Updated: Oct 31, 2019
This blog update might cause a slight ripple among readers and I do apologise if I come across like a miserable middle-class snob (which I’m not, by the way, at least I only pretend to be middle class) and I don’t wish to offend my marvellous American readers as I am aware after watching Hocus Pocus about thirty times with the boys that you guys go bananas for Halloween.
WE DON’T DO HALLOWEEN!
Like, not at all! Do try to conceal your shock and horror.
It’s not because of religion or an aversion to fun or not being arsed (it is a tiny bit not being arsed to be fair).
I’ll try to explain why.
1. Unsolicited door knockers
As a general rule we don’t tend to answer the door unless we’re expecting somebody or something. I’m not 100% sure why we’ve developed this habit, or where it came from. I expect it’s partly because in the seven years that we lived in our house before we adopted the boys, we only had unexpected door knockers and very rarely an expected one.
I’m as friendly and helpful as the next gay, but there is only so much disappointment one person can take from a knocked door and my disappointment threshold has long been exceeded.
Now when the door knocks, I would rather crawl on all fours into the kitchen and lurk behind the breakfast bar for a few minutes than answer the door to another double glazing person or indeed a miniature Freddy Krueger with a plastic bucket on Halloween.
2. Sweets overload
Now I can’t speak on behalf of everybody in their mid-thirties, but when we were children, we used to go to a little paper-shop once a week or less often than that, perhaps after swimming lessons on a Saturday morning to buy a small bag of penny sweets. Believe it or not, 1p used to buy a whole sweet, 5p for one of those spitty sherbert fountain things or 10p for a whole packet of Polos. I remember that my 20p pocket money was ample to select an enviable paper bag full of colourful sweets.
I don’t think Freddos were invented yet, in fact my idea of a bite-sized chocolate was a hard, chalky mice shaped disappointment that coated the top of one’s mouth with an oily residue. Anyway, even at those 1990 prices, we were only treated to sweets on a weekly basis as most. Sweets felt like a special treat.
Fast forward 27 years to 2017 and children appear to have become very ungrateful and presumptuous when it comes to sweets. At least twice a week they leave their classroom with a bag of Haribos, a handful of Heroes or a huge lolly-pop in their hands, which are usually unwrapped in a mad panic just before I have an opportunity to whip them out of their hands and into my coat pockets. Additionally, lunch-box snacks are far more confectionery-like than I was used to (my packed-lunch used to involve a thin-sliced wholemeal Marmite sandwich and a tiny bag of Cheddars), something that I’ve had to embrace to ensure that the boys’ lunches at least attempt to live up their peers with their extravagant Alpen bars and Graze snacks.
3. Grown ups doing it
I don’t mean to be rude, and I am an enormous fan of dressing up in silly fancy dress for a party but like everything else in the modern selfie age of Instagram and Twitter, Halloween appears to have become a kind of ‘make yourself look exactly as though you have an open zip running through the middle of your face’ competition. I was talking to Tom about this (he’s equally/more pessimistic about Halloween than I am) and he has a theory that British Instagrammers have been inadvertently encouraged by their American peers to compete for the most realistic wounded face makeup and it’s all got entirely out of hand. I don’t mind it, but I’m not bothered enough to get involved myself.
My reference point for classic good old-fashioned American Halloween is, as mentioned, Hocus Pocus, where hoards of children are encouraged to wander around unsupervised in the road, looking very cute, while grown ups sit in their homes with a glass of apple cider, enjoying the peace and quiet. Meanwhile, in the UK in 2017, children (also looking cute mostly but with a growing presence of full-head masks which I find plain weird) have to be escorted by a harassed looking mum dressed up as Princess Elsa who has usually been lumbered with a heavy bright red bucket full of sweets. I refuse to be that mum.
4. Manufactured dressing up costumes
When Tom was a little boy, he only went to one Halloween party, where he dressed as a home-made Egyptian mummy, wrapped in quilted loo roll. His dad squirted tomato ketchup all over him which apparently meant that he stank of vinegar all night. After an hour or so a power cut meant that everyone left in a screamy panic. He smelled like vinegar for days apparently.
Anyway, Tom’s anecdote highlights something that we used to find fantastically fun when we were children and that is making our own rubbish fancy dress costumes. Shop-bought dressing up costumes are in my opinion over-done nowadays and only seem to line the pockets of already wealthy brands who give very little back to society.
When we were kids my mum and dad had a ‘dressing up box’ which was essentially an old leather suitcase full of Mum’s old nighties and a couple of tatty wigs. Me and my sister used to love dressing up in mum’s old C&A night-wear, tottering around in her stilettos and putting on shows with a hairbrush microphone.
I’ve never been a fan of masks. I think my dislike for masks began at secondary school when a visiting theatre group ran a mask workshop involving the whole class wearing hideous expressionless masks and acting out a distressing emotion or scenario. Whoever had the idea of surrounding a bullied, anxious thirteen year old gay kid with mask-wearing actors pretending to shoplift must have taken complete leave of their senses.
Our boys, Lyall and Richie love dressing up in fancy dress and in fact they spend most evenings in some kind of dressing up gear (evidence below!), be it a vampire, Captain America or more recently a Lego Ninjago thing with marvellous Lego hand gloves.
But I draw the proverbial line at full-head masks. To me it seems more than a tad weird to encourage your child to cover their whole head in anything that covers their adorable face. Not to mention you can’t pick them out of a crowd if their head’s covered up.
I’m much more a fan of a Harry Potter, with a Crayola forehead scar or a vampire with silly plastic teeth, thank you very much.
It’s not all doom and gloom for our kids, mind you. We do participate enthusiastically in other annual celebrations – our family birthday (30th March by the way in case you’d like to send us a huge prezzy), weddings, Christmas, firework night, pancake day, Harvest festival and even Divali.
Halloween’s not for us.