Halloween. Golly, if there was ever a lesson in how a thing can be taken, twisted, rejiggled and brought back to life as something completely different, Halloween is it.
What was once a spiritual time of year (if you were a pagan or a Christian) went over to America, became secularised and made into a fancy dress parade with collecting sweets as the prize and then came back here where enough of the ghoulish history remained to combine with supermarket commercialisation and made it into a spooky-spooktacular evening with tricks and/or treats in equal measure. Some people love it, some people hate it.
When my kids were little, we attended a quite evangelical church, which detested Halloween and always held a Light Party: no ghosts, vampires or witches allowed. They said that the evening encouraged an interest in all things ‘unsuitable’ and that we should be providing an alternative to the Halloween parties out there.
I’m not sure that the cardboard bookmark quite won against the pots of sweets for some of the children, but good on them for standing firm in their convictions. There are Light Parties happening all over the country and if you don’t like the focus on spirits and ghouls at Halloween I thoroughly encourage you to search them out and take your children to one.
I’m not fond of the Trick or treating tradition myself. I don’t like sending the children around asking for sweets, partly because I don’t like encouraging too many sweets or chocolate as a good thing. I can see the links back to the old (mostly Celtic) tradition of asking for cakes in exchange for prayers and good wishes, but I don’t like that tricking has become such a big part of it. Bad behaviour has no justification in the modern world, and threatening people in their own homes with any trick or ‘joke’ isn’t funny, especially for the elderly.
My ideal Halloween, therefore, is a much smaller, cosier, intimate affair. I like the old-fashioned Halloween I remember from my youth. Let me take you through it.
Halloween starts when the sun goes down, and you get home, close the doors, close the curtains and shut out the outside world. Unless you’ve agreed to answer the door to any local groups of trick or treaters then you are excused having to answer each and every call. Don’t even go there. Just ignore it. If it’s a friend, they’ll ring you up anyway.
Light the candles, light the fire as long as it’s cold enough, and settle back. You are in for a hyggely evening. Now, I’m assuming you have a few people with you? In my case, I never need any more than three children and a husband, but you could have a few friends, really good ones.
All good evenings in start with a drink. If you’re drinking alcohol, why not make a mulled wine or cider to start off with. Non-drinkers could have spiced apple juice, or an apple-based mocktail. I included one on my Autumn Hygge infographic. You can see it on Pinterest here.
Keep food easy. I love the idea of burritos, packed with pulled pork or stewed brisket, and extra-filled with mushrooms, avocado, rice and spicy sauce. Made in advance and wrapped in foil, they’ll keep warm for up to an hour in the oven on a low light. You could also try finger food, like sausages, chicken strips, prawns or spring rolls. Nothing complicated or hard. Nothing that needs serving, just serve yourself.
For dessert, why not go with an apple theme again? A spicy apple crumble and custard or an upside down apple cake would be just the thing. Buy in an apple pie, if you like. Keep it easy to eat on your knees, though. Halloween eating doesn’t happen at the table.
The curtains are closed: the candles are lit, the food is warming nicely or already being eaten from plates and bowls held close. Your choice of entertainment for the evening is easy: TV or games?
If you’re going down the TV route, then you have to decide how hardcore you want to go.
- Entry level: Casper the Friendly Ghost. It’s a 1995 PG, so nothing to scare a child over 6, really.
- The Fun-loving friend: Hocus Pocus. Bette Midler as a witch? Who said she was type cast?
- For the Romantic: Practical Magic. Love love love this movie. Love the house, as well. So hygge!
- If you like a little Devil with your Witches: The Witches of Eastwick. Jack Nicholson is so good when he’s bad.
- Super Hardcore: The Exorcist. Still as terrifying as when it was first made, in 1973.
We’re having a movie marathon tomorrow: Hocus Pocus and The Exorcist. Yes, from the ridiculous to the petrifying. With popcorn, crisps and coke drunk from the mason jar glasses with straws in that were everywhere last year. Sometimes you only need a special glass to make an ordinary drink special.
And it will be a celebration for the guinea pigs as well! We got three new piggies last January and worked out that their birth date must be sometime October/November-ish, so we decided that Halloween works well as an official birthday for them! We’ll be celebrating their birthdays with plenty of fresh fruit, some extra long cuddles and indoor fireworks, set off on the dining room table a long way away from their cages!
If you take the games route, then you could do worse than play Cluedo. Murder mystery and Halloween? Very Agatha Christie! And why not try some traditional Halloween games? Bobbing for apples, peeling the longest rind from apples, and other old, traditional games are all fun to play at any age, as long as the party is prepared to look a bit stupid and have a bit of fun!
And my books are all available from Amazon in paperback and ebook version. I keep rereading the Christmas book and thinking of things I should have put in. Either there will have to be a second edition, or this time next year I’ll have another Christmas book out. If you’d like to read the reviews on them, or to buy them as a gift for everybody in your immediate family as I intend to do this year, I’d be ever so grateful. Just click through the links below.