Friday, November 9, 2012


Halloween is a bit like marmite in our house. Steve and the boys were loving it this year. Tadhg is pictured above in his trick-or-treating costume but with his ghost face still on from his daytime ghost costume (crafted from an old sheet). Brendan went to school as a big brother ghost.

We carved a pumpkin each and made paper bat and ghost decorations for inside. Steve went all out with the decorating... including a ghost, mini-graveyard and a headless man. I, on the other hand, have a really hard time liking this celebration, at least during the build up. I'm trying, really I am, and was sure not to let the boys in on my halloween-disliking mood, other than with the odd gentle bit of disapproval on the commercialism, the sugar, the gory aspect, euch!. Brendan "got" my point when we stopped on our way to school to 'admire' an overly decorated house. I like the witches, I like the ghosts, bats and spiders are just wonderful, I love carved pumpkins, but this particular lawn also had plastic body parts and bloody axes strewn across the grass and displayed on a butcher's block. That I just don't get at all.

But I'll stop the rant to say that I actually really enjoyed the night itself! We went up one side of the street and down the other, Brendan running ahead with one neighbour friend from across the street, while Tadhg lagged at the back with a younger neighbour friend. What I liked was the mingling with neighbours, chatting with other parents, saying hello to new neighbours we hadn't met yet, seeing everyone out there all at the same time, having a laugh and spending time together. And I loved seeing the youngest watching wide-eyed all that was going on. There at least 27 children on our little street, ranging in age from 3 months to about 11. It was like the street party we had in the summer only even better and involving more people.

I think next year I might try making an enormous pot of soup or chilli and serving it up to those passing on the street.  

I just asked Steve what Halloween meant to him when he was a child. He said, "candy, fun, excitement, darkness, scariness". But now he likes the decorating best.

When I was young in Saudi it was about scary stories, usually told by other kids so not really that scary :) I remember a party in a neighbour's yard one year that involved hours of storytelling in a big tent, another year we were at the Red Sea and told stories around the fire. When I was 8, the kids were all in one house being looked after by teenagers who took turns while all the adults had a rare child-free party to themselves up the street. One teenage babysitter, (I think it was Stephen Parsons if he ever reads this) gathered us all in the living room and told us that a vicious, evil murderer had escaped from the prison up the street and was looking for children to attack and kill. Another teenager even went next door and made a fake phonecall. Stephen answered, pretending to be receiving this terrible news and taking instructions from the police, his accomplices then ran around in pretend panic checking the doors and windows were locked. Oh, the fear in that living room!! Kids started to cry and babies joined in. I hugged Caitlin for dear life. Then to top it all off, other accomplices then knocked and scraped on the windows from outside. I have never been as terrified in my life, except maybe the time I had fireworks shot at me, or maybe when I lost a toddling Brendan by a lake. For what it's worth I also remember that Stephen and his collaborators got in a lot of trouble for that prank!

When I was in Scotland, where trick or treating originated, All Hallow's Eve in the 80s was about dooking for apples and "guising". Children in disguise would go door to door and have to perform something, a song, a poem, a dance, a joke... They would then be rewarded with a treat, often fruit, and sometimes money. Due to the performing aspect I remember refusing to go, I was far too shy when it came to performing. I do remember going once and sticking with a small group of kids who sang while I stayed at the back and mimed (or kept silent behind a mask!) I remember my grandparents grumbling as more and more children began ringing the bell and just saying "trick or treat" and expecting a treat. Grandad would gently tease them and ask for a song. I imagine little performing goes on these days in Tayport, a change I can't help but feel sad about.

But I will try to embrace it, especially as I'm now in Canada! I'm determined to be happier about it all next year. But perhaps we'll also try to include some more tradition... I'll look for a couple of good books we can read together, continue to make our own costumes when we can, and we'll maybe spend some time actually remembering the dead on November 1st too. It's all good.