It's now approaching 11:30 on Halloween. Originally, it began at sunset rather than having its main focus at midnight. The Celts and other ancient races would light a bonfire at the start of the new day (at sunset) and as it died down, they'd leap or run through to cleanse themselves of the demons they might have picked up during the year. Sunset on this night marked the start of a new year.
The Celtic approach was appealing, I think. The day started at sunset, the year started with winter. So all the dark and the cold was out of the way at the beginning of the day or year and the rest was something to look forward to.
It had nothing to do with witchery or calling up spirits. Quite the opposite, it was a time to clear out all those ghosts and demonic entities that might have attached themselves to people throughout the year. That link though, that connection of the time of year with an association of the living and the dead, was always there.
It was always a time of great spirituality even though its meaning has changed over the centuries.
Now it's just another excuse for selling crap and making a bloody nuisance of yourself. This year I have been less welcoming to trick-or-treaters than in previous years. I know, it's hard to imagine that could even be possible. Those who know me will regard my idea of 'tolerant' as not planting tripwires and mines on the path to the house and not pouring boiling oil from the roof.
However, even as recently as last year, I was prepared to give out sweets to those small children. They had made an effort with their costumes, they would tell a terrible joke, and they were polite. This year it's nothing more than roaming gangs of yobs demanding money or treats with menaces. They are not 'trick or treating', they are making the rounds to demand protection payments.
The 'tricks' they apply now have led to calls for the entire event to be banned. My default response to any kind of ban is that it is another example of control freakery and ridiculous State nannying. In this case, it is a response to the actions of the children themselves. When they use an event to terrorise their neighbours they can hardly complain when their neighbours start calling for a ban.
I know they are not all like that. In the recent past, none of them were like that. In my youth, pumpkins were unknown in the UK so we hollowed out turnips, cut faces in them and put candles inside. The stench was incredible. Pumpkins are the same but bigger, so their lids don't char quite so fast. We tried to catch apples in water or hanging from strings. We did not hammer on neighbours' doors until they opened and then proceeded to demand a treat in exchange for not vandalising their home.
Here, money collection was associated with the following week's event, Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th. The Christian church moved the bonfire there so the common folk still had their bonfire, but now it was separated entirely from anything spiritual and associated with a man who tried to bring down Parliament. We used to call him 'traitor' but we don't now. Anyway, kids would make a life-sized dummy and wheel it around asking for a 'penny for the guy'. That money was put towards the fireworks. At no time was anyone threatened with tricks or bricks.
Costumes used to be home-made, now they are on sale in huge racks in supermarkets. Pre-carved plastic pumpkins and rubber bats and puppet skeletons are everywhere for at least a month beforehand. It's not as bad as Christmas yet - Christmas stuff went on sale even before the Halloween things.
Tonight used to be about spirituality, with an element of fun for the children. Now? Now it's an excuse to go marauding and terrorising and vandalising and their parents excuse it all with 'it's just a bit of fun'
Well, when I send your child home in instalments, that's just a bit of fun too. A fun way to put the death back into Halloween. We used to enjoy Halloween as children, and there's nothing wrong with a bit of fun.
Demanding payment with threats is not a bit of fun. It's a criminal act. I don't want to see the whole thing banned, so children, stop behaving in a way that will get it banned.
The current ban-freaks don't need much of an excuse, you know.