Thursday 24 January 2019

Barbara McCarthy: 'Halloween - upsetting and a waste of money - not to mention the ghastly spiders'

Ghoulish: Pictured at this week’s Halloween spooktacular at Bunratty Castle is Harrison O’Doherty, from Co Clare. Photo: Sean Curtin
Ghoulish: Pictured at this week’s Halloween spooktacular at Bunratty Castle is Harrison O’Doherty, from Co Clare. Photo: Sean Curtin
Barbara McCarthy

Barbara McCarthy

I'm something of an anti-festive dissident grinch, so I'll be glad to see the back of Halloween.

I'm not sure whether it was the severed foot dangling from a piece of rope outside a house or the dog dressed as an 's' walking across a lawn looking like something from 'The Exorcist', but I'm over it. (I refer to spiders as 's' because I simply can't bear these eight-legged hairy creatures that are ubiquitous during this time of year.)

You can't even have a pint in a pub without having to fraternise with a plastic 's' dangling out of a fake web in front of you. Why not leave them out of festivities altogether?

People are putting them on cupcakes and everything. I nearly died when I saw a big furry one in the chemist the other day. And what's with the vomiting pumpkins?

So much has changed since my youth.

Not wanting to sound like I made my way across the Sudetenland in the 1940s unchaperoned and barefoot, but when we were kids we wore an industrial-sized bin liner or a pillowcase with some holes for eyes. We got hard nuts and mandarins and stood around a bonfire outside our house. The craic was mighty.

Now parents throw money at Halloween with vigour. It's all cheap crap, which gets disposed of tomorrow.

Despite our faux interest in the environment, the consumerism around this time of year is extremely distasteful. But who cares when there's competitive costumes to parade around the neighbourhood? None of this pillowcase home-made stuff, now it's all killer clowns, zombies, kids with hatchets and blood dripping down their faces.

A mini Freddy Krueger with an axe sticking through him and some fake fingers hanging around his neck asking for sweets outside your house. "Please sir, have you got some more?"

The irony. The innocence of the chocolate and candy hunt that follows is the total antithesis of the characters the kids are dressed up as.

My three-year-old was telling me how ghosts, vampires and spiders were going to come into the room at night and hurt her while she was sleeping.

How upsetting.

Young children's brains aren't fully developed. They can't decipher between what's real and what isn't. I was scared she'll have nightmares because she was traumatised by the visuals outside people's houses and on telly.

Hyper-realistic costumes have the potential to make kids more desensitised, trivialising violence, which is worrying. Can they not dress up as fairies, pirates or Superman?

Needless to say, I don't get dressed up on Halloween - I'm just not into it. My daughter and I went to Burning Man, a huge fancy dress event - among other things - in the middle of the desert in Nevada this past summer, and neither of us wore any of the stuff I had purchased in the fancy dress shop. A total waste of money.

So in response, I won't be buying anything new this time round and my daughter will just have to wear something I bought already.

She'll survive.

Like all other parents, I'll just have to ensure she doesn't go into a sugar- induced fit with all the trick-or-treating we'll be doing. Luckily I'll be on hand, loyally helping her out to lighten the load of her loot.

Back in the 15th century, Christians shared soul cakes, either as representatives of the dead, or in return for praying for their soul during Allhallowtide, which takes place between October 31 and November 2.

They typically asked for "mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake", a far cry from the greedy charade it's become.

Sadly you don't get to be a conscientious objector on this one. So I'll take my daughter for a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood this evening, siphon some candy and go home, hoping there won't be too much racket outside.

It is the dogs I pity most around Halloween, the poor frightened things jumping up at the launch of every kind of inexplicable combustion and things that go bang in the night.

There's a general licence for scallywags to make a nuisance of themselves. Another reason to be a grinch about Halloween.

But, despite my objections, I'll take it on the chin. I'll carve out a pumpkin, stick it in the garden, buy chocolate and hope for the best. If you build it, they will come. Or not. Either is fine.

Then once it's over with, we can throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the next annual custom with relish and gluttony - Christmas, which starts tomorrow.

Brace yourselves.

It's about to get worse.

Irish Independent

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