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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 26-Oct-16 15:32:28

The great Halloween debate: ghostly or ghastly?

It's no secret that a lot of we Brits don't quite know what to make of Halloween - in stark contrast to our American cousins and their colourful annual celebrations. We hear from two bloggers on opposite sides of the pond - and opposite sides of the Halloween argument.

First up is British blogger and author, Christine Human, who is firmly ensconced in the anti-Halloween camp...

Christine Human

Halloween: ghastly, not ghostly

Posted on: Wed 26-Oct-16 15:32:28


Lead photo

Halloween - a bit of fun, or commercialised nonsense?

The grandchildren call, hauling in impossibly big pumpkins, and meet the same glazed eyes that my children saw when Halloween was mentioned - I try not to purse my lips. It's a grandad job, carving pumpkins, so they go straight through to the garden and I do enjoy watching them scooping out the contents, chatting away. I provide sausages in bread rolls and squash. I find the tea lights ready to tuck inside. The discarded innards hit the food recycling immediately.

Even Mary Berry cannot persuade me to make pumpkin pie.

I don't know of any other occasion that provokes such a reaction - it's definitely a 'love it or hate it' occasion - and I hate it. Every supermarket shelf turns orange, or so it seems, and those giant online retailers keep trying to persuade me to buy Halloween outfits, even producing a range for pets – well really!

I believe its roots lie in the idea that the spirits of the dead take to wandering about looking for bodies to inhabit and that the living put on scary costumes and make loud noises to stop them. I don’t care – I don’t like it. I know it's big in America and I don't care – so is campaigning for presidency and look where that's leading them. I fully expect Donald to appear in pumpkin costume and Hillary, claws out, as a hissing sleek, black cat.

31 October, it's lockdown night in our household, and the warm welcome usually offered to callers is subject to a twelve-hour curfew. Wartime rules apply -
"put that light out".

31 October, it’s lockdown night in our household, and the warm welcome usually offered to callers is subject to a twelve-hour curfew. Wartime rules apply - "put that light out". A quick trip to the front garden to padlock the gate, flick off the security light, and double-check for reckless illumination from within. Hastily recruited triple A batteries achieve undeserved status sitting alongside precious ornaments, the naked shell of the bell exposed confirming its demise. The large brass knocker on the front door swaddled with a duster and secured with brown tape. The insipid yellow streetlights interrupted by frigid swaying branches cast spooky shadows on the walls, the only sound a tomcat howling.

Satisfied, we retreat to the back of the house, and settle down in front of the gas fire, put subtitles on the TV to ensure no indiscreet leakage which may indicate occupancy.

My neighbour's house will receive all the attention, their windows packed with silhouettes of black cats with hunched backs, a glaring full moon, witches on broomsticks, skeletons and impossibly big plastic spiders with black hairy legs dangling from lintels. They are prepared to have hoards of over-excited children playing trick or treat and will willingly administer an overdose of sickly sweets from large orange supermarket buckets.

One smirking group who dared to mention 'trick' had eggs dropped on them from a bedroom window one year. Retaliation resulted in them having flour bombs hurled at them from the house. From the ensuing laughter I suppose they all had fun.

Meanwhile I am tucked away in subdued lighting, hearing every little crunch and clank, hoping that tonight I don't need to call an ambulance.

You can read more from Christine over on her blog, A Dangerous Age.

By Christine Human

Twitter: @adangerousage

LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 26-Oct-16 15:32:28

In the pro-Halloween corner, we have Deborah Drezon Carroll - Executive Editor of US grandparenting magazine, GRAND, and staunch Halloween enthusiast.

Deborah Drezon Carroll

Halloween screams festivity

Posted on: Wed 26-Oct-16 15:32:28


Lead photo

Halloween - a bit of fun, or commercialised nonsense?

My fondest memories of Halloween are not about the candy. Okay, not all about the candy. Rather, I recall those cool, crisp fall nights, roaming the neighbourhood with my friends and delighting in the joy of friendship, the total abandon of pretend play, and the soundtrack of crunching leaves beneath my feet. When you're a kid it doesn't get any better than that.

Plus, unlike other holidays, Halloween was guilt-free. Some holidays came with strict rules: you had to go to church or synagogue, you had to visit the cousins you never see and never want to see, you had to dress up and wear uncomfortable shoes, you had to show up with a creative gift, and so on.

