe in a Death costume wielding a scythe, demanding “Trick or Treat!” Surely he’d worry that if he’d not spent half his week’s pension on mini-Twixes, they’d suddenly turn into axe-wielding maniacs? This happened to my parents a few years ago. My dad was blind and my mum deaf, and some youths came trick or treating and egged their house when they shut the door in incomprehension. It is extortion, and I don’t like it.
Miss DD, however, has latent Gothic horror sensibilities and has always had a mania for the whole Hallowe’en thing in general and trick or treating in particular, probably concentrated through my dislike, disapproval and disdain for the whole commercialised panjandrum. That’s the thing with children: they have their own opinions. Mine certainly do. So tonight Miss DD and her friend are going to dress up and trick or treat. She has been working on her Jack Sparrow costume for weeks. No, don’t ask me what on earth the perky Caribbean pirate has to do with the celebration of All Hallows: I have no idea and nor, I suspect, does she. I blame The Simpsons. But I’ve bought some chocolates in the secure knowledge that this very act will ensure the non-arrival of any trick or treaters. Fingers crossed!