The other day I heard Graham Norton express shock and amazement that the young singing girl he was interviewing on his show had never done trick or treating! Really! How shocking! James Corden then chimed in with his story about how his 'very religious' parents wouldn't let him do Halloween. Apparently they sat in the dark in a back room when trick or treaters came round.
James Corden is only 5 years younger than me. Graham Norton is in his 50s. Where were these people living that trick or treating was the norm when they were kids? Because where I was living nobody (and I mean absolutely nobody) went trick or treating. I never did it, or even dressed up or paid any sort of lip service to Halloween, and neither did any of my friends. We had heard of Halloween of course, but it was just a blip on the way to the much more exciting Bonfire Night.
Halloween just wasn't a 'thing' when we were kids. It seems to have come from nowhere in the last few years, and spending figures bear that out - a decade ago we spent £12 million on Halloween. This year, spending is predicted to top £300 million.
Personally, I can't stand any of it. For a start, it sits uncomfortably with my religious beliefs and while people will cite a variety of different accounts of the 'tradition' or 'origins' of Halloween in order to support/disagree with my reservations on religious grounds, I'm not moved by any of them. Rather like the modern celebrations of Easter and Christmas, the current incarnation of Halloween is so unbelievably far removed from any mists of time origins as to make those origins pretty irrelevant. I heartily doubt that any of the kids knocking on my door tonight will have the faintest interest in All Hallows Eve or Samhain.
Secondly, unlike Christmas, Easter or even Valentines which, while also being horribly commercialised, at least purport to celebrate something worthwhile, I struggle to find any redeeming feature of Halloween. I just don't get where the 'fun' is in any of it. Call me an old killjoy, but I really don't like the unpleasant, gory costumes. Most people wouldn't let their kids watch horror movies or films with excessive violence in them, but suddenly at Halloween it does kids no harm to walk around made up as though an axe has been put through their head. Our local garden centre put up a Halloween display in September, right by the entrance, replacing the cute models of animals with a smoke-filled graveyard scene complete with ghoulish corpse reaching out of the grave. OB was mortified.
Neither am I keen on kids extorting sweets out of strangers. The whole purpose of Halloween seems to be to gather and eat as many sweets as possible until our teeth actually fall out of our heads. On special days and celebrations like birthdays, I let OB go a bit overboard on the sweets and treats, of course I do. But those are days with a specific reason to celebrate and special food is often a part of that celebration. What's the reason for Halloween? Why do special rules apply on that day? I'm often told that Halloween is not a celebration of evil, so what is it a celebration of? And if it isn't a celebration of anything, then it's just an excuse to eat massive piles of sweets for no real reason. Don't get me wrong, I'm as partial as the next person to a massive pile of sweets, but we can probably drop all the paraphernalia that goes with it then!
So, yes, there's all that. But actually the main reason I avoid it is because so many people work so hard to make it impossible to avoid. I'm not 'against' Halloween, but I don't like it and I don't want to do it. Perhaps it's a rebellious streak in me that doesn't like being told what to do. Graham Norton's shock that there might exist a person that has never done trick or treating embodies it all for me. Somewhere, someone, or a group of people, have decided that this is what we all do at this time of year, and if you don't do it then it's a shocking thing. You are denying your children an essential part of their childhood. You are spoiling their fun. You are raising them as freaks. Sometime in the future, when they are famous comedians, they will gently mock you on national TV.
A friend of mine was once harangued at the school gates because her son had told another child that there was no such thing as the tooth fairy. "It's your children I feel sorry for," said the other mother. "You're taking all the joy out of their childhood." Yeah, forget the nature walks, the family holidays, the birthdays and other celebrations, the games and cuddles and bike rides and film nights - if you don't also have the tooth fairy, it's all for nothing.
Well, I'm going to get this out there: I have never done trick or treating and I feel fine about it. I hope my son will never do it either. We won't be doing Halloween at our house and neither will we be having the tooth fairy. I doubt we'll be paying much attention to Santa either - if I'm spending hundreds of pounds on Christmas presents then I'm not giving the credit to a fictional beardie! I hope my son will have fun, excitement, mystery and joy in his childhood. I hope I can still provide this without the addition of plastic pumpkins and zombie costumes.
If you're doing Halloween tonight, I really do hope that you have a great time together as a family. Times are hard and it's nice to have an excuse to go a bit wild and forget reality for a while - I do get that. So, I hope you all stay safe, and have fun and don't get sick from eating too many sweets.
As for us, well, I was thinking about taking OB to an alternative Light Night party, but social services have suddenly come up with a load of last minute appointments meaning that we will be doing something LB-related at that time instead. So I expect we'll just spend our evening in a back room with the light off. If it was good enough for James Corden . . .