Halloween in Britain seems to be enjoying an upswing in popularity. Shops are realising its potential as a cash cow and the costumes, decorations and candy are in full supply. In fact our local supermarket went all out with the halloween aisle and dear Rafe just had to spend a few minutes in it every time we went there. The little ones enjoyed a windfall of candy, about double what they received last year, covering more or less the same amount of ground. Having said that, it is still very different here. Trick or treating is a quiet affair, bar the occasional bang of fireworks in the distance. You may perhaps pass one or two fellow trick or treaters on your travels, then the street is quite once again. Most houses are dark and on a street of about 30 houses, perhaps 5 would be handing out candy.
The greatest joy I get from halloween in Britain is when my costumed kids knock on a door of a house who has not thought to buy candy for trick or treaters, usually older people. Frequently, these lovely people invite the kids in to show off their costumes, coo admiringly and drop some silver coins into their buckets, or whatever treats they can rustle up.
It is not the unexpected treat of money which makes these stops the highlight for me, it is the way in which the children are welcomed into the lives of these people for a brief moment, like a warm light is shone down onto them. They leave these houses with an extra bounce in their step, eager to say something about the occupants, and a little bit of that light stays with them as they make their way down the road. The best of these stops last night resulted in a lovely couple scouring for a treat (they always hush me when I say it is not necessary) and coming up with a pile of soccer (football) trading cards for little Rafe. The man put the pile into Rafes bucket and Rafe said “Thankyouhappyhawoween!” before running back to me. Off we went. A few moments later the same man came chasing after us, explaining he’d dropped their bus pass into Rafes buckets with the trading cards, by mistake. And there it was, under the thick pile of trading cards mixed with candy. I think this shows how people are so willing to go above and beyond just reaching into a bowl of candy next to the door, and turning out the light when it’s gone- to actually giving a part of their life, just for the sake of the look of joy on a 4 year olds face. I definitely won’t forget that.
Unfortunately we also experienced the other side of British Halloween this year, involving stolen pumpkins and a brick through the window. Very unsettling, to say the least.