As I navigate my seventh decade on this planet, I’ve reluctantly come to accept most things must change with Time. Generally speaking, that change is for the good: advances in medical science for example; touch-screen access to all the information in the world and of course you can now have pizza delivered to your front door.
There is one change however, I just cannot accept.
With due deference to our readers from USA, I’m not a fan of the Halloween we limeys seem to have adopted from your fair land.
“Trick or Treat?”
Is that it?
Oh no – I forgot the bit where you suddenly and most unexpectedly give my house the appearance of a runny omelette.
You see, this whole premise of ‘Trick or Treat’ is grossly misleading to an ageing traditionalist. I was first presented with this dilemma a few years back. I took a few moments to consider the options carefully and replied ‘Trick.’ I presumed the young whippersnapper before me, rather amateurishly dressed as Super Mario, would produce a magic wand, mumble some words of a memorised spell and produce a line of knotted handkerchiefs from sleeves of his red pullover.
Well – that was a lesson well learned, I can tell you!
The upshot is I now don’t entertain the wee scamps at all. Come the night itself, my house is enveloped in darkness from 6pm, and an intricate series of hidden trip wires and bear pits do the ‘trick.’
Of course, I’ve not always been a grumpy old git. As a nipper I looked forward to Halloween immensely.
The build-up began in earnest when the local village shops took stock of the traditional masks. This would be mid-October at earliest and not the week after Easter, by the way.
In the early to mid-Sixties, the masks I had, were made of cardboard imbued with the same dusty aroma as egg cartons. Traditionally, they depicted mildly spooky or mystical presences like the faces of ghosts or gypsy women, for example. Nothing sinister. But with an old bed sheet or grannie’s colourful woollen shawl draped over your shoulders, you really did feel you could walk through walls or cast a hex. Until you tried.
Another lesson well learned.
In the latter half of the decade, there was a move to plastic shell masks. By now, Superhero guises were all the rage. Batman was my favourite (still is) and I vividly remember not so much the smell of these guises, but the slightly rough texture to the matt blue colouring of the head and eye section.
(Oh – just me, then?)
The Halloween parties hosted by local Cub Scouts / Brownie packs were eagerly awaited. The normal routine of knot tying / dancing badge work was put aside. Instead, for Cubs at least, games such as ‘dookin’ for apples’ or ‘treacle bun eating’ offered different challenges. With sharp, metallic forks held in our mouths, we’d attempt to spear apples bobbing in a basin of water, before partially stripping off to take bites from a dangling bun covered in gooey, dripping treacle.
Hmmnn! Akela may have some explaining to do these days.
‘Guising’ on the evening of 31st October was the highlight. With friends, also in full disguise, we’d walk excitedly from house to house along the street. In one hand we’d swing a candle-wax-dripping, hand-carved turnip lantern (yes – turnip) and in the other, our mum’s shopping bag. We’d hope the latter would be filled with masses of delicious, treats by the evening’s end.
We had to be good, though. The neighbours were brutal judges, and kids would be rewarded in accordance with their standard of performance. Whether it be a poem, song, jokes or a magic trick, our ‘piece’ required days, possibly even weeks of fastidious rehearsal.
So here’s my message to kids today: if apples, monkey nuts, Parma Violets and assorted toffees are to bulge your trendy little tote bag (nobody would be seen dead, even at Halloween, with their mum’s shopping bag nowadays) then you must learn that THE TRICK IS IN TREATING your neighbours.
Not bloody terrorizing them.
(What was your first, or favourite, Halloween outfit? Do you remember any of your guising ‘performances? Let us know in the Comments section below.)