Archive for October 31st, 2017

Halloween greetings

Until fairly recently, Halloween did not use to be so big a thing in England. Indeed, it was barely a thing at all. It is something that has come over here from across the Atlantic, enthusiastically spurred on by various companies who saw profits to be made with an extra celebration a few months before Christmas. While some welcome this excuse for merry-making, there are also others who resent what they see as the intrusion of an essentially alien event.

But perhaps it is not quite so alien to these isles: celebrating Halloween may be a relatively recent thing in England, but it has long been a Scottish tradition. We certainly had it in Scotland when I was growing up there in the 60s and 70s. I remember going to Halloween parties, and ducking for apples. We didn’t go trick-or-treating: that was, at the time, an unheard-of phrase. But many did go “guising”. This involved dressing up – not with elaborate costumes, but, more often, with something borrowed from the parents, and often with some facial hair painted on; or, if all else failed, with a bedsheet over one’s head, pretending to be a ghost. And, in this disguise, the children would knock on neighbours’ doors, tell jokes, sing songs, or whatever, in exchange for sweets. I got as far as the dressing up, but, my parents being what they were, knocking on neighbours’ doors in expectation of sweets was a few steps too far for them. I bear the psychological scars of this still.

But this has turned, as all celebrations sadly do, into a commercial orgy, and, descending as I am into grumpy and misanthropic old age, I can understand those who dislike, and are indeed resentful of, the whole business. However, there is another part of me that loves ghost stories, and old horror films, and this part wishes to indulge itself. So, since Halloween is now here to stay whether we like it or not, I propose that we invent our own age-old traditions. I suggest we discard all this hollowed-out pumpkin business; I suggest further that we bin trick-or-treating, and, if we must, return to good old-fashioned Scottish “guising”. And, most importantly, I suggest that for this one evening in the year, we switch off all our electric lights, light candles instead, and, in this ominous gloom and murk, with the candle-light casting eerie, eldritch shadows about the room, and with the wind moaning outside like the despairing voices of damned souls (we will clearly need wind machines should the night not be windy), we scare ourselves silly by reading creepy ghost stories to each other.

Have a very happy Halloween, and see you all on All Soul’s Day.