“ Harmless trick or treating fun for the kids or celebration of evil? „
When it comes to Halloween i am scrooge, i've never liked halloween, in fact, probably one of the worst days of the year for me. I have had numerous bad experiences with this particular day over the years, and i think that's exactly what puts me off every year it comes round. I get people telling me their kids are going trick or treating, or they're handing out sweets etc etc but i just can't get into it, i don't like the idea and whilst i may just sound like a grumpy old man here, I just plain don't like it.
I remember a few years back a bunch of local chavs came and smashed up ornaments. More recently candles were stolen from pumpkins, cars had streamers sprayed up them, and general misbehaviour. I stop and think about the elderly who must have to put up with this scary time of year and not scary in the horror sense, i mean scary as in theres a bunch of chavs hanging around outside my window causing trouble, kinda scary.
I think in this day and age it's unsafe to send kids round on their own getting sweets of strangers because you never know *ahem* what they might do or give you. I really am sounding like scrooge now aren't I? Seriously though if children are quite young an adult should accompany them, i think thats just safety rather than an over reaction.
I have never been a fan of horror, or anything scary for that matter, and i think Halloween focuses on that whole Horror thing to the point where i get sick of it, and just want christmas to come. It's that time of year where it's dark at night, the weather is rubbish, the entire country seems to have a cold and snow will be round the corner in time for new year. It's that sort of "build up period" where one can only look forward to bonfire night. (Which i absolutely love by the way)
I think my negative experiences with Halloween have somehow built up over the years and i now seem to have this negative outlook on the whole event which makes it somewhat depressing this time of year. If it weren't for chavs i'm sure i'd be alright about it but it's those that ruin it for others really.
So Halloween is just another day in the dairy for me and quite an uneventful one at that, i can't really get into it. 5 days later though i'm setting fire to some plywood and laughing it up with some mates over a pint of larger for hours on end.
That's what i'll look forward to.
Unless you are a Christian fundamentalist or a neo-pagon, the celebration formally known by the ancient Celts as Samhain will have little spiritual meaning to you. Perhaps that's a rather sweeping statement, but I think for the most part if Christmas is losing the battle with commercialization (and my opinion on that is complex) then Halloween lost it a long time ago. In fact, "Halloween", for all its association with the supernatural, is generally regarded as a secular holiday - and that suits me fine. Our middle class torch-bearers of the "old religion", bless every sky-clad and Hermetic spell-weaving one of them, look to this like a Christmas - except I guess for those also assert, with justification, that Christmas is also a hijacked European pagan festival. Whereas some of the even wackier members of the Christian Right would have us believe that this is the time Satan or the Enemy rides out. And the sight of people - worse still, children! - wondering the streets dressed as the many representations of supernatural evil must be enough to confirm their long held belief that we are all approaching the prophesised End of Times.
Being a fan of history, I quite like the ever-evolving story of Halloween. Because it means little to most, the politicization and misunderstanding of it is original purpose meets little debate. In short, it was just another ceremony to lighten the spirits of the masses as the nights drew in and the weather grew harsher. It was the Gaelic harvest festival - a time to celebrate and enjoy the bounty of the year's crop yield. The beginning of the "Celtic New Year", as the sun began to recede. The occupying Romans, of course, began associating this with their own Lemuria festival of the dead celebration, where they exorcized the malevolent spirits of the dead. The Christianization of Rome led to the eventual Christianization of many traditions. Therefore this harvest festival-cum-exorcism of ghosts on 31st October became All Hallow's Eve, which preceded the Catholic celebrations, All Hallow's Day on 1st November and All Souls Day on 2nd November. Of course, The Isle of Man still celebrate 31st October as a type of original New Year's Eve called Hop-tu-naa, which is very similar to Halloween complete with trick or treating children. However, rather than using the North American imported pumpkin, their version of a Jack-o'-Lantern, associated with the will-o'-the-wisp legends, they use a carved turnip. The carved pumpkin that has become synonymous with Halloween to the point that orange might as well be the official colour for the celebration, is actually the North American settlers' adaption of the old turnip carving tradition. There is speculation among some historians that links the bonfire celebrations of Guy Fawkes Night on 5th November with Samhain and that, just the Catholics had done, the Protestants turned a celebration with pagan roots into their own religious festival. I heard this link made as fact quire recently on a history podcast without the fact that this is a controversial viewpoint not accepted by mainstream historians.
