Death, where is thy sting in this zombie festival?
We have taken on the tackier US Halloween customs, while ignoring our cultural heritage
CALL ME curmudgeonly, because I am. I really don’t like our recently acquired way of celebrating Halloween. There were queues around the block for shops selling costumes and masks a week ago, and houses have sprouted plastic pumpkins like some kind of orange fungus.
It’s not that I’m averse to a bit of the old dressing-up, you understand. Who was flouncing around at our school’s charity fundraising event, pretending to be Adele, fluttering false eyelashes like windscreen wipers, gamely ignoring that Ms Laurie Blue Adkins is about 100 times more talented, and half my age? I was.
Little people solemnly dressing up as everything from ghouls to Jedward is fine, too. I always accompany my own kids and nieces and nephews around the place, pretending to disapprove as they get steadily higher on sucrose, but secretly enjoying every minute.
My problem is not that the way Halloween is currently celebrated is just so American. For some in the US, it would be deeply un-American. I lived in Texas during the late 1980s, and the people in the church I attended there would have started shaking holy water over you in horror if you attempted to celebrate the godless festival of Halloween.
Their children celebrated All Saints’ Day, instead, by dressing up as various saints. The creative boy who attempted a compromise with popular culture by dressing up as St Stephen after he had been stoned to death got into a lot of trouble.
His costume of a white sheet festooned with gore might have been historically accurate, but it did not impress his mother.
I have to say that some of the miniature Texan saints seemed to be casting envious eyes at their secular neighbours, but that might be just me. At least the young Catholics had All Saints’ Day, but the evangelicals just shunned the whole event as potentially demonic, and way too much like a dance with the dark side.
If you saw some of the get-ups that normally conservative Texan moms appeared in at Halloween, you might concede that they had a point.
There was also a bizarre competitiveness, so that the Halloween illuminations rivalled those of Christmas, but just with a darker tinge.
Giant warlock heads with glowing red eyes were only for amateurs, when the whole house and yard could be done up like a set from a Hammer horror movie by the truly dedicated.
Naturally enough, it’s not the saints and scholars aspect of American Halloween celebrations that we decided to emulate here. The commercially available costumes for grown women range from tart to tartier, and the average mental age of the male of the species seems to be summed up by the fact that two of the most popular costumes seem to be Mario from Super Mario Bros, and any member of the Village People.