Another one of the things I simply don’t understand

Sunday October 31, 2004

I’m really not sure about Halloween. Used to be we’d celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, with an evening party for the kids down at the church hall, bobbing for apples and such, all very English and traditional. And for those who wanted it a really nice traditional service in the church itself. I was happy with that and, as a kid, I was an expert apple-bobber. Most important, it was up to the individual family to go out and participate if they wanted to. Otherwise, you were left alone to celebrate the festival or not, as you pleased.

Now it’s different and, under American influence from TV and the movies, it’s turned into a commercial enterprise, with Halloween goods in all the stores and, most intrusive of all, troupes of kidiwinks touring the streets begging for treats. No sign of the original meaning of the festival remains visible. And it gets more and more all-pervasive every year.

I hate to be a killjoy so I smile nicely when the kids come calling, all dressed up as ghoulies, ghosties and witches, and I offer them a treat of their choice from the fruit bowl. The incidence of dental caries in children is higher in Lincolnshire than anywhere else in the Kingdom, and I’m darned if I’ll contribute to it. Then I send them off into the night with a cheerful ‘Happy Halloween’. But I don’t mean it. For me it’s just a hollow form of words, with no real content, much like ‘Have a nice day’.

The whole thing makes me feel itchy, and just a little beseiged. My understanding is that, in the States, those who wish to participate will put a lighted Jack o’ Lantern or some such in the window to indicate their readiness to be trick-or-treated. Those who, for whatever reason, do not want to be visited, leave their window dark. That seems a civilised approach to me. Having imported trick-or-treat, I wish we’d included the calling conventions, too.

Hey ho. I suppose I shall just have to continue to smile sweetly and go along with it, year after year, and consign the whole Halloween thing to the small but growing list of things American that I simply don’t understand.



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