Personally I have no deep connection to any religious or commercial date in the calendar. Therefore Halloween suits me down to the ground. It's a celebration that doesn't really impose itself on you, unless of course you consider the trick or treaters to be an annoyance. Well, we have to put up with carol singers in the run up to Christmas and they could come on any number of days. Besides that, it's all down to whether or not you attend a fancy dress party or get into horror films or stories. It doesn't have any of the sanctimonious moralizing of Christmas or an insistence on having relative around. There is no anti-climax, as no one has any special expectations for the date and there is nothing like the pressure to spend money. These advantages could also be set against Valentine's Day, Easter or any other celebration in the calendar.
When I was at primary school I was first told any type of significance for Halloween from our visiting vicar. He explained the Hallow's Eve connection, a time when the forces of evil could indulge themselves one last time before Hallow's Day. Today I see that the event has gradually become a time when people can "let themselves go". Like they need any sort of encouragement! This is just another example of the celebration moving further away from its association with general spookiness. Aside from teenage trick or treaters, one of my pet hates of Halloween is the wearing of a costume that has no connection to ghosts, zombies, vampires, witches or anything else from the spooky cannon. Call me an old stick in the mud, but you can wear your Superman or hooker costume to any other fancy dress party.
Going to parties is definitely not a must for me. I can really take them or leave them. I generally just like the whole idea of a having spooky night. Being a fan of Gothic fiction, horror movies and ghost stories it all suits me just fine. The secular nature of the holiday appeals to me too. There is no dogma imposed nor is any belief or political persuasion excluded - and there is no social stigma for those who choose to exclude themselves.
When it comes to Halloween, no-one does it like the Scottish. The country is full of gory history and superstition. From the completely fanciful legend of the cannibals of Galloway, Sawney Bean and his 45-strong incestuous brood to the haunted battlefields of someone of Scotland's bloodiest battles, Scotland is the perfect place to visit over the Halloween period. I took my poor unfortunate family on a virtual Burke and Hare pilgrimage to Edinburgh. Resident to Edinburgh, these two serial killers committed their final murder on Halloween night. The grisly tale, which I have summarized before, is all the more sinister by the fact that it is undeniably true. We not only have accounts of their nefarious deeds, including their own testimonies, but there are some truly macabre souvenirs taken from Burke's hugely popular public hanging. He was publically dissected by order of the court as type poetic justice and his skeleton is now displayed in the Royal College of Surgeons' Museum; tanned skin from his body was turned into a number of macabre souvenirs. To this day you can view a matchbox made from one of his hands in the Police Museum in Edinburgh. Dissecting Professor Alexander Monro even dipped his quill in the blood of Burke and penned a letter revelling in this morbid excess.
However, the "spirit" of the occasion can be enjoyed many different mediums. If you are going to have a party why not mix up the various mixes with a rich selection of horror themed tracks. There are some great spooky classics from Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" to Michael Jackson's "Thriller", and what Halloween could miss the king of mascara and monsters himself, Alice Cooper. Then we have the wonderfully campy "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" soundtrack that demands audience participation and both the original and harder-edged cover of "Tim Burton's 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'" provide excellent background tunes. The soundtrack of the first "Resident Evil" film works brilliantly. This is not in any small way to the fact shock-rocker Marilyn Manson was behind a lot of the musical arrangement. In fact, a lot of Manson's work is very appropriate. Also have a good look over some of the'80s Goth scene. However, if you are going to start going down the Black and Doom metal root it might be worth remembering that although a lot of the classic instrumental stuff is impressively atmospheric, their particular vocalizations are an acquired tastes and might inspire more than their fair share of giggles from your guests. Having said that my favourite Halloween track has to be Type-O-Negative's wonderfully irreverent "Black No.1 (Little Miss Scare-All)" - not only does it mention Halloween a couple of times in the lyrics and even Lily Munster, but it also features a wonderful turn on "The Addams Family" theme tune.
Reading or, better still, listening to a good horror or ghost story is a wonderful tradition that can delight all ages if delivered in the right way. Any one of Edgar Allen Poe's literature is virtually tailor-made for the occasion. "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Black Cat" and "The Pit and Pendulum" are my personal favourites. However, Poe doesn't have the monopoly on the classic short fiction. The Penguin Book of Horror stories, both in audio and printed formats, has a wonderful selection of classics written by a rich variety of literary giants. This includes the creator of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, not to mention Long John Silver, R.L. Stevenson delivers a very eerie tale inspired by Burke Hare called "The Body Snatcher". A.M. Burrage's "The Waxwork" has a "Twilight Zone" type of charm and is comparable to Poe in this sense of mounting psychological terror. However, the most genuinely scary of the lot has to be "Moonlight Sonata" by Alexander Woollcott. There's genuine horror in the tale without being gratuitous and then a genuinely nasty, if ingenious, pay-off at the end.
