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Life Chez Dee Episode #35: Halloween

Is it only me who hates Halloween? I really loathe it .. with a passion …with a vengeance. I was in two minds as to whether to post this blog … I know that I’m opening myself up to a severe backlash, but given that in all my blogs, I write about me, about my thoughts, about my life, about what’s on my mind, I really need to be writing about what’s going on all around me at the moment.

It’s everywhere … all the shops which are selling tat, tat and more tat; supermarkets selling themed food items, dressing up outfits, more tat, and bags and bags of various sweets and chocolates for us to stockpile and keep by our front doors waiting for the knock at the door for those eager children, clearly so deprived of chocolate that they need to stockpile more bucket fulls of sugar, which they’ll probably just about finish before all the Christmas chocolate they’re plied with; florists and floral displays in supermarkets with pumpkins and witches hats on sticks in the middle of the bouquet; shops which you really might think you can get away with going in for a Halloween free browse are at it too … with their broomsticks and pumpkins in the windows and cobwebs all around the place … well I hope its decorated cobwebs rather than a lack of cleanliness!! I know business is hard for shop owners, and that it’s another market to capture with their inventiveness of themed goods that they sell, but they won’t be selling them to me, sorry. Even when we were on holiday this half term, when we visited a couple of castles, we had to endure Halloween themed decorations in the rooms as we went round; pumpkin trails in the gardens … all of which I find distracts the kids, and certainly me, from seeing what we’ve actually gone there to see … and paid to see.

Oliver of course is growing up in our society where this “celebration”, if that’s what you call it, is indoctrinated into him. I wouldn’t join in at all if it weren’t for the fact that Oliver always wants to dress up and go trick or treating, Edward always loved that too. To be honest I think it was more the knocking on doors, asking for sweets, and getting them, which appealed to them more than the dressing up, as neither of them could be bothered with this any other time. If it were acceptable to just go round knocking at doors asking for sweets at any other time of year, they’d no doubt be up for that too! And again, I’ll no doubt need to go out pounding the pavements with Oliver as he knocks at doors asking for treats … and I’ll stand at the end of driveways, cringing, knowing how much I dislike it all and how hypocritical I’m being.

I know there’s so much stuff put on for the kids with this theme. I know that Edward loved the Halloween games night they always did at cubs. I remember one of those occasions too, when he’d come home after eating mountains of sweets, chocolate, marshmallows and goodness knows what else, and he’d been drinking some luminous coloured drinks there too … all of which was swishing round in his stomach … and as he was jigging around that evening, clearly high as a kite from all the sugary crap he’d consumed, I could hear it all swishing around! … which of course he found hilarious and did lots more jigging around. Oliver will no doubt be doing exactly the same this week when he goes to cubs too!

When I was little, we did nothing for Halloween. Always, Bonfire night, but never Halloween.

We lived in a cul-de-sac where, at the end of it, was a clough. All manner of garden vegetation was chucked down here … the original compost heap I suppose, but it never seemed to look untidy, probably because as you tipped your wheelbarrow out, it fell down some great steep slope into the great abyss below.

Anyway, there was a clearing in the clough, where each year all the neighbours from this close, and the road at the end, which ran perpendicular to it, got together for a sort of community social bonfire event. All would stand on the high ground above the bonfire, looking down at it blazing, being near enough to watch, and be all consumed and mesmerised by the bonfire beneath us, close enough to feel that heat on our faces, but far enough away to be safe. All the neighbours joined in with bringing fizzles with them … some pies, some hot potatoes, some treacle toffee, some toffee apples, some parkin … and we’d even share the cost of the fireworks too.

