Halloween: I know it’s trashy but I love it

Ellen's children, dressed for Halloween

Ellen's children, dressed for Halloween - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s Escape to the Country

I witnessed a bit of a scene in the supermarket yesterday.

Two mothers were having a to-do over the last remaining werewolf costume in an aisle heaving with ghoulish masks, tubs of sweets and bloodied limbs of plastic.

“I saw it first,” snarled one, who was also holding on tightly to a set of vampire teeth, a witch’s hat and a green Frankenstein mask.

As a member of staff came to the rescue offering the other parent a furry cat suit, an interminably long queue was building up at the checkout.


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All the other anxious shoppers were also clutching grotesque garments to help their little devils celebrate Halloween.

And the worst thing was, I was among them.

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Under one arm I held a dragon outfit and under the other a skeleton onesie. I was also juggling the biggest pumpkin I could find.

Every year I get into a panic sourcing trick or treating outfits, sewing on sequins and daubing little faces with green, black or white facepaint. I spend a small fortune on lollipops for the hordes at my door and prepare a special spooky tea for supper, which usually consists of worm spaghetti with blood sauce, eyeball jellies, pots of custard snot and candy floss cobwebs.

I spend a tedious half-hour scooping out the contents of a vile orange vegetable that no-one wants to eat, battle two kids wired to distraction on grade A sugar and spend an evening traipsing the streets after dark, terrified Freddy Krueger will walk out into the traffic or the Mummy will trip over her bandages.

Yes, every year I go all out. And each time I wonder how I managed to get sucked in.

You may remember my rant in February over Valentine’s Day. The sugar-coated tweeness of the big, money-spinning gimmick.

So why, when it is just as commercialised and has the added annoyance of being an American invasion of our culture, do I embrace the ghoul-fest on October 31st?

Of course the answer is that I succumb to the pressure from my kids.

It would be churlish to deny them their fun.

And like it or not, I have accepted that I would be a right party pooper if I refused to get involved.

After all, research carried out last year found that Halloween is now the second most popular family occasion behind Christmas.

The poll found that one in three families held a party at Halloween and that on average they spend more on that than they would at Easter, Bonfire Night or even to host a birthday party for their child.

The rise in the popularity of Halloween in Britain is also reflected in the colossal amount of money spent which has soared by 2,300% over the last 10 years and is now worth £315 million.

During that decade Halloween really has become a national obsession.

When I was a kid it wasn’t a big deal at all. In fact I first discovered there was such a thing as trick or treating from the film ET which was released in 1982.

I vaguely remember dressing up in a black bin liner when I was about 10 and waiting for the one or two children who rang the doorbell at our terraced house in north London.

Last year – 23 years on – my parents had an astonishing 39 visitors.

There seem to be just as many on the streets of Woodbridge. Little witches and pale-faced ghosts all marching up and down, demanding goodies in return for not upturning the bins, egging cars or squirting people with water pistols.

I can’t help but wonder how many have the faintest inkling that this day falls on the eve of All Saints’ Day, in which many Christian denominations honour and remember all those virtuous souls who have gone to God.

Originally called All Hallows, it was traditional on this occasion to expel evil. If one were being po-faced, one would say that all those who dress up as spooks are completely missing the point, which is not to be an evil spirit, but to chuck them out.

Having said that, I do think that for the most part the Trick or Treat business is harmless enough.

My rules are that my children must be accompanied by an adult (me), should only knock on doors of houses clearly displaying pumpkin lanterns and preferably call only on neighbours or people they know.

I am well aware that other parents are not so considerate.

This year the police Safer Neighbourhood Team in Suffolk has prepared a poster saying “No Halloween Here” which can be placed in the front door or window of a house which does not wish to be bothered.

This is rather sensible and no doubt many residents will be taking them up on the offer.

But trick or treaters hoping for a good haul needn’t worry too much.

According to recent research into towns all over the country, the best haunts for Halloween collections were found in Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich.

So with that in mind I shall be clutching tightly to the hands of my little dragon and my skinny skeleton to head out into the night this Thursday.

It may be till-jingling, spine-tingling hype but when it comes to celebrating Halloween I have to admit I’m not ready to give up the ghost.

n Please email me at EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.

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