What better way to finish the night off with than to selection of films. Now, I haven't just specifically chosen horrors and I haven't necessarily chosen my favourite horrors, but those films that fit this particular occasion. Happy Halloween!
The Flesh and the Fiends
Okay, so I am really on a Burke and Hare thing here. However, the film meets plenty of criteria. It's genuinely creepy and features a giant of classic horror cinema, Donald Pleasance as a particularly nasty William Hare. Curiously it is also the only Burke and Hare film I have seen that heavily features Halloween.
Well, I might as well get this obligatory picture out of the way. The trouble is the slasher genre has been so badly hacked to pieces that a lot of its initial impact is impaired. Still, the date is right and the presence of Pleasance again, this time as a good guy, and Jamie Lee Curtis should be enough to keep your attention. There is, of course, Carpenter's superior direction and his distinctive theme tune.
Pumpkins and the legend of the headless horseman! What more could one ask from a Halloween movie? Tim Burton's wonderful homage to classic swashbuckling Hammer Horror delivers a picture that has a wonderful balance of thrills and humour. The cast is headed by Burton favourite Johnny Depp, who really excels in this type of very quirky role, and includes Miranda Richardson and a requisite cameo from the great Christopher Lee. Ray Park's work as the horseman's stunt double takes the fight scenes in a wonderfully inventive direction.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Charles Schulz's Charlie Brown comments on any public holiday are a must for me. From silly traditions taken to their extreme to the wonderful downbeat comedy of the peace accompanied by the distinctive jazz soundtrack make this satire on the Halloween holiday a much needed counterbalance to the "excuse for excess" philosophy now connected to the event.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Burton again and this time with a film that works equally as well as a Halloween film as it does a Christmas film. In fact, it is often more connected to the latter than the former. However, it is interesting to note that it features Halloween far more prominently and was actually premiered on 31st October. The film is full of fun songs that reflect the whole tongue-in-cheek campy appeal of Halloween and contains the distinctive Burton-style take on stop-motion animation.
Alex Proyas' mesmerising 1994 reimagining of J O'Barr's graphic novel is perhaps the best dark fantasy piece ever made. The story of an avenging spirit brought back from the dead to exact revenge on his murderers is set the night before Halloween on a fictionalized night of organized anarchy and crime called "Devil's Night". The film is a virtual love letter to the Goth subculture, but has a widespread appeal with memorable characters and quotable lines.
I saw this classic silent at the cinema accompanied by a live pianist over the Halloween weekend. It was a real treat. Yes, much of the over-exaggerated "silent acting" and all the components of the movie that have been copied numerous times over the past near century did rouse regular snickers and giggles, but that is part of the fun. The film can be appreciated in many different ways. I see it as a window into the darkness of the Weimar Republic. So much of what we know as the modern horror movie can be traced back to F.W. Murnau's masterpiece of expressionist cinema.
"Ghostbusters" is fun, exciting and genuinely funny. This movie combines the talents of a post-Blues Brothers Dan Ackroyd with a pre-pretentious Bill Murray in a comedy that rivals "Trading Places" for laughs. It's a wonderful satire on the whole sham ghost-hunting business and plants tongue firmly in cheek as Ackroyd and fellow writer, Harold Ramis, play with the whole pseudoscientific business of supernatural investigation.
The Monster Squad
"Ghostbusters" inspired some excellent imitators. Bizarrely "The Monster Squad" featured a cast of kids and yet sported a 15 certificate in the UK. This was "Ghostbusters" meets "The Goonies", and is as entertaining as either with half the budget. A bunch of pre-pubescents take on Dracula, The Wolf-Man, the Mummy and some vamps with the aid of Frankenstein's Monster and a survivor from a Nazi concentration camp. The script is smart and in a way that doesn't talk down to kids, making it very edgy for its time, and is very affectionate to the Universal cannon in a way that "Van Helsing" wouldn't know how.
