Monday, 31 October 2011

That Time of Year Again

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only person in the civilised world who does not appreciate the joys of Hallowe'en.  Now don't get me wrong, I have no objection to people dressing up as witches and ghouls and having their own little party or disco, maybe even employing a spooky magician to entertain the kids.  What I do object to is the commercialisation of the 31st October, the cashing in at every opportunity.
    I won't fall into the trap of saying Hallowe'en has been imported from America.  All Hallow's Eve was celebrated in Britain long before America was heard of.  But back then people really believed restless souls wandered the earth in the dark.  Some mean spirited people who were still alive sometimes played tricks on the honest people to frighten them.  A great opportunity to get back at someone who had been bugging you all year.  The main point, however, was to pay homage to and remember those who had died.  It was a Religious festival, All Soul's Day and maybe some enterprising traders did try to make a little extra for themselves but probably not.  This was a time when, if a feast was to be had, it was prepared by people and shared with friends, home raised and home cooked.
     The Hallowe'en that is celebrated now has, more or less, crossed the Atlantic and invaded our shores in recent years.  When I was a child it was barely mentioned.  When my daughter was a child there were sometimes parties arranged by Brownies or other youth organisations - that's if the church where the party was being held did not object.  Children didn't go out 'trick or treating', costumes were home made and the emphasis was on having fun not scaring the pants of anyone.
     Now, Hallowe'en has filled the retail gap between Easter Eggs and Christmas Presents.  Walking around the supermarket today there were costumes, wigs, false freaky nails, masks, cakes and biscuits decorated with skeletons and ghosts, packets of cheap sweets spookily wrapped to name just a few items of merchandise.  I thought we were experiencing hard times!  I daren't look but there are probably Happy Hallowe'en cards to be found if you search hard enough.
     And why do we encourage our children to go 'trick or treating'.  'Demanding money with menaces' might be a more appropriate phrase for that's what it is.  Ok, so probably most kids go around with parents in tow and don't actually no anything nasty, but that's not the point.  When does a child learn the difference between a Hallowe'en treat and throwing a dicky-fit when it doesn't get what it wants?  Should anyone reward a child who demands 'trick or treat'.  Are you rewarding the costume? But that was probably designed and made in China, so all you are really doing is rewarding the Mum for going to the shop.  And what happens to the kids that can't afford the costume or aren't allowed to take part?  Do you only give sweets to the best costumes? No anyone that knocks on the door gets something.  And why should I be disturbed in my own house when I'm eating my dinner or watching the news?
     At the risk of sounding like Scrooge I want to say 'bah humbug' to it all (whatever that means).   This last week or so I have noticed that even writers have been trying to cash in on this day.  The number of books that have been launched for 'Hallowe'en'  has been unbelievable.  How can you have a book for Hallowe'en?  Either the book is scary and full of creepy goings on, or it isn't.  Do you save it only to be read on 31st October?  In that case I wouldn't get through very many.  No, if you want to write horror stories, fine, but don't use Hallowe'en as an excuse to launch them.
    So maybe I am a kill joy, a grumpy old woman or simply someone who wants to be left alone and not disturbed in the privacy of my own home.  I'm not against people having fun in life but I do object to the subtle pressure parents are put under to provide for a made-up 'tradition' and don't feel at all sorry for any supermarkets or other stores who are left with surplus stock on the 1st November.

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