But Halloween had only one rule. Have fun. There were parties and no gift was required. There was the ability to play out your fantasy and no one would think you were crazy. You could be Peter Pan or Spiderman, Cruella DeVille or Buffalo Bill. So when my children were born, we continued the Halloween traditions in much the same way I remembered.

recall those cool, crisp fall nights, roaming the neighbourhood with my friends and delighting in the joy of friendship, the total abandon of pretend play, and the soundtrack of crunching leaves beneath my feet.

My legacy included the Great Candy Swap. I had done it with my sister and described it to my daughters so they could do the same. After returning home from trick-or-treating, you spread out all of your candy on the floor. The sight of that pile of sweet, sugary goodness is simply a thrill. Then, with a careful eye, you take stock of your booty and that of your siblings. Then, the great swap negotiations begin.

"I'll give you one Kit Kat for your Milky way."

"I'll give you two Snickers for two Reese's Pieces."

The goal is to figure out which ones your siblings don't love and make them an offer that suits your sweet tooth. This goes on until everyone has managed to give away much of what they don't like, except for lollipops because nobody wants those and you can't give them away!

It's a great way for kids to learn the art and science of deal-making!

And Halloween isn't just fun, it's also a therapeutic strategy to overcome a fear. Afraid of ghosts? Not on Halloween when you can walk right up to them and say, "I ain't scared of no ghosts!" Scary monsters freak you out? On Halloween you realise there's no substance in that fear, it's just your neighbour Norman in face paint, fur, and feathers.

So, in summary, I'll just say "BOO" to anyone who doesn't think Halloween is a day deserving of respect!

Deborah is Executive Editor of GRAND, a US-based lifestyle magazine for grandparents. Find out more on the website.

By Deborah Drezon Carroll

Twitter: @GRANDMMagazine

tanith Wed 26-Oct-16 15:48:17

In my youth 'Halloween' was called Tucking Apple Night, where we would invite our friends to come and enjoy some food and games in the house. We had apples hung from strings, apples in barrels and a lucky dip, with nibbles and crisps to eat a lucky dip and a few little prizes for those who managed to eat an apple but mostly we got soaked in the barrels and never actually managed to grab and apple. We had fun no one was dressed up or scary it was just a fun way to enjoy October 31st without all this hoohaa, decorations and dressing up that came from across the pond and it cost next to nothing.

marrow Wed 26-Oct-16 16:09:53

I very much enjoyed reading both pieces but I have to say I side with Deborah. I think it's all great fun and an opportunity to celebrate without too many rules. I get caught up in the excitement of my grandchildren and we all have huge fun trick or treating and 'sharing' the spoils. I look forward to it every year.

hamble Wed 26-Oct-16 16:13:43

Yes I also agree with Deborah that it's great to have a holiday that's about fun not rules. I think over the years some sort of etiquette has been established over here - certainly on the route my GC take for trick or treating everyone is clear that if a house has decorations or a pumpkin you can knock to ask for sweets and if it doesn't then you don't trouble them. It works really well and there's never been a need for 'tricks' and it is all high spirited and light hearted fun. I do understand that it can get out of hand in some places and that maybe we have been lucky but I think the code is fairly well established now to avoid these issues?

hamble Wed 26-Oct-16 16:14:27

And I think all the children getting dressed up is so much fun as well

brushwell Wed 26-Oct-16 16:15:18

My husband loves Halloween. He's a dentist. Makes a fortune from it grin

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 26-Oct-16 16:22:31

grin grin grin Deborah - so true about the lollipops!!

vampirequeen Wed 26-Oct-16 18:54:25

Rubbish American import. Our celebration used to be Guy Fawkes night.

The American version of Hallowe'en suits the supermarkets and decoration companies. Look at all the rubbish that's now available. Costumes, plastic pumpkins, skeletons, ghosts name the rubbish they'll make it and that's before you get onto the special Hallowe'en food which is normal food with a sticker or edible bit of rice paper on it.

However, you can't stand in the way of progress even if you don't agree with it so I'll buy some mini choc bars and be suitably scared when I open the door to little witches, werewolves, vampires etc. It's only once a year and it's an excuse to eat chocolate as there is bound to be some left over grin

After all I doubt the pagans were overjoyed when the Christians plonked their celebration of the dead on top of Samhain.

Shanma Thu 27-Oct-16 00:26:42

another load of commercial rubbish as far as I am concerned

Synonymous Thu 27-Oct-16 01:07:10

Ghastly commercial rubbish!

Grandma2213 Thu 27-Oct-16 03:12:17

I don't think the Americans are to blame. I thought Halloween and Bonfire night arose from the old Celtic, end of summer/beginning of winter festivals and found the following website really interesting.