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Before there was Wii exercise games and before breakfast show workouts this was how you got people moving in front of a TV. The perfect party movie, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is the perfect adult musical. Richard O'Brien brilliantly parodies the '40s through to '70s science fiction and horror B movie horror scene. In a nod to the likes of cross-dressing B movie king, Ed Wood, O'Brien has Tim Rice plays the picture's most memorable role, the transvestite Transylvanian Dr Frank-N-Furter. The film and the live musical is a unique hybridization of schlock Americana and British eccentricity.
Snippets of Halloween memory jaunts over the years is fading, either through a state of inebriation or fragmented due to being locked deep in a memory lobe for very good reason. Trying to entice these unruly memories out into open play is not dissimilar to luring a delinquent 'food freak' to try avocado for the first time. Of course, there are methods but it isn't always the one you bet you're house on; it's when the mind runs riot with you at three in the morning, re-playing past events that have been buried amongst the other uneventful Halloween's. So, detailing a chronological ordered write-up deciphering over the times of events in my opinion cannot be added for authenticity reasons, nor will data be made up for anecdotal intrigue. I'll refrain from distilling manufactured wow factors endorsed to a nonentity subject in November. Therefore a mouthed 'fancy that' would suffice.
Spells Like Gene Spirit
My Halloween experiences started whilst sitting with an odd lad, of the same peerage as me (no he wasn't me) who in a startling high pitch tone claimed 'Halloween was his favourite day of the year.' I, being a somewhat cautious lad, who'd not bought into the concept of fear via childish lighting effects; was not too enamoured with the whole Halloween rigmarole. Hasten to add, I wasn't wired up to the occasion, too the extent I'd only eat candy instead of a nutritional meal all day. This odd lad had his parents wrapped around his piggy fingers - what he wanted he usually got, and what he wanted was too be scared to death; the whole of Halloween night. I was invited, goodness knows why? I barely spoke to him, except for that one conversation that hibernated in his memory for several months; denoting incorrectly that I too had a fascination with the ghoulish horrors of Halloween. All I said was "How weird!" - Weird obviously meant awesome in his deranged translation. Under his house rules, Halloween night, was a night youngsters were allowed to stay up until midnight. I wasn't worried of any cardboard cut-outs of ghouls and I'd seen a lit-up pumpkin, because I had seen all the Blue Peter episodes leading up to Halloween. Plus had seen Chris Tarrant covered in custard pies first thing on a Saturday morning - now nothing is as scary as that. The one thing I hadn't counted on was 'Apple Bobbing' in a big bucket with tadpoles swimming about. Horrific and of course all part of the frolics of Halloween according to this weasel. Squeals of repulsiveness would've woken the dead. The louder the sound of disgust the funnier it all seemed to be - he proudly announced he had wet his pants on three occasions and proceeded to re-count time after time the events of the evening. His Dad a tower of condensed flab; would disappear and loom out from behind doors in the chance of making his son wet himself once again. Both of them cajoled together, keeling over in hilarity. The rest of the youngsters, I included, tucked into sherbet liquorices whilst digging out any tadpoles dislodged in the thermal vest. Of course sherbet was yet another prop, predominantly to make our already nervous wreck pale faces even more ghostly - Then Dracula dropped by to hand-out sachets of fake blood, apparently wearing the same watch as Mr. Miflin (The Dad) The coincidence was uncanny, so was the fact he worked in a hospital where blood was evidently about. My matter of fact, droll sense of humour, claimed to be the worse crime of the night, because I said it was real blood, hence, the family hospital connection. It caused a fiasco amongst my peers. Tears and frantic hysteria erupted in unison. All was tired, and it was only 9pm. Urgent calls were made - parents night-in interrupted; the planned night of copulated bliss halted. Cries of Mummy, Daddy rang out into the hallway as their parents disgruntled postures shoveled up their weepy, tired children away from the monstrosity; that being ultimately 'me.' I wished Dracula came out sooner. It was the highlight of my Halloween. Meanwhile, the son of Dracula was hovering over a basin due to excessive candy and excitement. Completely oblivious to all that I inadvertently created. The sting in the tail was: after he was told what I did; he properly pi**ed himself for the sixth time; sadly though, he worshipped me even more, he was my shadow - that was my year long punishment .
