A neighbour knocked this morning; she was creating, she explained, a Halloween map, showing which houses will be putting on pumpkin displays this year. Seems a bit over-organised, I thought, we’ve always managed to track down the Jack O Lanterns in previous years. Generally speaking, though, I support any and all Halloween activity. Meanwhile, she was still talking: “As Trick or Treating isn’t allowed this year, some of the mums are –“
Hold it right there! What do you mean Trick or Treating isn’t allowed?
What curmudgeonly Gringe has decided that a harmless, hilarious annual activity can’t take place this year? Not Boris, that’s for sure; I checked, and, to date, he’s said nothing about Halloween. I can’t even find a call from the shadow cabinet for a sun-down curfew on the night of the 31 October (although, come to think of it, that would make it all infinitely more exciting.) No, this depressing initiative seems to have sprung entirely from within my own village, people deciding for themselves that a bit of autumnal revelry isn’t quite in the spirit of the times and that it must be stamped out, cold water poured on the Jack O Lanterns before they’ve even been lit.
And we used to be the spookiest spot in Buckinghamshire – how the mighty are fallen.
I genuinely don’t get it: by its very nature, Trick or Treating:
• Takes place in the open air, making it very low risk.
• Is entirely voluntary; no one who doesn’t like it need take part.
• Involves primary-school-age children, among whom Covid is mercifully rare.
• Can easily take place in groups of six or under, thereby breaking no national guidelines.
• Usually involves mask-wearing as a matter of course and, often, hand coverings in the form of werewolf claws, blood-soaked bandages and skeleton gloves.
I’m struggling to see the problem.
And why, in one of the most miserable years our children have had to live through, when they’ve barely seen grandparents, had months off school, played no sports, lost touch with many friends, seen no movies, been to no parties, been denied Easter, family gatherings, maybe even summer holidays – why would we deny them a bit of harmless fun that they look forward to for weeks?
The Halloween monitors seem to think a socially-distanced daytime walk around the village will suffice, following a carefully-charted map, spotting pumpkins and admiring the efforts of anyone who can still be arsed to decorate in the face of all this nonsense. Oh, and to avoid knocking on people’s doors (how Amazon delivery drivers stay alive is beyond me) their parents will give them sweets at the outset; possibly to bribe them into taking part in what sounds like an unspeakably tedious activity.
Do they have any idea what Halloween is all about?
Halloween is lawlessness, banging boldly on a door and demanding a reward with menace; it empowers children, subverting the customary adult/kid power balance and putting them in charge, if only for an hour. It is about the vicarious thrill of venturing out after dark, dressed like a bad-ass, coming across ghosts, zombies and witches, and the child in the clown mask, who might be Finn from Year 5, but might not, because that’s the point of Halloween, we never know quite what’s going on behind the mask. Halloween is about being brave, but not too brave, because mum and dad are right behind us, to keep us safe, to share the excitement. It’s about gleeful, rebellious fun, that children look forward to for weeks, that they talk about for days afterwards, and that becomes an essential part of their childhood memories.
A sterile walk around the village at three o’clock in the afternoon is a poor, poor substitute for one of the highlights of the year. I beg you, mums and dads, think again.
For the avoidance of doubt, Halloween is being celebrated at my house. We will decorate in grand fashion and anyone brave enough to knock on our door will be warmly welcomed and rewarded with chocolatey goodies. If no-one comes, well, I’ll be very disappointed in my neighbours, but I’ll have a shed-load of chocolate to cheer me up.
PS: Since this post was written, I’ve been secretly contacted by a neighbour, to tell me she too will be welcoming Trick or Treaters. Vive la resistance!