It’s been Halloween mania out there! Almost every single shop I pass by, be it a supermarket, chemist, post office, garage or even beauty salon (!?why?), I’m faced by a so-called “festive” or “seasonal” display of grotesquely grimacing masks, rubber bats, paper skeletons, plastic devil’s forks and variously carved pumpkins.
I’m sure it was never this commercialised when I was little. There may have been the odd Halloween party – I remember one where (rather feebly) I went as a headless horseman, dressed in nothing more than a pair of jodhpurs, a polo-necked jumper pulled over my head and carrying a riding hat. But we never went trick-or-treating and we never had a pumpkin. Yet now I’ve got my pumpkin on the windowsill (being a tight-wad, I’ve only bought a tiny one for 99p), a big bag of sweets to give out to any kids brave enough to trick or treat in our area (actually, I’m scared they might do some hideous trick if I pretend I’m not in) and I’m currently racking my brains as to what my two children could wear when they go trailing around the houses (in another, posher, area).
To be honest I’m not looking forward to it at all, but this has something to do with last year’s experience when we were living in Abu Dhabi and my kids went trick-or-treating two days in a row.
It started badly with my son, Jamie, being completely unable to decide what to wear. He tried on outfit after outfit after outfit, none of which fitted his particular (and changeable) idea of what he wanted to look like. Obstinately, I refused to leap into the car at the 11th hour to go and buy a costume, so finally, after a nightmare session of tears, tantrums and very very frayed tempers we settled on a quickly cobbled together zombie-type outfit which looked sort-of scary in a vague kind of way. This was followed by much trial and error putting very sticky face paint on both children which (inevitably) had to be taken off and put on again several times because I had apparently not done it quite right.
Several blasphemes later and in a very frazzled state of mind I took my kids over to the neighbouring compound to join our friends in the annual collection of tooth-rotting treats. The compound was mainly American and it was truly amazing the lengths some people had gone to. Whole courtyards had been converted into the most elaborate of scary dens, giant spider’s webs, or terrifying ogre’s lairs. And the costumes of the adults doling out treats were so realistic that at times our kids were too frightened to go up to them. It was enough to make even the most confident individual feel inadequate and I’m afraid to say I spent much of the time worrying that someone would point out my shoddy face-painting skills or question what on earth Jamie was meant to be and hence engender another scene. Thankfully, everyone was wildly diverted by the massive amount of sweets they were accumulating.
When we got home the kids sorted through their haul, eyes wide with greed and wonder like misers counting their hoards of money. The amount was truly mountainous. I could see I would have to be very firm about how many sweets could be eaten and when. With a flash of inspiration I managed to filter out the most harmful and unpleasant of the sweets (while the kids were asleep) and handed them out to hapless tots touring our compound the following day. Luckily, my kids were happy to wear the same costumes a second day running (phew) and my face-painting had improved a bit second time around. Also, I managed to persuade the kids to hand out, rather than collect, sweets – at least for a little bit. So we got rid of some sweets but gained even more.
Just as an indication of the obscene amount of goodies we received: we still had some left (which I threw away) when we left Abu Dhabi the following April.
That’s why I’m really not looking forward to this Halloween. I realise that I may be being unnecessarily curmudgeonly here – Halloween is meant to be a bit of fun. But I blame it on the season. Though there are things to enjoy at this time of year – the autumn leaves, conkers and (occasional) crisp bright mornings – there is no getting away from it, winter is drawing in. The heating is on, you can’t dry clothes outside, the clocks are going back and it’s dark earlier, I’m eating more because my body’s telling me it’s arctic out there and I must pile on fat and I have to wear thick jumpers which make my already thickening torso look even thicker. All of this tends to encourage a rather negative frame of mind.
But I’ll try my best to look on the bright side. Maybe Halloween will be different this year. Maybe there will be no fuss over costumes and no palaver over face paint. I’m sure they won’t get so many sweets (we Brits are pretty stingy on these things) and at least it’s only one night this time…