I guess it was the way I delivered my prose in such a meek, mild manner while looking at the fake blood sachet, endorsed hysteria to a devastating consequence. Looking on, I wore a bemused expression, unaware what I had done initially. The power of one sentence laced with the possibility of fact seemed to descend a fear way beyond what had happened before-hand. No added props, just a sinister thought process, with the help of occupational reality. Psychological fear is ultimately a knock-out punch on slap-stick; one to remember for the future.
Halloweens thereafter - I chose to take a backseat rather than go and obtusely unhinge wrought iron gates off posts, or graffiti walls for tricks. My peers deemed to be overtly harsh on those people who only gave loose coinage at their doors; "how is 86 pence going to divide into 5 of us?" or evidently even worse still, be swiftly handed out three unwrapped humbugs from an elder's wrinkly claw, and then be told to pi** off. The courageous wonders of the robust elderly, they always blasphemed afterwards when the door was bolted. You got to admire their wit. I never went along with my peerage herd. I gathered stories through the grape-vine what had transcended. These same idiocies now honed their skills into being City Lawyers and Merchant Bankers, still taking money off hard-working citizens, for no effort. What horrors they continue to be?
The 'Rooky' Horror Show
Amusing sights indeed have enlightened my University life at the best and worse of times. One vivid anecdote was witnessing Antonia Byatt (now Dame Antonia Susan Byatt: Known as A. S. Byatt 'the author' - Man Booker Prize Winner); attired impressively as a white witch. Talc pumping into the air, as if she was a power station, while shuffling down a corridor; leaving an artificial frost on the shiny floor tiles. Off to sample the numerous of fruity Halloween cocktails at the bar. She'd got huge accolades for writing 'Possession' at the time, the honoured guest at our Halloween gala. Shamefully being a single, red-blooded male, I saw this particular Halloween night as a green light for thinking outside the box, so I went as Inspector Gadget; an amorous inspired plan was hatched. I felt that all the ghouls (the female variety ) who had meticulously spent several hours mummifying themselves up courageously with sheets of white cloth, on a freezing night, may require assistance as the Halloween party gets in the full swing, cloth will inevitably unraveled from their person. So I equipped myself with an ample amount of white bandage cloth within Inspector Gadget's long coat, a pair of scissors and a plentiful box of safety pins, tubular packaged (unopened) Burgundy talc for men (a slight mistake there) - mini Rum and Brandy shots, plastic cups, plasters, sowing kit. Under my hat I carried miniature roses. I even had make-up remover just incase the mummified ghouls got tearful, due to their hard-work being dismantled. The bar was full of horny devils, in red PVC suits; all had tails and would need re-adjusting having been trampled on most of the night. Antonia Byatt was submerged in an aura of talc which was puffing up spontaneously, as if dancing to the Rocky Horror theme tune. Her cortege of two elected lecturers was spluttering Frankenstein's who incidentally had a dreadful case of dandruff. They had wisely opted for bottle beer beverages; less chance of talc dust diving in, doing a Tom Daley. As planned, the more inebriated the mummified and horny deviled ghouls got the more animated their dancing became, loosening up cloth bandages, and devil tails. Inspector Gadget to the rescue, I then unraveled the long coat to reveal a treasure chest of goodies, to aide damsel's in attire distress. Word got around the disheveled ladies, and too many onlookers at the Halloween event it'll look as if I had a harem of ghouls and little devils feeling about my body. That night I felt like Russell Brand in his heyday. All equipped with vital gadgets for a Halloween party. For months thereafter studious folk thought I was a babe magnet. Coyly I replied, "They were only after one thing - my mini shots!" - I wish.
Lustful thoughts over bandages and flirty shakes of Burgundy talc (they didn't notice the male scent) were all forgotten eight hours later, on All Saints Day. An inebriated acts of touching up and flirtations, doth not count the day after; all what they wanted was Paracetmol, and I didn't think that far ahead. They scorned irritatingly at me. I made a rod for my back, one that lasted for three years. 'They had the last laugh; I was their play-thing.'
