Trick or retreat? Ed Power's Dos and Don'ts to help parents survive Halloween
Fright night is upon us - and the kids are taking it more seriously than ever. Ed Power takes a light-hearted look at the dos and don'ts for grown-ups
It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or at least it is if you're eight years old and enjoy dressing up as a putrescent corpse. If you're a little older, a little wiser, and a little less enamoured of face-paint and mass-produced bendable scythes, then Halloween is considerably more problematic, however.
Remember when October 31 was just as miserable and Irish as the rest of the year? When it was all about monkey nuts and fruit-based recreational water-boarding (apple bobbing, as the ancients called it). No, you probably don't.
But for the benefit of those who do - and now have to go along with the expectation that Halloween should be a multi-media carnival - here is the parents' guide to surviving the season.
1. When in doubt, hide
One of the fundamental rules of Halloween is that, the moment you've handed out your last, carefully curated goody bag is when the flood-gate of trick-or-treaters opens in earnest. You could carefully explain you're out of candy (because we're all Americans now). Or affix a hand-written sign to your door. But by far the smartest option is to switch off the lights, and spend the evening quivering behind your sofa. No disappointed kiddies, no drop-dead looks from their parents. You can thank me later.
2. Watch out for early-onset hypothermia
It's nighttime, it's nearly November, it's Ireland. Naturally, it's cold enough to freeze the head screws off Doctor Frankenstein's Monster.
But your children don't care about that. They want to leave the house in their tissue-flimsy knock-off Darth Vader outfits (it's actually knock-off Kylo Ren - but you haven't the heart to explain). You won't talk them around - so instead try to get the trick-or-treating out of the way as early as possible, preferably before you can see the icicles forming on their plastic light sabres.
3. It's OK to raid their goody bags when they've gone to bed
All that sugar and all those additives can't be good for your loved ones. As a responsible adult, it is thus your solemn duty to wait until they've fallen asleep, tip-toe into the kitchen, locate the bag with the cola bottles (yes, you did make a mental note earlier) and… nomnomnomnom…
4. You should feel bad for having the only house in the estate that doesn't light up like Dracula's castle when the door bell chimes
Halloween is about many things. Honouring Ireland's pagan traditions, bearing witness as the veil between the world's of the living and the deceased frays at the edges, enjoying the final moments of not being bombarded by Christmas music.
But above all it's about pouring all your disposable income into animatronic ghosts, yards of replica cobweb and a door-bell that screams like someone in the voting booth at the presidential election.
Your pumpkin with the tea-light inside is tragically underwhelming and it is right that you feel shame. Of course the neighbours are all talking.
5. Let's fight the blight of the teenage trick-or-treater
Eons ago, no self respecting 15-year-old would be found within screaming distance of a Halloween costume. But that was then. Rather than cleave to the age-old Irish adolescent pursuits of mooching around the estate looking boooored or failing to get served at the pub in the village, today's teenagers seem to think Halloween has something to do with them.
And suddenly here they are outside your door, trick-or- treating too. Top tip: save the really disgusting treats - ie the fruit - for the teens. They'll soon be Snapchatting to all their friends about how totally lame your house is. You can live with the rejection.
6. No, monkey nuts don't cut it anymore
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away - the Seventies as it is technically referred to - the best you could hope for at Halloween was a fistful of monkey nuts and a Marathon bar that someone appeared to have been sitting on all evening. But apparently kids today expect more than endless cascades of cheap protein.
If you were cruel - and you've certainly given it due consideration - you'd give them nuts anyway, as a lesson in how grim things were in your day. But while Halloween is supposed to celebrate all things spooky, surely this would be a traumatising gesture too far (or would it?).
7. On no account try to have your children play apple bobbing
Medium-level drowning in an attempt to rescue an apple with a five cent coin wedged to it. Thirty years ago it was the height of home entertainment.
In 2018 you'll probably be up before the courts. Also, they've never heard of barmbrack and think pinning the tail on the donkey is a dance like the Floss (it probably is).
8. Terrify your significant other…
…by revealing how much you splurged on sweets this year. Who needs holidays/mortgage repayments when you've sent a bunch of kids - most of whom don't even live around here - into a temporary sugar coma?
9. Spare a thought for the bin-liner industry
There was a time when 95pc of Irish Halloween costumes consisted of bin-liner and a plastic mask made from toxic chemicals and affixed by rubber-band. How far away your childhood now seems in this era of bespoke Frozen frocks and off-the-rail zombie outfits.
10. Get ready for Christmas
The end of Halloween can mean only one thing - Christmas is but nine weeks away! Prepare to be aurally assaulted by Wham's Last Christmas and that Shane MacGowan song where he sounds as if he's about to fall asleep in your lap and spill his can of Special Brew down your trousers.