“Halloween was traditionally the time of year when the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred. Then it became the boundary between the rest of the year and Christmas.”
Halloween was traditionally the time of year when the boundary between the living and the dead was blurred. Then it became the boundary between the rest of the year and Christmas. Now it’s struggling to hold back the festive tide and mince pies currently nestle next to the fun size sweets we’ll shovel at children.
In the same way that Christmas used to be about God (who knew) Halloween used to be about luck, omens, spirits and ageless Irish traditions, but what we’re left with is the fag end of an ancient festival whose history gets rewritten with every tiny Mars Bar.
Apparently, the traditional meal before heading out to light a bonfire was the spud and cabbage delight of colcannon, in which nestled coins.
That came as news to me as it never darkened a dinner table in our house where we never attended a Halloween bonfire.
Either we were doing it wrong, or that ‘tradition’ is similar to the one my friend was quizzed about by an American visitor, of eating Brussel sprouts on St Patrick’s Day. But if a tourist asks sure you couldn’t move round here for cabbages on special occasions.
As a child I do remember being presented with a fat, hot slice of home-made apple tart and urged to eat it all, which didn’t take much encouragement.
Inside was a foil-wrapped 50 pence, as my mother kindly stacked my odds of inheriting good luck for the rest of the year.
The tradition of wearing costumes allegedly comes from leaving the house dressed as a spirit so genuine spirits didn’t recognise you and make a nuisance of themselves.
This year’s top costumes are Barbie, Spider Man and characters from Stranger Things which will surely make the spirits suspect we’re just not taking this seriously. At least last year’s top seller was Squid Games which was already faintly terrifying.
Your dog can also join in as a pumpkin, vampire, or dinosaur, or vampire dinosaur because if you’re dressing up a pet, the boundary between reason and absurdity has already been breached.
The pumpkin lantern tradition started off as a turnip lantern because early Celts liked to while away a dark evening carving something with the texture of a brick. But it’s the only thing to do with a turnip, hollow out and throw away the centre and try to burn the rest.
It’s claimed the lantern was to bring home a spark from the bonfire of questionable existence to restart your fire and ward off badness for the rest of the year.
The communal blaze has presumably been replaced with fireworks, when children experience awe and terror combined with a sugar rush.
Thankfully they don’t have to bob for apples anymore which combines waterboarding and fruit.
The traditional scariness of Halloween has at least been retained and kept original "scream queen” Jamie Lee Curtis on our screens long after we stopped caring about Michael Myers.
I once spent a hefty sum on a family jail tour at Halloween which entailed a lot of standing in pitch black rooms waiting for absent ghouls.
We could have turned the lights off at home and saved the money.
So this year I’ll be sticking to my own tradition of sweets, wine, scary film and the familiar Halloween chorus of ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells…’