I admit, growing up I was never into Halloween. For two reasons.
First, I grew up in Bermuda and England. One is an English colony, the other is, well, English. If you’re British, you get it. If not, I’ll try to explain. Halloween is not a holiday in England. Or, at least, it wasn’t when I was young. Growing up, we had Guy Fawkes Day. Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th) celebrates the foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London on November 5, 1605. Guy Fawkes was one of the chief conspirators.
Do you want to know how Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated? We’d all gather round a big bonfire at our local park or in a neighbour’s backyard, we’d have drinks and food, and then we’d burn in effigy a scarecrow likeness of Guy Fawkes. Fun times, I tell you. Fun times.
Growing up, I considered this a bizarre and eerie “celebration.” But then I moved across the pond and saw the way Canadians celebrate Halloween: skeletons, tombstones, witches, blood, evil etc. Comforting, in a way. We Brits aren’t the only crazies, I thought. But still, I never quite understood the celebration of either occasion. (Just an aside: if I’d grown up in North America and associated Halloween with a large stash of candies, I am sure this would have coloured my impressions much differently. But I digress.)
Second, the costume pressure. I was in my teens when I moved to Canada. I was always overwhelmed by the pressure to come up with a respectable costume. Generally, this meant being decked out in not just a good costume but a great costume. Sure, I would have flashes of costume brilliance in, say, February and March, but come October I had completely forgotten my earlier amazing, creative, and award-winning costume ideas. My high school friends and I would piece together some last-minute lame effort—not quite like the guy I saw today in a business suit wearing an inflatable Ghostbusters jetpack on his back, but you get the idea. We’d go to Halloween parties feeling second-rate as other people wowed us with their costume awesomeness.
But my attitude has changed. I have warmed up to the occasion. And I have my kids to thank for it. This will be the seventh Halloween for my daughter and the fourth for my son. Their enthusiasm for the celebration is contagious. They are so excited for the costume parades at school during the day, and then the chance to be out in our community with their friends and neighbours at night. They know every house within a two-mile radius of our home that is adorned with spooky decorations and they can pinpoint which ones will have the best treats on Halloween night.
My son has stated unequivocally since February that he will be a fireman for Halloween. He has proven his commitment by wearing his costume randomly at the breakfast table throughout the past six months, and for many an afternoon summer outing. And my daughter, after three years of going as some sort of butterfly or princess, is shying away from castles and magic and delving into the darker fairytales of the Grimm Brothers. She’s going as Little Red Riding Hood.
And me? Oh, how far I’ve come. For the third year in a row, I’ve been a parent volunteer at the Halloween party in my daughter’s class. This year I even volunteered to run the craft station (if you know me, you’ll know that crafts aren’t really my “thing”). I can’t wait to see all the neighbourhood kids racing between houses on Halloween night, and our friends and neighbours on the sidewalks braving whatever weather system comes our way. Finally, regardless of whether it’s “lame,” I’ll be putting on a costume. Take that, Guy Fawkes.
Happy Halloween, everyone!