It’s that time of year again – the nights get long, the weather gets cold and wet, the leaves start to fall, and the shops can’t decide if they’re promoting Halloween or Christmas. Welcome to October in the UK.
Halloween is recognised as a Christian festival (sort of). It’s recognised as the evening of All Hallows’ Day and is the beginning of Allhallowtide. Sorry? Yes, that well known three day period dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all other departed followers of the Christian faith. However, there is some speculation on the origins of the festival. Some believe that Halloween was originally a Celtic feast, which was Christianised by early followers in Britain.
Now, it’s somehow become a celebration of all things spooky and terrifying. I get it: traditions are rooted in celebration of the dead, and included practices like wearing masks, and carving turnips, but I can’t help feel as though it’s become a little too Americanised? No, perhaps it’s better to say ‘a little too Capitalist’. Halloween doesn’t feel like a celebration of anything, to be honest. It feels like Valentine’s Day, or Mother and Father’s Day – a nonsense excuse to buy useless bits of plastic from a supermarket.
And what a holiday it is for Capitalism to cash in on! There’s an endless array of symbolism to turn into commodity. Every shop seems to have a display – a ghost shaped window sticker here, a giant skeleton there, staff dressed in witches hats. I worked for a few years in the very popular theme park in Southend-On-Sea. Every October, the spooky soundtrack would start, the decorations would be up, and during half term, we would dress up in our best costumes. It was a major, money-making event.
And as an eighteen year old, I loved it! My friends and I would hit the clubs every year, and we’d always wear a costume – usually something to make us look hot over something scary! Yes, that is me dressed as Black Canary in a leotard and thigh high boots in public.
Surely, dressing up in a skimpy outfit a la Regina George in Mean Girls is just more evidence that Halloween really has no point over here in the UK?
I always picture a US Halloween being a day of costumes, decorations, feasting, family gatherings, and childhood fun. Modern Family might be to blame, to be honest. Here in the UK, we don’t generally hold Halloween themed events in our schools, and very few of us actually host Halloween parties. Not a single kid Trick or Treated at my door last year. Perhaps this is just a result of our British apathy, or a rejection of Capitalism.
If anything, the only real allusion we have towards Halloween is that teenage boys use it as a time to be a badly behaved. I had high hopes for my first Halloween in my first home, but all that happened was a couple of 13 year olds kicked bins down our street and stole our doorbell. Of course we didn’t get it back – they don’t understand the concept of a prank.
As a Brit in my mid-20s, I don’t find myself getting excited about Halloween any more, and I suspect this is a modern trend. Even the teenagers I teach don’t get particularly excited. One always asks me if we can watch The Purge, and obviously I always say no. Unpopular opinion, but once you’ve seen one scary movie, they’re all the same.
For me, October isn’t a time for all things scary. I love this time of year, but not the abundance of black and orange tat that’s shoved in our faces. I love walks in the cool, damp air; firing up the central heating; hot chocolate and spiced coffees; not feeling bad about staying indoors (as we all know the guilt of being indoors in the summer, and the January blues); the final thrust of fruits and flowers before winter.
With all this said and done, perhaps I’m the weirdo. After all, if no one participated in Halloween, the shops wouldn’t sell any of it.