The nights have drawn in, the clocks have gone back, and once again, Halloween is here. I love Halloween. It’s up there with Christmas, New Year and my Birthday as one of the four best days of the year in my book. Well, calendar. It may seem a bit strange, but our family has built up a history and a tradition around Halloween, and made it all the more special than just a night of sweets and guising.
It all started for us about ten years ago, in fact. Aside from the usual Halloween get-up of dressing up, visiting some neighbours and reaping the delicious rewards, there wasn’t much more to Halloween for my family and I. My younger sister and I were obviously excited about the prospect, but not any more so than anyone else. My parents weren’t any more enthused than any about the tasks of buying costumes and shepherding us around the cold, dark streets either.
The Halloween that kick-started a phenomenon though, was almost like any other. A Halloween disco a few nights before the big day demanded a good costume; and I decided that I wanted to be original and be a skeleton. My Dad tried to find a costume, but with time running out, couldn’t find any in shops (being before the widespread ease of internet shopping). Instead of having to make do with something else though, my Dad went out of his way and fashioned a brilliant costume from paint, glitter and a full body suit. It was perfect! I went to the disco and had a great time, and subsequently went out guising in the costume a few days later as well. I was so proud of my Dad for the costume.
Late on the same Halloween night, we received a knock at the door. Two dressed-up, masked adult figures stood at the door, and said nothing. They were invited in, as guisers are, and they sat on our sofas. None of the family knew who it was. After a minute, it emerged it was my auntie and her friend (and now adopted auntie) coming home from a Halloween party. Mum hadn’t participated in Halloween in years, and thought it was brilliant that they had made the effort. The three conspired to do the same next year, but it didn’t fall on a weekend night, so attending a party was out of the question. The party would have to be held at ours.
So the tradition began of our Halloweens. The initial idea was simply to dress up for guisers to come into the house and be greeted by adults who were just as game as they were – but that wasn’t enough. Perhaps inspired by my Dad’s effort in going the extra mile for the sake of my Halloween, my mum, auntie and friend decided to decorate the house a bit, to add a little to the occasion. And so the guisers came, and had fun entering a house where Halloween wasn’t a one-way street. A few more than the usual number of guisers came round, hearing that one house was doing a bit more to make a fun night that little bit more special.
The night was such a success that a repeat was held the year after, but with more decorations, and more effort put in. The next year there was a Halloween party where the traditional guising was supplemented by lots of my aunts, uncles, friends of my parents, and more. I’ll never forget opening the front door to see a figure walking down the street, in a white cape and gremlin mask, obviously not able to see very well. The person came to the front door, and much like the situation my Mum was in years before, I let them in without fully knowing who was behind the mask. In fact no-one knew who was behind the mask at this crowded party for about ten minutes, before my Granny finally emerged from behind the mask to get some air and a drink. The reactions of everyone in the room were priceless, and will stick with me forever.
Halloween continued to grow year on year, with wallpapers, light bulb changes, talking doormats, window coverings, hanging skeletons, walking hands, screaming ghouls and hundreds of other decorations being added to the Haunted House of Kintail Place. The operation grew so large that it took the three creators the whole day of Halloween to fully decorate the house. More and more guisers visited the house every year. At some points we had over twenty guisers in the house at one time waiting their turn to perform for their due reward of crisps, peanuts and sweets.
Even whilst I was young and guising, I almost didn’t want to leave the house knowing the fun that was being had. Gradually the neighbours around us added touches here and there to their own houses, and they were more fun to visit, but nothing on the scale that was our house.
It’s only when I grew too old for guising that I truly understood why the day had become one of the highlights of the year for me.
Without doubt my Mum and co. enjoyed having their own party, and making guisers’ Halloweens just that bit more exciting, but I think they also appreciated how much my sister and I loved it. Our house was the cool house. It might not mean a lot in terms of real value, but that feeling of having something that nobody else has is something every child wants at some point, and we had that every year. Now I understand the sheer amount of work that went into creating this magical house, I’m so grateful that my parents would go to such lengths to make a good day one of the best in the year.
Missing Halloween at home last year was perhaps the time I missed being there the most. Granted, I still had a great night after last minute inspiration, ingenuity and insanity led me to masquerade as a victim of Hurricane Sandy before a great, if slightly cold, night out in Aberdeen – but it doesn’t compare to seeing my house transformed completely in the name of a night for children to earn some sweets to tide them over until Santa comes.
I’ll have to make do again this year with a photo roll of the magical attraction that is my house. At least this year I’ve been blessed with the promise of pumpkin pie when I return home shortly!
Halloween, like any other date in the calendar, is only what you make of it. Fortunately for me, my parents and aunties made it for me every year.
Have a happy Halloween everybody!