A touch of fantasy for a kid’s smile

St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper Howell takes a look at the other side of life in Woman on Top, her weekly lifestyle column for The Herald.



I never need an excuse to dress as a witch. All my life, people have equated my flowing red locks and slightly left-of-centre approach to life with funny, hook-nosed ladies who love cats and live alone.

And that, for me, is the only point of Halloween: to indulge my dress-up fetish; since I’m obviously funny but not hook-nosed and I don’t live alone in a forest.

It’s ironic that a good many of us with a chronic “so-what” attitude towards this worldwide annual festival are moved to write and talk about it; but after hearing and reading so many anti-Halloween sentiments this year, I must defend the dozens of wee ghouls, zombies, vampires and pirates who faithfully patch together their costumes, hitch up a treat bucket and organise door-to-door sugar raids in their neighbourhoods.

I know the historical facts behind Halloween and I’m aware that, like Guy Fawkes Day, it has jack squat to do with we modern misses and our offspring. I also know that it costs money, rots teeth and scares the living daylights out of anyone under the age of two (and me, as I hate those scary masks – especially the ones depicting Edvard Munch’s The Scream painting; no matter how culturally relevant it is, or that it sold for millions and millions of US dollars).

Like most forward-thinking people, I’m suspicious of commercialism but accept that it is what it is: whenever you’re able to entice a group of people to get excited about a common theme, you’re poised to make a profit.

And those who can afford it, will buy silky pointed hats and wear solid gold fake teeth; while those who can’t, can always go as a ghost, in an old sheet and spend just a few cents on cheap candy bought in bulk.

So while I don’t encourage Halloween in my house, I encourage any ritual or event that makes people smile (or even grimace, scowl and drip fake blood).

I don’t support the materialism behind it (unless the entire event is a celebration of recycled clothes and homemade sweets distributed to everyone – and not just the kidlings whose folks can afford it).

But I do like to see kids doing something completely different, every so often. And for kids – as it should be for grown-ups – there’s nothing more magical than a good party.

We spend a disproportionate part of our waking lives stressing, following rules, sticking to boundaries, doing the “right thing” and hoping to hell that we’re good enough to not only survive, but be successful.

Why not indulge in a touch of fantasy, if that’s how you roll? My thing is Christmas, my daughter’s godfather lives for Diwali and people like my dear friend Sal, loves – with unbridled, happy, no-strings passion – Halloween.

I’m not likely to ever carve a pumpkin and I won’t allow my kids to draw bloodied wounds all over their cheeks or stiffly chase the cats as the walking dead. It’s just not my thing, as I’m a twinkly-lights, deck-the-halls kinda gal.

But seeing photos of Sally’s trick-or-treating escapade the other day warmed my heart as roundly as mince pie and holly would. Because, honestly, smiling kids are always the point.

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