Halloween was always a strange holiday in my house. With my mum’s birthday falling on October 31st, which has dubbed her a self-confessed “witch”, it was equally about celebrating her as it was about going out and trick-or-treating. That’s not to say my mother neglected us by never taking us out for the one time of the year where you’re actively encouraged to approach strangers’ houses, but I think it always lacked some of the grandeur that others associated it with. What that did do in my favour, though, was introduce me to adult practices of celebrating Halloween a little younger than most, as sweets were swapped for booze (although, I’m still not sure which I prefer).
Growing up, my mum always made an effort to celebrate Halloween. It wasn’t just about sweets, but about the pumpkin carving, the hanging of decorations, and buying creepy costumes. In fact, I pretty much did everything which you associate with October and Halloween, the same as everyone else. Except, I always had to be on my best behaviour because my mum had convinced child-me that she was a witch and she would fly around on her broom in October turning all the naughty children into pumpkins – the very same pumpkins that I was carving into… It was morbid, but it encapsulated everything that Halloween was about, and I loved it as a child.
When Halloween day came around, it was very much about celebrating my mum in the morning and afternoon. Giving her presents, cooking her breakfast, stealing her chocolates – the usual birthday stuff, you know. Then, as soon as the sun began to set, I would rush to get myself into my costume and start bugging her to take me out to get some sweets. Eventually, we would set out to knock on people’s doors for sweets and the night would unfold how most people would expect it to. Although, my haul of candy was always admittedly smaller than most because my mum would quickly tire of watching me get sweets and never share any of them with her. We’d never be out longer than an hour, and in my small brain it was a gross injustice, but as an adult, it’s understandable now.
My mum didn’t always have parties to celebrate her birthday, but you could usually expect her to have a drink or two with friends and family. At a very young age, I was usually put to bed before this started, but as I got into my teenage years, my mum’s attitude to me drinking quickly relaxed. Before long, the nights with her friends or the parties involved a fair amount of drinking and I had my introduction to the more adult-centric style of Halloween. That’s not to say the trick-or-treating stopped (I did have younger siblings after all), but my desire for the night wasn’t sweets anymore. Instead, I was looking forward to being treated like an adult as I had a drink with them.
Of course, the natural progression of this was to do what all young adults must and eventually leave home (in a way), and before long I was being invited to Halloween parties and having the time of my life. That’s not to say I stopped celebrating Halloween with my family or making my mum’s birthday memorable. Before I even thought about going to a party, I’d always hang about and help my mum with the trick-or-treat antics with my younger siblings, getting them in bed before I went out. It always felt wrong leaving my mum on her birthday, but in a strange way she encouraged the burgeoning independence I was going through, and it helped make my Halloween a progression rather than a thrusting into the adult world where the magic of Halloween seems a little dull.
Now, while at University, I continue Halloween in a similar trend of boozing it up at night, but making sure my mum has a good time during the day. Last year, it was a pub-crawl to end the night. This year with coronavirus in play, I’ll be heading home to re-live some of that childhood magic associated with Halloween: watching Hocus Pocus, binging on sweets and spending some much-needed time with the family.
For me, Halloween hasn’t been some transformation where it becomes about the more “adult” activities of drinking all of a sudden, but it’s a constant shunting of backwards and forwards between childhood and adulthood based solely on the mood that happens to strike me on the day. Now, it’s time to re-watch the Nightmare Before Christmas for the hundredth time as I internally debate whether it’s a Halloween or Christmas classic!