Hats, gloves, scarves, lots of sparklers, lots of friendship, community spirit and tradition. As a family, and to be honest, at school too, we’d learn all about the meaning behind lighting the bonfire; we’d learn about Guy Fawkes and why the burning of the Guy was so symbolic. Even the fire brigade used to come into school to give talks about not only fireworks, but bonfires too .. in fact, I don’t recall any of my children ever telling me about visits from the fire brigade talking to them about this … I remember as a child we had lots of visits from the Fire Brigade coming into school … and the police, not only talking about home safety, and knowing what to do in case of fire, but also their talk about safety and the dangers of the railway line; road safety, green cross code, stranger danger talks, and of course the fireworks and bonfires talk. I don’t think this happens now at all. And there don’t seem to be any bonfires happening these days either, except for the huge organised ones .. and they’re rare. I never see kids going round with the Guy they’ve made now asking for a “Penny for the Guy”. Never did we at home, or in school, talk about Halloween … yet another American custom which has been commercialised and adopted over here. I say, let’s get the children celebrating Bonfire Night more instead; let’s get them talking more about the meaning and the history of it.

I remember those days in my childhood … days and days spent with all my friends I had on the street, planning who was going to knock on which door … knocking, asking, collecting, storing, protecting the wood. Guarding the haul was never a job I did I confess, I think that was down to some of the boys who lived locally … and they really did have to guard it, as there was a rival lot of kids in the neighbourhood, also with a clough near them, who also did the same as us, who also wanted to get hold of all the wood we’d collected. From recollection, and I can’t be sure now, but I think it was stored on top of my Aunty Joan’s garage, and I think it fell to her son Andrew and maybe one or two of the other boys to be the wood minders. She wasn’t my real Aunty, she was a neighbour who lived opposite, but we were close, and I was friends with her daughter, but in those days everyone who was a neighbour, who my mum chatted to or had a brew with, who lived near us, was called Aunty. And I still to this day call these friends and neighbours Aunty and Uncle. I know of others who don’t, but for me, this was a term of endearment and a mark of respect, and I cannot bring myself to call them anything other than Aunty and Uncle whoever … even in the Christmas Cards which I send to them.

I have great fondness for Bonfire Night, it’s really nostalgic for me. Going back even further, I have vague, distant, but definite memories of being at my Grandma’s house and there being a bonfire. It was really just an excuse for my Grandad to burn lots of rubbish and garden waste in an incinerator I think, but there was a definite fire, and we had fireworks and sparklers and treacle toffee, which I do vividly remember making with my grandma. We’d make it in some of her tins, which had a sort of shell pattern on them, which would leave its imprint in the toffee; we’d leave the toffee to cool on the back step leading into her outhouse; and we’d then smash it with a hammer or rolling pin, and wrap the little pieces in waxed paper, which we’d cut up from the Warburton’s bread packets which she’d saved for just this purpose.

Halloween for me is a damp squib; I really cannot muster any enthusiasm for it at all. I grimace when the kids want to do stuff. I hate the dressing up; I hate the pumpkin carving, but yes I go along with that too; I hate the knocking door to door asking for sweets. I don’t like callers at the door late at night, so I do insist on a lights out time when the door will no longer be opened.

A few years back I remember the doorbell ringing and a group of older boys there, quite loud and rowdy too. Trick or Treat they shouted at me as I see beyond them my car, the driveway, and most of the bushes in the front garden, covered in silly string. Off they were sent with a flea in their ear as I told them to bugger off as they were having nothing from me having already done their trick. Was it this that put me off Halloween?

Or was it the hundreds … literally hundreds of kids at the door … so many that I came very close to running out of sweets; I know that some areas have more callers than others, but the number of callers when we lived here was beyond ridiculous. And then you have to control what sweets they have, as if you hold out a tub of sweets, the little darlings dip in and grab a handful, and it’s quite incredible the amount of sweets they can fit into such a small hand.

I think my main gripe is the over commercialisation of it all, not just Halloween though, I think Christmas is over commercialised, so too is Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday as we really should be saying). Do I agree we should be celebrating these occasions? … of course I do, they are there to be celebrated, but I do think that some of the commerciality should be reined in a little. Occasions such as Father’s day, Grandparents day even, and Halloween … all borne in America, but now over commercialised and over here, I feel should not have as much hype and celebration as we give them.

I feel like I’m painting a not so great picture of me, but quite frankly I think Halloween is a bloody nuisance. Don’t all BOOOOOO me at once!


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