Halloween has been and gone, till next year. Trick or treat, you might think, has been around forever, but you’d be wrong. In my childhood, we just got together and told ghost stories or played games like bobbing for apples, or trying to take a bite out of an apple dangling on a string with your hands behind your back, which isn’t as easy as it sounds and caused lots of giggles. There was also that game where you passed a large cooking apple from under your chin to the chin of the next one in line – greatly appreciated by young teenagers as an excuse to get a bit closer to a certain person, if you managed to place yourself right in the line. We didn’t have candles in pumpkins, either. At least, not in our town we didn’t.
Pumpkins, along with trick or treat, hadn’t yet crossed the Atlantic, so Halloween was no big deal for us, and our attention was focused on the upcoming Bonfire Night on 5 November, especially on the creation of a Guy Fawkes, which could be hauled around the streets with the cry of “A penny for the guy!” and hopefully a few coppers enticed from adults to buy fireworks. That was much more of an occasion, with roast chestnuts and baked potatoes in the ashes, making it a real street party for everyone, young or old.
The fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot!”
So trick or treat is not something that I am really geared to. The custom has not yet reached my part of Switzerland, or at least, I haven’t yet been subjected to it, though of course I haven’t been there for a couple of years now, and might be totally out of touch. Consequently, I had to be reminded to get a bag full of sweeties ready and put a few coins handy before it got dark.
Purely by coincidence, I had washed my hair earlier, and let it dry naturally instead of forcing it into some kind of shape. The result is something between JS Bach and a High Court Judge, and so turned out to be highly appropriate for the day! Had I thought about it earlier, I’d have donned a flowing black robe and a pointy hat, plus my sunglasses, to give the kids a bit of tit-for-tat, but the trick-or-treaters started arriving just as I was busy in the kitchen, so I wasn’t suitably garbed to shock our callers.
And what a scary bunch of little ghoulies, ghosties and long-leggedy beasties they were, going bump in the night! One little chap had a plastic heart on his chest that beat very realistically when he squeezed a pump in his hand, and a tiny girl with a dummy in her mouth had flashing bones. Parents lurked in the background, of course. Another reminder of how things have changed since my childhood, when we would think nothing of going out carol singing at Christmas all on our own, returning around 9 pm. Modern parents are much more aware of danger than ours were, and they are probably right. It probably also ensures that there are many more treats than tricks – it’s hard to be a curmudgeon towards a sweet little vampire whose momma is standing behind him at the gate. And it must also cramp the kids’ style. If you are the sweet-faced little vampire, and you do come across a curmudgeon, are you really going to play a nasty trick with momma looking on?
I have the impression the kids did pretty well out of our street; their little pails looked full, and one ghastly-faced maiden was filling her pockets too. If I’m still here next year, I must remember to disguise myself as a witch, and enjoy the reactions!