This post was first published in the e-magazine Mum on the Rock, and I’m afraid it reveals my true inner grumpiness, read on at your own risk!
I’m afraid I’m a bit of a misery when it comes to Trick or Treating and all that Hallowe’en has to offer. As a child I was never encouraged to embrace the whole spooky prospect, maybe that’s because it wasn’t quite such a big deal back then. As a child, I remember us hiding in the back of the house and not answering the door when Trick or Treaters came round knocking for sweets and money. I used to be scared of the witch masks and thought the threats of having eggs and flour thrown at the house were horrendous. Eventually the persistent door knockers would give up and move onto one of our neighbours who may have been more accommodating.
My Mum often spoke of growing up in Scotland where Trick or Treating was a completely different set up. A gang of kids would knock on neighbour’s doors and be invited in. There, they would have to perform a song or play a musical instrument, or even try to trick the inhabitants into giving them an apple, a toffee or a coin. Therefore the cheek of turning up in fancy dress costume and demanding sweets didn’t go down too well to someone who’d had to earn their reward in childhood!
I guess this sentiment has been passed on down to me over the years and even now I find the whole prospect of knocking on somebody’s door and asking for sweets a bit out of my comfort zone and therefore I have never encouraged my own children to take part in the practice. I can remember just once going on a Hallowe’en Trick or Treating expedition as a child. I had been press-ganged into joining a friend from the next road along and in the company of several other witches and ghouls I rather awkwardly headed off into the night, shrouded in the obligatory white sheet with eye holes cut out. I remember that on the whole, our presence on peoples’ doorsteps was not welcomed. I guess our neighbourhood back in the 1980s hadn’t fully embraced the wonder of Trick or Treating kids.
The act of ignoring door knockers on Hallowe’en night continued into my own adult life. When we were still living in England, I was once told off by a friend for leaving her and her children out in the cold who, unbeknownst to me, had walked the length of the estate to knock on our front door. They knew that we would be in and wrongly assumed that we would have some booty for them as a reward for the their long trek in spooky get-up. I didn’t make the same mistake the following year, they had an allotted time slot when I would answer the door and dish out the specially bought Hallowe’en themed sweets.
As far as my family’s concerned now, maybe it’s because I have only sons, but we don’t really do a lot of dressing up in our house. In fact, I would go so far as to say that certain members of my family positively detest it. I am the Mum who looks like she’s made the least amount of effort when the kids turn up to school on a special themed dressing up day. I am the parent you see dragging a sobbing child to school because they didn’t want to wear a costume or the one who’s kid looks like his parent either didn’t get the email about the required costume or just couldn’t be bothered. It’s just not something we embrace in our house, and as Hallowe’en is optional, we tend to opt out. I completely get the whole idea of Hallowe’en parties though, in fact, last year we went to one as I thought it would be a bit of mid-term holiday fun. It was great, there was face-painting, hallowe’en crafts, spooky food and themed games, it was great fun and most of our family really enjoyed it. However, I was the only parent who arrived with children not in the appropriate vampire/skeleton/wizard/ghost/werewolf fancy dress costume (their choice, it wasn’t because we didn’t have the costumes at home). Being the only children at the party wearing ‘normal’ clothes they won awards ironically for the most imaginative Hallowe’en costumes!
Now that I have a child in middle school, I’ve been reminded of the slightly more sinister and mischievous side to Hallowe’en night. Each year, shortly before the end of October the pupils get a visit from the Police advising them to be careful and not engage in illegal activity, namely vandalising people’s property, playing with Agua Fuerte and letting off fireworks. I find it quite shocking that middle school aged children have to be spoken to about these issues, might they even consider getting involved in such things? As a child, I remember being warned at school about the dangers of fireworks, so I guess it’s on a similar level, but it just reinforces the idea that the whole mischievousness of the Hallowe’en tradition isn’t to be encouraged as it can easily get out of hand, or so it would seem.
So you have probably guessed that this October 31st, our household will not be running around the neighbourhood in witch hats and ghostly costumes, we won’t come knocking on your door expecting to be given handfuls of sweets, nor will we threaten to egg or flour your door for failing to answer when we know you are at home. We’ll be sitting tight indoors ourselves with the lights off, the tv turned down and the doorbell disconnected. Happy Hallowe’en everyone!