Hallowe'en at home is like like spending Valentines with an old flame - Stephen Jardine

The pandemic is teaching us so much.

The pandemic means we should have a more traditional Hallowe'en this year.
The pandemic means we should have a more traditional Hallowe'en this year.

We are discovering how fragile life is and how much we rely on the people we love. We’re also finding out how unpleasant it is to wear a face mask for extended periods and how the commute to the office for all those years was a total waste of time. This weekend 2020 offers us another great learning opportunity as we discover what life is like without Hallowe’en.

Earlier this week Deputy First Minister advised us not to go guising and instead concentrate on marking the occasion at home. “That doesn’t mean Hallowe’en can’t happen”, said John Swinney putting on his special brave face mask. Except of course it does.

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Halloween as we know it is not an at home celebration.

For most people, the centre piece of Hallowe’en is the traipse around the houses exchanging badly delivered jokes and out of tune songs for sweets to boost our obesity and dental crisis. It’s a tradition that dates back to the middle ages and the practice of leaving gifts out for the wandering dead. Over time that became giving tablet and monkey nuts to Archie from number seven who turned up wearing a white sheet with holes cut for eyes.

But the sweets and the costumes were really secondary to the experience. In an age of terrors everywhere, Halloween was a rare chance to ring an unfamiliar doorbell and interact with a stranger. The reward of a few sweets represented proof that most adults are actually good people who want the best for you. That’s what we will be missing tonight.

But then there is the other side to Hallowe’en. Thanks to influences from America it has also now become an adult celebration. Last year I had the special treat of sharing the number 23 bus into town with a drunk man in a gorilla suit and his slightly less inebriated pal dressed like Freddie Kruger. Crass commercialism has taken over Hallowe’en and turned it into just another big night on the tiles. Except not this year.

Falling on a Saturday, Halloween this year should have been a massive event. Instead John Swinney says we can still celebrate in our own homes which is a bit like spending Valentines with an old flame. It’s just not what it is about. In the current circumstances, of course it is the right decision. Anything else would have risked turning Hallowe’en into a travelling Covid circus with the bowl of sweets a potential petri dish of infection.

But maybe some good will come out of it. Far away relatives can join in the fun via Zoom and dads everywhere can dust off the excruciating jokes they save for occasions like this. The kids won’t come home soaked, freezing and squabbling over who gets the pound coin donated by the flash bloke at the end of the street who is too important to remember to buy sweets.

Crucially, we will focus in on the essence of what Halloween is all about rather than what commercial forces want it to be. So dig out the old recipes for tablet and toffee apples, put Ghostbusters on the telly and get ready for a global pandemic Halloween. If that is not scary, I don’t know what is.

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