Four years after the 'Rooky Horror Show' - The sixteenth century tradition endeavoured to be another druid filled night of distaste, although this time, it tasted of lipstick. Yes, I escaped the clutches of three years of prick teasing that foiled any attempt of having a meaningful relationship. I came to the conclusion All Hallow's Eve masquerades repercussions. By which point maturity or lack of alcohol had relaxed my eagerness to play up to Halloween fiascos, however, a mischievousness beauty had plans of her own, subjecting yours truly to becoming 'an androgynous Dracula ,' all ludicrous of course. Like a lamb to the slaughter, again, I was transfixed to her leggy black fishnet stockings and her seductive clingy black cloak; pampered up to the nines, she'd bathed herself with Le perfume Tresor. The applications on my lips were not what I had expected; she claimed I needed to dress up, when I mean dress up, she meant go 'feminine,' and promptly painted my lips glossy just like in a Renoir painting. Bewildered and amused by the transformation and tingly sensation on my smackers that needed reapplying due to my incessant licking, although it was purposefully done for her to get close again. To witness her perplex facial expression; her precise brush-work. At the bar, I wasn't the only one dressed to thrill, other men were lined up at the bar getting their lips services with red gloss also, it was quite a sight and if David Bailey the photographer was in the pub, he'll would've made a fortune. This was before smart-phones and Inspector Gadget was elsewhere no doubt. My beer glass looked as if ten women had drunk from it by the waxy smear marks around the rim of the glass; the alcohol stimulated my lip tingling furthermore, inadvertently made me instantaneously check my lips for signs of infection. Sensations emulated nettle stings. In the men's toilets I sure my reddening gob also had enlarged in size, to Leslie Ash proportions. But all I got was disdained looks by Miss Renoir whose English wasn't good at the best of times; her disapproving glare at 'petit moi' deemed to be unappreciative and marred as rude to her glossy brush-work. Of course, in the end she absconded to reassuring male arms stroke charms, who like me, just wanted to get into her fishnets. As the drinks passed my now numb lips, the wariness of my bee stung lips disappeared, she didn't re-apply lipstick to my pout again that night, nor any other time thereafter. What I can remember of the evening was a muffled conversation with a true 'scholar of Halloween attire.' He meticulously explained the remarkable wisdom behind the reasoning of dressing up as Alice Cooper at Halloween, every year. He slurred in a posh accent:
"All you have to do ishh ... in Mash Fracture (translated to - Max Factor) black masshhara (mascara) ish put a downward and upward linesh Shhentral (central) to the eyeshh, and wear a long black jacket, you can't go wrong; takesh two minutesh mash"
Along with his wisdom, I could smell Chicken Kiev wafting from his goatee - something else he was happily sharing with me. We were best of friends for five minutes. Until my bladder started screaming in a high pitched tone to my pickled brain which for once responded in haste. I left Alice Cooper goggled eyed, breathing his Chicken Kiev fumes into an empty pint glass - He used up his entire wisdom quota on me, what a generous man.
The spooky fact was he completely vanished after my call of nature return; a 'drunken spirit of Halloween' who evidently eat Chicken Kiev; his purpose was to pass on his Halloween knowledge to a desperately sad man who had his ego stripped from him by being lip glossed like a girl from St Trinians and enchanted by black fishnet stockings and clingy cloak, albeit they both were no where to be seen. Till this day, whenever I eat Chicken Kiev, I remember his goatee Halloween wisdom.
Annually, All Hallow's Eve; is a meager offering now - the closest I get to those hazy daft days of Halloween fright nights is an indulgent helping of pumpkin soup, thick and orange, full of home-made warmth. Pumpkin is delicious while seasoned correctly, preferably a dusting of cinnamon. If left to their own devices pumpkins develop a fascinating spindly web type fungus inside the moist walls, white cotton-wool strands, intrinsic in pattern. All this pumpkin knowledge came from being at a civilized party several years ago where rotting pumpkins occupied window ledges. Also available that Halloween was a squelching eight foot tall Mr Blobby, leaving repugnant wet patches everywhere, due to excessive dancing, hence the perspiration. And to add to a particularly vulgar activity - I apparently was seen poking ladies derrières with sparklers, thankfully unlit. The idea was to mix the two events, Halloween and Bon fire night into one - so the pumpkins were a week old, and wouldn't be out of place in an inane Harry Potter movie as a prop.
