The Death of Halloween

Last week, while shopping for food with my ten-year-old, we bought a few bags of sweets and chocolate for Halloween. No one was allowed to taste any before the 31st, so I stored them away in my study.

Only, I couldn’t resist temptation one evening and stole a few pieces of individually wrapped chocolate. There was plenty to go round so no one would notice that I’d taken some. Except, my ten-year-old daughter did because she found the empty wraps in my wastepaper basket and suspected foul play. On discovering that a bag of chocolates had been tampered with, she immediately confronted me.

“How could you??? We had an agreement, mummy! No one was to touch the sweets until Halloween!”

There was no use denying my crime, so I hung my head in shame while my daughter raged.

“I’m so disappointed in you mummy…there will be no sweets for you on Halloween…I’m just a kid, and you’re the adult, but still, it was you who broke our agreement…”

I’m now on probation until Saturday and whether or not I get to partake in the Halloween sweets is yet to be decided by my ten-year-old who takes Halloween very seriously. She insists on decorating our home with glow-in-the-dark skeletons, spiderweb and sinister-looking pumpkins, and she has devised an elaborate plan for an indoors trick-or-treat event for the family instead of the usual trek around the neighbourhood.

And here I was secretly rejoicing that the pandemic meant there wouldn’t be any Halloween celebration this year. I should have known my daughter wouldn’t let something like a deadly virus put paid to her Halloween plans.

I haven’t got a particular fancy dress outfit, but my go-to Halloween character is ‘zombie mum’; it doesn’t require much by way of makeup and clothes, I just go as myself, a tired, ageing mother fast approaching fifty.

While I’ve never been keen on Halloween, I appreciate that for children it’s all about having fun, and who would want to deny them that at a time like this? But there’s another aspect of Halloween that troubles me: the intent to dress up to frighten. Witches and vampires aren’t scary anymore, so people go for blood, scars, and Freddy Krueger-style masks.

Halloween costumes that recreate real disfigurements are not harmless fun as some would have it, but play into the age-old stereotype, perpetuated by the film industry, that facial disfigurement equals bad and evil. Take Bond villains as an example: 17 out of 24 Bond films feature a villain with a disfigurement or impairment.

By all means dress up as a ghost, ghoul or zombie, but please think twice before you accessorise with a fake scar, because it’s offensive and hurtful to children (and adults) with real disfigurements.

Disfigurement concerns aside, surely I am not alone in feeling that Halloween has lost some of its appeal in Covid times. Aren’t we all scared enough as it is, with a virus wreaking havoc across the world, not to mention the nail-biting, stomachache-inducing US presidential election next week? What can be more frightening than the prospect of four more years of Donald Trump in the White House?

I’m all for stuffing myself with sweets and chocolates this Saturday – if my daughter allows me, that is – but spare me the rest. Kindness, compassion and love are what we need more of, not fear.

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