Thursday, 21 October 2010

HALLOWE'EN


As a child, we celebrated Hallowe'en in a curiously pagan way - the spooky shrunken heads of the swede lanterns were only the half of it: most of the rest of the entertainment seemed to involve apples. We'd peel apples, trying to get the peel off in one long ribbon, and then throw it over our left shoulders - it's supposed to land in the shape of the initial of the man you'll marry. I've never gone out with a man whose name begins with 'S', let alone married one. We did a lot of apple bobbing too - I told Trefusis Minor about it: he looked horrified and told me sharply that it was too dangerous and someone might drown. He is still the health and safety officer in this house. And there was also a game involving hanging apples on pieces of string from the door lintel - your hands were tied behind your back and you had to try and take a bite.

I've forgotten most of the witchy stuff now - it was pretty tame, I'm sure, and probably involved yet more apples and some candle magic. We weren't allowed pumpkins - if they were even available in the north of England of the late seventies - and although we had heard of 'tricky treating'[sic], the idea was considered 'American'. Nothing more needed to be said for us to understand that it wasn't something we would be able to do. Looking back on it with the distance of thirty years, I take my black pointy hat off to my mother and aunt - it takes some genius to keep a houseful of the under tens occupied for a whole day with nothing more than a large bag of apples and a few wrinkly swedes.

The Trefusis Hallowe'en is a little more commercial - these days pumpkins are more easily available than swedes in West London, and an awful lot easier to deal with. And if the children want to dress up and go next door to beg for sweets, then it's perfectly all right with me, possibly because I know they have no interest at all in the 'trick' part of the equation. It also offers a brilliant hook for keeping the children entertained for a whole day without them once uttering the vile words 'I'm bored'. I may not be much cop with apples and root vegetables, but I'm a dab hand at making spooky soup, and spider cake, and playing games like 'let's turn Daddy into a Mummy', though this is, of course, a terrible waste of a roll of white loo paper.

The Tiniest Trefusis has already had a fabulous preview of Hallowe'en fun, albeit not of the home made variety. She and I were lucky enough to go along to the press preview of Harrods' Hallowe'en programme, which runs over the Hallowe'en weekend. Activities on the fourth floor (toys, children's designer boutiques, Junior collections etc) include Fiendish Face painting (not terribly fiendish in the Tiny T's case - she wanted to be a butterfly), Creepy Crafts (we enjoyed making a bespoke witches hat), and Marvin's Magic's Freaky Body Illusionist (12-2pm in the Toy Kingdom). There's also delicious frozen yoghurt with spooky sprinklings available at the new YooMoo frozen yoghurt bar just near Way In, not that Trefusis Minor or The TT are ever to be fobbed off with frozen yoghurt - they think it's a terrible swizz and won't accept anything other than proper ice-cream.
For children between 5 and 8, Waterstones at Harrods is hosting a series of readings of Terrifying Tales (sessions at 2, 2.30 and 3pm) with tricks and treats for all and for grownups, my lovely friend Michael Korel is giving personal Tarot readings, also at Waterstones. For more information see the Harrods website.

13 comments:

Marie said...

I remember apple bobbing and all the other apple based games! We never played them, Halloween wasn't recognised in my house. I was told it was an American idea invented on a commercial basis and anyway Guy Fawke's was on 5th November... So it'll be interesting to see how different it is being in the US this year. And although I'm flying on the 31st I might just get a stash of sweeties for J in case little people in the building come a begging!

Simon.S said...

I'm not sure whether it is still the norm but our local CofE church used to drag kids off the street simply to remove them from the "temptation of devil worship" that is Halloween. It always struck me that this very act was probably more sinister in intent than any harmless "tricky treating".

Anonymous said...

I'm sure when i was a kid in the north of england around the same time as you, we used to have something called mischief night where we used to cause all sorts of egg and lard based chaos usually culminating in the torching of neighbourhood bonfires before their alotted date of 5th nov, now I may have gone all wicker man but does this ring any bells?

Penny Dreadful said...

We didn't really 'do' Halloween in Australia, but I lived in Scotland for a year when I was 9, and, joy of joys, my little village had trick or treating! I went home with two bulging grocery bags of sweets, my parents must have been delighted.

Lady Jennie said...

Thank you for saying this: Nothing more needed to be said for us to understand that it wasn't something we would be able to do

And not, "something we would never do."

And honestly we never did the tricks either. It was all for the candy. The sickly sweet American candy that lasted about all of 2 days.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Oh, the "tricks" part of the evening is frightening, believe me.

I, too, grew up with bobbing for apples and Guy Fawke's, and it was sort of more fun. At least more dangerous with the fires...

Miss Whistle said...

Dear Mrs Trefusis,
You have such a lovely, light and wry way with words. I wish you posted more often, but, it does make them more delicious when we have to wait a bit for each one.
I'd forgotten about peeling an apple and throwing it over one's shoulder. Absolutely hilarious.
Love,
Miss Whistle x

nappy valley girl said...

I'd say Halloween is one of the biggest festivals of the year in the US, after Christmas and Thanksgiving. Littleboy 1's school is putting on an official parade, and it appears to be a three line whip for parents to attend. All the houses are decorated inside and out (see photos on my last post) and no-one can talk of anything else but trick or treating. The emphasis is however very much on not being too scary - scary costumes and masks are banned by some schools and fancy dress is more likely to involve firemen and princesses than witches and ghosts. It just seems to have become a huge party.

Helena Halme said...

In Finland Halloween didn't really exist when I was little, I don't think there's much going on now either. Our history and home-grown traditions were scary enough, I think (all that talk of war and scary Russians)

Helena xx

PS. You've reminded me that now I live in a city I must get some treats for trickers, there weren't many around in the sticks where we lived before. Or I'll have to put all the lights out on the night and pretend we're out.

Amy Choi said...

I wish people celebrated Halloween in Australia. I don't know why we don't - we do just about everything else Americans do.

Rose said...

this all sounds very fun! I wasn't allowed to trick or treat but we were allowed to dress up and apple bob and things- I don't know why the no tricking or treating- obviously at the time I felt most left out but I have made my peace with it.

I love that we all get to celebrate a bit more now- I am going to a Hallowe'en dinner party on Saturday and hope to get lots of pumpkin and apple things.

Then the next weekend it's the 5th of November- and that is lots of fun too- although I hate sparklers

Make Do Style said...

How easy is Halloween these days. And will take the petit gacon to thsose readings. I remember when my parents moaned that Blue Peter had corrupted this country by introducing American trick and treat! They still do xx

ganching said...

We celebrated Hallowe'en in Northern Ireland in much the same way that you did including the candle in a swede (except in NI swedes are called turnips so they were known as turnip lanters). Do you remember how horrible they smelled?