No! No! No! Hallowe’en is a big event in our house.
The ancient pagan festival of the dead and the macabre seems to appeal to my children more than Christmas and Easter. Perhaps I should be worried.
In England when I was growing up, Hallowe’en was simply a warm-up for the spectacular main event of Guy Fawke’s Night, on November 5, when fireworks and bonfire parties lit up the sky from dusk ‘til dawn and for as far as the eye could see.
‘Trick or treat’ hadn’t yet caught on, neither had pumpkins. We marked the event with a simple turnip, roughly hewn into a triangular-featured face, which was left on the front doorstep to ward off evil.
Forty years on, with kids of my own and in a different land where Guy Fawkes is just a chapter in a Key Stage 2 history textbook, warding off evil on Hallowe’en is the very last thing on our minds. On the contrary, we wholeheartedly embrace it, spending weeks discussing and preparing our outfits with the sole aim of scaring the bejesus out of our neighbours.
I say ‘we’ because I join in too. Any excuse to dress up and act like a kid works for me. I know, I really should get out more. But then judging by the queues outside Elliott’s Fancy Dress shop every October, so should half the adult population of Belfast.
I’m not talking your traditional witches and vampires either.
Ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties were so last millennium. Nowadays kids want to express themselves and their favourite genre of evil in their trick or treat costumes. Looking cool is another priority.
So Finn declared his intention to dress like one of the zombies from the movie Dawn of the Dead.
“Hang on a minute,” I responded. “That film’s an 18! How the heck do you know what they look like? You’ve never seen it, not on my watch anyway!”
“Actually Mum, everyone knows that Dawn of the Dead zombies are the coolest. You don’t need to have seen it. It’s just a fact. But anyway, I have seen it.”
Meanwhile, Luke, my teenage son, wants to wear something that’s not only scary and cool at the same time, but is also ‘ironic’. Recent years have seen him as Hannibal The Cannibal, the sinister priest from The Exorcist, Nosferatu the Vampire, and The Grim Reaper. This year he wants to go out dressed as Osama Bin Laden.
“Hang on a minute ” I react, (most of my sentences begin that way). “You can’t dress up as him, that’s offensive. You’ll get a brick put through our window if you’re not careful!”
“Oh yeah, mum, like Ballyholme is crawling with militant fundamentalists Hel-looooh? Earth calling mother!”
So, only one day to go and I’m still deciding on what to wear for intimidating the neighbours. It will have to be comfortable; we usually walk for miles on the night, stopping at each house to claim seasonal bootie for them and ideally, a glass of strong liquor for me. Last year I dressed as a banshee with scary black eye makeup, a black headscarf and a long flowing black coat. Luke said I looked more like a “refugee from Transylvania”.
This year’s challenge is to look cool, feel warm and also come across as deeply disturbing and scary.
And then, glancing at the latest edition of the Belfast Telegraph’s Weekend magazine, my eyes light upon make-up artist Paddy McGurgan’s latest celebrity ‘get the look’ ... Amy Winehouse.
Now, that’s what I call scary.