Halloween has always been a big thing in our house. Every year my mum would throw me and my younger sister a spook-fest Halloween party. Our friends would arrive clad as DIY witches in gowns fashioned from bin-liners and mums’ make-up caked faces.
There would be apple-bobbing, pin the tail on the witch’s cat and various other games and festivities. The house was decorated with faux cobwebs and giant spiders, the path lined with lit pumpkins. And we absolutely loved every second of it. But though we fully embraced Halloween and all its spooky trimmings, my parents drew the line at allowing us to go trick or treating.
Fast forward a few decades (gulp!) and two of my own little Halloween enthusiasts and I still go in for October 31st in a big, big way. I have been stocking up on goodies for the last month or so, in preparation for the party I’m throwing (think spooky graveyard-globes with bats instead of snow), frantically scrolling Pinterest for easy-yet-effective creepy food ideas and there isn’t a blog I haven’t read about kiddie-friendly Halloween games.
But one thing has changed. Because once we’ve wrapped ‘mummy’ up in toilet roll, I’ll be herding my kids and their friends out the door to go trick or treating. And I know I won’t be the only one.
According to recent statistics the UK’s Halloween industry is now worth more than £300m – placing it behind only Christmas and Easter in terms of festivals. Only a decade ago, consumer spending on Halloween constituted just £12m, so it seems us Brits have very much caught the Halloween bug.
A quick, completely unscientific, straw poll of my own mum friends reveal that around 90% of them will be taking their children trick or treating this year. But rewind back to when I was at school and only a handful of children were lucky enough to get to experience what we considered the holy grail of Halloween celebrations.
My parents’ own reasons for enforcing a trick or treat ban encompassed the understandable safety issues, alongside the more unreasonable IMO “It’s an American thing.”
Its likely parents who won’t be allowing their children to go trick or treating uphold similar explanations today. And I certainly understand where they are coming from. Some parents are against the idea of celebrating witchcraft and other dark things in general for religious or other reasons. Others object to the whole idea of asking for sweets and other treats. While some are concerned about the safety aspect of knocking on strangers’ doors. All are valid points of consideration. After all, don’t we spend all year teaching our kids not to talk to or accept sweets from strangers only to then go against our own rulings on one night of the year?
There are more practical reasons for not wanting to take your children trick or treating too. One mum friend doesn’t take her little ones simply because too many E numbers before bed = complete and utter meltdown. Another doesn’t want her toddler’s bedtime routine to be disrupted for a night pounding the streets in the cold. “She’s too young to realise she’s missing out anyway,” she explained.
While I get and appreciate all the reasons for not partaking, heck, the sugary high we’ll no doubt be enduring between now and Christmas will be something to behold, but for me, there are actually some really great reasons for getting into the trick or treating swing.
It’s fun – I first took my children a few years ago, having never done it myself as a child and what struck me was how much hilarity there was to be had. There was a real upbeat vibe on the streets. Children chatted amicably comparing their sweet loot, they showed their appreciation for others’ costumes, parents’ shared tips on amazingly decorated houses to visit and rolled their eyes in mock boredom. There was a whole camaraderie about the whole thing and I actually couldn’t get over how much I enjoyed it.
There’s a real sense of community – Living in London where people barely bark a greeting at you, somehow for one night of the year normal no-eye-contact rules don’t apply. People actually talk to one another and its really rather nice. Which brings me nicely onto my next point.
You get to meet your neighbours – What other night of the year do you have an excuse to chat to your neighbours with zero awkwardness?
The dressing up – From a cute four-month-old pumpkin complete with spiky bobble hat, to a six-year-old light-up skeleton, trick or treating is a fancy-dress fan’s dream. Just make sure your little ones stay clear of naked flames. No jokes.
In my opinion the key to good trick or treating is practicing good pumpkin politics. The unwritten rule, certainly in my area, is that you should stick to knocking on the doors of decorated houses with carved pumpkins in the window or doorway and leave dark, curtain drawn houses well alone. Some parents take this a stage further and stick to only knocking on houses of people they know.
Then there’s ensuring your children are well supervised and remember their manners. Some households might have hoards of sweets ready for trick or treaters, others might run out after the first twenty minutes, so if someone raids their cupboards to fashion a make-do treat, try to make sure your children are still grateful.
And be respectful of others’ property too. No one wants two hundred sugar-fuelled children trampling over their just-planted petunias.
Sure there may well be some teenage egg throwers, or pranksters taking the edge off the fun, and there’s always a chance of a creepy clown lurking in a darkened corners. But in my experience trick or treating can be a great opportunity for some good old fashioned family fun and as long as everyone sticks to the etiquette, there’s no reason to let a few bad apples (or killer clowns) spoil it.
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