Hallowe'en: A British Perspective.

Last week, our American housemate received through the post a package from her 'mom' in California wishing her a happy Hallowe'en. It contained, amongst other things, an American Greetings card for the occasion, a huge bag of special Hallowe'en Peanut M&Ms (all either red or black), a bag of See's aniseed sugar sticks, a small pack of Mini M&Ms with a pocket-sized dispenser, a vest-top with a glow in the dark 'Funny Bones' print and a bag of TootsieRoll Pops. All in all, a fascinating insight into American confectionery.

In Britain, Hallowe'en isn't that highly regarded. We've all seen on TV the enormous lengths the populaution of America go to in order to celebrate the last day of October but, for the most part, we can't be bothered. The kids, and only the kids, will dress up and their costumes will feature bin-liners as the predominant material. Tear head and arm holes into the bottom of a bin-liner, couple with a cheap, plastic witch's hat bought for just £1.49 from the local newsagents and that's your lot. If you're lucky.

The Trick and The Treat are an equally disappointing affair. This will usually begin as early as the beginning of October and, aside from the bin-liner crowd, usually consists of two or three snotty-nosed kids arriving on your doorstep wearing normal, everyday clothes.

"Trick or treat, mister."

Even back in my own trick-or-treating days, I have never known anyone to have treats at the ready. You might get a biscuit, perhaps a fun-size Mars bar, some small change from the occupier's pocket or, in some cases, being to told in a variety of crude slang phrases that if you're looking for treats you've come to the wrong doorstep, sonny.

Then, of course, comes the 'trick'. Throwing eggs on windows is popular, although it's not unheard of for the alongside of people's cars to receive a good, solid key-scratch. Milk bottles can be smashed, washing left out on the line can be thrown to the ground, anything that's available, really. David Blaine is green with envy.

The rewards for treats match the effort made on the part of the child to dress up and the malice of the tricks match the mood of the unsuspecting trick or treatee. Fun things you can try at home is opening your door when you hear the hurried knock of three people at once and saying 'Trick or treat' before them. If they protest, just maintain that you said it first. Or there's Eddie Izzard's plan to have a deck of cards waiting by the door, show them a weak trick and say:

"That's my trick, where's my treat?"

I can't, of course, speak for the whole of Britain. I don't know, maybe in the more wealthy parts of the country people make a half-decent effort, but I doubt it. Bad timing, you see. It's five days away from Bonfire Night and, to be honest with you, the kids are a little more preoccupied with dangerous games involving fireworks and, occasionally, cats.

Personally, I haven't had a single door-to-door trick or treat request in the last four years, but the fireworks and casualties regularly begin by mid-October. Maybe some television schedules will have a distinctly Hallowe'eny theme, some cub scout groups might organise a 'bobbing for apples' contest and one or two nightclubs might have fancy-dress nights but for the rest of us? Just another day. And, round these parts, even the once thriving Goth community has long-since died out.

Just remember to keep your cat indoors.

this was going to go in the halloween node but that's rather too full up with write-ups and lyrics to bear another entry so, seeing as this handy nodeshell was left lying around, i thought i'd stick it in here. happy hallowe'en, y'all.

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