With all due respect to the season we are about to enter, Christmas (which, by the way, seems to be kicking off earlier and earlier these days), I want to say something about an American institution that has come to Britain more and more in recent years. Halloween. It actually originated here in Britain in another form entirely as All Hallows’ Evening. A time to remember the dead. America took it and made it into a time of candy eating, costume wearing, house decorating and a huge money making night.
I grew up in a mixed-up home when it came to Halloween. I lived in Canada back then. Before my dad went back to school to become a preacher, my brother and I would go trick or treating on our own without any adult accompaniment. More innocent times? Not necessarily. There were those who put razor blades in apples and rat poison in baked goods to harm us kiddies.
The dictum went out that we should accept only pre-packaged, industrially made candies. My memory may not serve me as well as it ought, but I seem to recall getting more of those thick, chewy sweets wrapped in an orange, black and white wrapper. Were they called Candy Kisses? And if so, why? They were awful. Like lumps of sweet malt, but tasting like something good for you that wasn’t.
Then the family got super religious and pronounced the 31st of October as a demon worshipping catastrophy that promoted greed and was against everything the Bible stood for. I carried that over into my own family’s non-celebration of the night for years. We would turn out all the lights….no lighted pumpkins here….hide in the basement and have our own anti-Halloween celebration complete with goodies, non-ghoulish (demonic) costumes and a sanitised kids movie, usually by Disney.
We fought it as long as we could, but the kids prevailed and eventually got their way to dress up and go out like normal children, at least normal in the sense that most eveyone else was doing it so what the hell. If you can’t beat ’em….you know the rest. I hate giving in when I have strong convictions of the opposite persuasion, but then I’ve never really had strong convictions along any line. Not worth it. I’m usually wrong if I do and anyway, life’s too short.
Still, I’m not a great fan of Halloween in any case. I’m the Christmas dude. I like Guy Fawkes night too. Plain old Bank Holidays (long weekends) suit me best. But I shall no longer poopoo Halloween. I may not like the inevitable Americanisation of England and Europe. I’m sure it’s going to be worse now that the Donald is going to be in charge of Sillyland, but Halloween is mostly innocuous.
So, this year was an exception to my Halloween rule. We went all out. This tends to happen when you live in a boat next to the Party/Events coordinator for our marina….our side of it anyway, the light side. Miriam does not organise things in small measure. In past years, she has usually put out a bowl of sweets for youngsters that come by, along with a few decorations on her boat. But this year, with her minions next door (us), she put on a Halloween Extravaganza.
We spent days picking up Halloween decoration bargains anywhere we went. And, my best friend and I resurrected some old props from our days living in suburban London. My favourite is a guitar playing Frankenstein (all of a foot tall) singing ‘The Monster Mash’. His eyes light up bright red as he sings and wobbles about. Lovely.
Out came the bat shaped door bell that plays a scarey Bach organ piece when the button is pressed. We bought some white stuff that stretches into miles of spider webs and cobwebs, complete with spiders (plastic naturally). Miriam….I call her Mimz….bought polystyrene (styrofoam) grave stones, a little ghost that wobble-walked while the Addams Family theme music played and an inflatable spider that one passerby called a crab. She had a point.
Along the fence that keeps the outside world from getting into the marina (ha) Mimz strung a black cobweb-like structure. Looked more like a fishing net, but who noticed eh? We strung bat lights and a string of lighted pumpkins along the web. Glow-in-the-dark skeletons hung from the fence posts and the backs of our boats were festooned in white web and more lights….spiders on our side. We even had real carved pumpkins with candles inside. Can’t beat that either.
The scariest, though, was a ghostly girl in a long white robe. She had twisted arms and a ghoulish face. Creepy. Then we unfolded chairs, got out the rum and coke and waited for the hordes to arrive. We had enough candy to choke a monster, a very big one. Everything we do here is OTT. Can’t help it. If you’re going to do it, do it big. So we do.
We thought for a while that we’d be left with a sweet shop load of candies. Then it all happened. One group of kids, then another and it kept going. One was dressed as an Egyptian mummy and told us mummy jokes for her treat. Another young lad thanked us for making such a good effort. Bless him. Boat neighbours dropped by to see what all the fuss was about. Quite a gathering all in all.
I usually save the best to the last. Mimz, in her usual charasmatic style, welcomed each comer with wit, humour and, of course, a demonstration of the little ghost wobbling and singing that Addams Family theme. Then she invited all and sundry to come by at Christmas for an Extravaganza not to be missed, PLUS….mulled wine and treats. I guess we’re committed. And, not to waste time or be outdone next year, Mimz went out the next day and bought up every left over Halloween decoration known to exist on sale.
We’re going to need a bigger Marina.