I guess the Irish might be to blame. Whatever .... I welcome any celebration to brighten up my life, especially when it involves my DGC.! As for commercialism - it's as commercial as you want it to be.

Craftycat Thu 27-Oct-16 10:36:34

I'm with Tanith- Halloween in our family was a party with apple bobbing, eating sticky buns off a string & all sorts of silly games & of course country dancing. My mother's family were Scottish & that is certainly where it came from as Nanny prepared all the sticky toffee & Tablet etc.
I hate all this Americanism which is just another excuse to get us to spend money on rubbish.

LadyGracie Thu 27-Oct-16 12:03:25

I don't enjoy Halloween at all, my DH was beaten up badly by youths after asking them to stop throwing eggs at the house. We moved house following this and now either go out for the evening or sit in the back of the house.

LyndaW Thu 27-Oct-16 12:26:26

I'm sorry to hear of your experience LadyGracie, but those sorts of vandals will just find any excuse to be horrendous - it can't really be blamed on Halloween. No matter what the films would have you ebleive It's not like a bad spirit comes out and makes everyone evil!
I agree with Grandma2213 that it's as commercial as you want it to be. My GCs love dressing up - what child doesn't? - and the parents are mostly considerate about what outfits they wear (nothing too scary) and how many sweets are consumed on the evening. Usually they are allowed one or two and then the rest are put away and either metered out over the weeks although sometimes even forgotten about by the littler ones.
Personally I love all the crafty things you can do with pumpkins and I've been busy with the 5 yr old making cute ghost and bat paper chain decorations - great fun! thlgrin

GrandmaMoira Thu 27-Oct-16 12:36:57

I don't like Halloween. I never knew of it as a child except for the religious part. When my kids were small, they enjoyed dressing up and going to a friend's party.
Now, however, kids come to the door trick or treating. Some kids come without adults - how can their parents let them knock on strangers' doors? Some early teens come and demand money - I'm wary of answering the door in case I get this which is scary.

LadyGracie Thu 27-Oct-16 13:56:45

No LyndaW, they'd never knocked on our door before, this was Halloween begging, they wanted money, we refused, eggs thrown, politely requested to stop, my husband paid the price. Now little children in our cul de sac call before it's dark and get a little treat, later we're either out or in hiding!

hildajenniJ Thu 27-Oct-16 14:18:00

I'm going to Glasgow tomorrow to visit my grandchildren. The youngest is four on Sunday and is having a Halloween birthday party with the family. My daughter is bringing her children up with pagan beliefs and festivals, so it's Samhain in their house.
here's a link to an article explaining Samhain.

vampirequeen Thu 27-Oct-16 20:10:58

I object to how commercial it's become hence I call it an American import.

When I was little we had toffee apples and dad made a Hallowe'en lantern out of a swede....much harder to do than a pumpkin.

Samhain is a time when the veil between the spirit and the mundane world is thinner.

Marieeliz Mon 31-Oct-16 11:17:49

Yes Tanith this was good fun and harmless. The house next to me, Council, has been empty for ten days. Stays with her mother mostly. Last night arrived to decorate it outside for Halloween. What's this all about.

loopylou Mon 31-Oct-16 11:30:42

I loath it having had to try and clear up eggs and paint thrown at two very elderly neighbours' houses last year after they refused to give the yobs money.
How on earth saying 'Give me something or else' is deemed appropriate behaviour totally beats me.
I will sit with the lights off hoping no damage is done this year.

Hippywitch64 Mon 31-Oct-16 11:37:35

Samhain (halloween) is an important sabbat to pagans long before the whole trick or treat thing. Its the end of the pagan year a day when the veil between this world and the next thins. I always put a candle in my window to guide the spirits of my loveds home for the night. This festival has been going far longer than trick or treating even longer than america has been discovered. Its a very spiritual day please dont assume the american thing is all there is to it. Brightest blessings and blessed samhain

AlieOxon Mon 31-Oct-16 12:17:34

I do like the candle idea.
I will put one for my daughter tonight.

AlieOxon Mon 31-Oct-16 12:18:30

I don't do or support any of the American stuff.

rubysong Mon 31-Oct-16 14:06:22

UK costumes etc are much more scary and gory than those in USA .
My DGC have as their costumes this year a banana and Wonderwoman, but the outfits I have seen in our local supermarket are all disturbingly horrific and I would not put a small child in any of them. Over here they are exclusively ghosts, ghouls, witches etc. but in America it is dressing up in its widest sense, just for fun, not to frighten anyone.