Revenge is sweets
The 31st October; nevertheless rears the grotesque green fingers of the 'heather shrub snatchers.' A three minute deliberation of what prized baby heather shrubs to have was wasted, having been dug up on the realization of an empty abode from the result of not answering 'Titchmarsh Trick or Treat' door knockers. The irksome horrors! I was observing finger-nails for incriminating evidence for weeks after the dreadful theft; poor old sprightly geriatric gardeners were spied on via binoculars all in aid to find the culprit (s) who incidentally struck several times in the neighbourhood. No signs of disregarded 'Alan Titchmarsh face masks' - amongst leafy hedge-rows or tied to low hanging branches occupied by a deflated tyre. Not a 'shrub' of incrimination has been found as far. The pumpkin lanterns were immediately dismissed of their services in warding off unwarranted evils, and have been replaced with a bumper sized plastic sweet-container of chewy horrors; ironically illustrating a green ghoulish caricature with no teeth pointing to a garden hut on the side, in fun text saying - Spooky Selection. The strategy is to deploy a 'candy crusade attack' over the coming years aimed to rot young pearly whites; I will continue in this fashion till I start handing out unwrapped mint humbugs and as the years move on I'll add a sharp waspish - "pi** off" as I pull the latch over, then I'll comfort myself with a satisfying stroke of the goatee.
Thank you for reading.
Ancient Celts marked Samhain or the summers end on October 31st, it was believed that on this day the day that the gap between the living and the spirit world was at its weakest and witches and warlocks were at their most powerful. When Christianity came to Scotland the day before All Saints Day became Halloween, the word Hallowe'en meaning Hallows Evening and many of the ancient pagan traditions like lighting bonfires and an setting an extra place at the table to tempt friendly spirits to come home and feast continued . Many of our modern day celebrations can be traced back to these ancient times, for example small gifts given at the door were believed to ward off evil spirits which today has turned into trick or treating.
As a child in the 1980's Halloween was always a festival which the kids looked forward to. We would dress up in home made costumes, the humble black bin bag coming in very handy for a witches cloak or as a skeleton once the bones were painted on with left over white paint. We would also buy masks and face paints to make our costumes as scary as possible. In ancient times it was believed that by disguising children as scary creatures then they would blend in with wandering spirits and be unharmed by any malicious spirits who would be tricked into believing that the children were one of them.
At school or Brownies we would always have a party. The main Halloween games were dookin' for apples which involved grabbing one of many apples floating in a large bowl with your teeth, treacle pancakes where the aim is to eat a pancake covered in treacle which is hanging from a string tied high across the room and bobbing for monkey nuts in a treacle covered tray. Traditional Halloween foods include toffee apples, monkey nuts (unshelled peanuts) and oranges.
The children would go out guising at night and would go door to door in their costumes performing songs or poems, telling a joke or performing a magic trick for a small reward. Householders would keep a bag at the door with treats for the guisers and you would work hard at your act as you knew if you performed well then your bag would be bulging with monkey nuts, tangerines, apples, small sweets and even a few pennies at the end of the night. The poem we would all recite if we were short of ideas went like this:
Halloween Is Coming
The Goose Is getting Fat
Please put a penny in the old mans hat
If ye' dinnae have a penny
A ha'penny will do
If you dinnae have a ha'penny
God Bless You
Turnip lanterns were traditionally used to scare away the unread and as kids we would take them round the doors with us. Turnips or occasionally large potatoes were hollowed out, scary faces carved on them, string attached as a handle and a small candle fixed inside the lantern to give some light. Turnips are extremely hard to carve, it would often take hours to chip out all of the orange flesh and of course we then had to have turnip for dinner the next night which was something none of us enjoyed. The wind would almost always blow these candles out so they would need to be relit constantly but one of the most vivid memories I have of Halloween is the smell of roasting turnip as the inside of the lantern slowly cooked from the heat of the candle.
Halloween in the noughties in Scotland is still a lot of fun but it is a lot more commercialised and Americanised and many like me are sad to see the old Scottish traditions die out. The kids still carve lanterns but now they use larger and softer pumpkins instead of turnips. Kids still dress up, the outfits nearly always bought from a shop instead of being home made and instead of going guising they go trick or treating. It is the trick or treating that I dislike the most, every year I turn into an old curmudgeon and have a little rant about how going to peoples door and demanding treats under the threat that you will play a trick if they don't comply would be thought of as criminal behaviour on any other day. I have tried to get the kids in my own family to carry on the old guising traditions and even asked kids who have came to my door if they have a song or joke to tell but I end up getting blank looks and the demand sweeties anyway.
Many places in Scotland also run ghost walks or Halloween themed events for the family as a way to boost tourism, I know there are also Pagans who still celebrate the ancient festival of Samhain. However you choose to spend your Halloween in Scotland whether it is by following ancient traditions or hanging orange tinsel and fake cobwebs from the ceiling then you will still have an enjoyable evening.