TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess
Are you a big fan of Halloween? Is your porch festooned with assorted pumpkins and do your children frighten all the neighbours in exchange for pockets full of Haribos?
Growing up in the 1970s I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that Halloween is big business now, with a lead-up nearly as long as Christmas. It was so different when I was a child.
For a start, the only pumpkins I saw were in my Ladybird book, Cinderella. I don’t think I really knew they were real, never mind edible. We had to make do with a very hard swede (or turnip as we always called them). My dad would spend hours trying to make it into a Jack-o’-Lantern, risking potential finger amputation with every laborious incision. Even his artistic hands couldn’t do much with a Stanley knife and an impenetrable root vegetable.
We didn’t go trick or treating either. Now and again we would have friends or cousins round for a little party. This usually involved breaking our teeth on toffee apples or soaking our heads in a bucket while apple bobbing (or, in our parlance, dooky apples). All fancy dress costumes were home-made. There weren’t any online shops where you could order a child-size zombie outfit to be delivered the following day. We made do with an old sheet so everyone came as a ghost unless your mother was handy with a needle and thread and then you might turn up as a passable witch.
Come to think of it, that old sheet was a favourite in our house. It doubled up as a Roman toga and even helped me win a prize in a fancy dress contest one summer as a dancing Tetley tea bag.
The Harry Potter books in the late 1990s changed things for my own son. Any parties he attended as a little lad resembled the dining hall at Hogwarts as they were full of wall-to-wall wizards. Halloween goodies and costumes could be purchased and numerous proper pumpkins, with their easy to cut flesh, made for attractive decorations.
Since then, celebrating Halloween has become much more commercial every year. The amount of associated paraphernalia in the shops means that we can’t escape it. There is, however, one development I’m pleased to see: the infinite variety of autumnal squashes you can buy. If we have moved on from unyielding swedes, then that’s a huge leap forward.
When I was younger, Bonfire Night was the favoured autumn event and was celebrated with more enthusiasm than Halloween. I remember Penny for the Guy, sausages in a bun and baked potatoes wrapped in tin foil. I also recall Dad doing something lethal again, this time with a Catherine Wheel, a hammer and a fence post.
You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk