Back when I was considering going through the laborious process of getting my British citizenship, I bought one of those books that quizzes you on all the exam questions. Half of them I doubt most British people would know, like “How many people are in the Welsh Assembly?” One question that I remember clearly was:
How might you stop young people playing tricks on you at Halloween?
A. Call the police
B. Give them some money
C. Give them sweets or chocolate
D. Hide from them
A logical person would think the answer was C, as it quite commonly known that one gives candy on Halloween. But, no. Believe it or not, the official answer is “B. Give them some money”. What?! Is this Trick or Treating or daylight robbery? That being said, a couple years ago, a very large man who was not dressed in any discernible costume knocked on my door on Halloween and I did indeed give him some money.
One thing I miss about America is Halloween. Like most holidays, Americans do Halloween big style. The entire country decides to throw a sugar-fuelled fancy dress party. Where I grew up, the local farmer would fill his open-backed truck full of hay and load all the kids in for a drive around the block. We’d practically fall out with every bump in the road and it felt like being a human meatball tossed with spaghetti. But it was fun. In London, the kids get put into a Chelsea Tractor and taken to a safe trick-or-treating environment.
In America, people spend ages deciding what to wear, getting out their sewing machines and creating their costumes from carefully chosen fabrics and craft accessories. The store bought costume is for sissies. My mother, who could build a house with a needle and thread, handmade my costumes for years. I’ve been a frog, a panda, and – one of my personal favourites – Smurfette, with real yellow yarn sewn into a Smurf-shaped hat for hair.
Choosing what candy to give out to trick-or-treaters is also an important decision. The rules are: nothing homemade (in case they hid needles inside. Yes, we were all scared of that as children after the horror stories our parents told us), nothing natural (if you gave fruit, then you got yourself a nasty reputation as “that fruit giver”), nothing too commonplace (anybody could give a Hershey bar, but it took a special house that gave ET’s homebrew, i.e. Reese’s Pieces).
This is the world that I was raised in. And yet, this weekend is Baby’s first Halloween and we have two parties to go to…and I haven’t handmade her costume or gotten any great candy to give out. American mommy fail! Have the last 13 years in the UK watered down my Halloween instinct? When my mother came out to see us in July, she handed over the Vogue pattern from the 1970’s frog and panda costumes she made me like she were passing on a treasured family recipe. Even though I took a sewing class at the London School of Fashion when I was a preggo, I do not have the innate sewing talent required for crafting foam heads.
Instead, Baby will be wearing a black skeleton babygro that James’ mother bought for her at Mamas & Papas and a watermelon costume our friend Katy bought on eBay from China.
I think I just have to chalk this Halloween up to being caught unawares. Next year, I vow to do better. I will handmake her costume and import candy from a delightful and unexpected foreign location. I will force everyone on our street to club in to hire a gypsy with a donkey and a wagon. I will coordinate all the dad’s in our NCT group to recreate the dance from Thriller. It will be boo-tastic.
But this year, I have to accept I’m a Hallo-weenie.