I live in a country that spent $66.28 billion on Halloween last year – it is the second largest holiday after Christmas. And I hate Halloween. Halloween is Hell.
There are a number of reasons for this antipathy, the primary one being that I loathe the color orange. It is a source of amusement amongst those who know me, to the point that they either avoid wearing the color when around me, or deliberately choose it to see how I react. I don’t have orange furnishings in the house, I regift orange flowers, and I have a clause in my will forbidding bronze crysanthemums at my funeral or on my grave. And yes, I know it’s irrational, but as obsessions go, it is pretty innocuous.
I also find the whole costume thing a little alarming. As the mother of a 10 year old girl, the selection of a costume takes weeks of planning and preparation, and culminates in the purchase of a wildly overpriced conglomeration of man-made fabrics, hastily sewn together in some oppressive sweatshop in foreign lands, with a carbon footprint the size of Brazil. It is, however, the only costume in the 14 halloween store that you have visited that doesn’t make her look like she’s auditioning for Jersey Shore, so you are just going to have to live with it. Once you have swallowed your pride, your principles and your misgivings, you finally cough up the money only to be told the minute the return period expires that she’d like to be something else instead. So far this year, we have been through Bumble Bee, Peacock, Pirate, Ancient Roman, and have finally landed on Diner Waitress. Go figure.
In Britain, we tended to get less excited about the whole Halloween thing. We did have a few trick or treaters, but a scary mask or some fake blood pretty much covered it on the costume front. Houses welcoming trick or treaters had a pumpkin on the front porch, and were widely enough spread apart that by the time you’d visited four, you were exhausted, had eaten all the candy and were ready to return home.
Which explains why my sister was approached last year by a friend with two preschool children who wanted to go trick or treating for the first time. By warning various other parents in advance, she could guarantee success, both on the friendly reception and the candy fronts. My sister, being a community spirited sort, readily agreed, and proceeded to make plans for the impending visitors. These involved my niece keeping the children occupied by talking to them through the letterbox so that they would come close to the front door, while my sister snuck around the side of the house in an impromptu costume fashioned in traditional style from an old sheet. The plan was that Sarah would creep up behind them with a time honored “wooooo”, doff the sheet swiftly to minimize nightmares, and hand over the candy to ensure that everyone remained happy.
Unfortunately, the plan was not without flaws, which swiftly became apparent when the doorbell rang at the allotted hour. My niece bent down to talk through the letterbox as instructed, only to treat the waiting revelers to an eye watering view of her cleavage. She soldiered on gallantly, despite the considerable noise being caused by the ‘ghost’, who was now stumbling noisily over three boxes of jars and cans for recycling that were littering the side alley. Furthermore, in an effort to preserve a perfectly good bedsheet, my sister had opted not to cut eyeholes – a decision that not only meant that her approach was less than silent, but also that she was unable to see the inadequate number of legs, nor the panicked expression on the my niece’s face. Having ruined the silent approach, Sarah tried to make up for it with a particularly bloodcurdling wail, which was met with a stunned silence. Anxious that she had petrified the children, she lifted the sheet, to be greeted by the gobsmacked face of a completely unknown father and son, who had just been treated to a live example of why one should never take candy from strangers..