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A Halloween Night Recap

 A Halloween Night Recap

By Karin Salvalaggio

When I tell my American friends what Halloween is like on our street in Bedford Park they stare at me in disbelief. It puts any Halloween experience they’ve had in the shade. Most say they’re lucky if a dozen kids come by their homes. The thought of hundreds children in fancy dress knocking on their door in a single evening is inconceivable.

But on our street we do not do things by halves.

Every Halloween we decorate our houses and carve pumpkins. We also purchase enough sweets to keep the Harley Street dentists smiling. Every year we think we’ve finally bought enough and every year we have too little. The children just keep on coming.

The annual pilgrimage of the little people, wearing everything from sparkling dresses to ghoulish gowns splattered with fake blood, begins early and in earnest. Although we would prefer a six o’clock kick-off, the doorbell sometimes starts ringing at around five. I usually give in at half past. Soon the combined ‘roar’ of children’s voices can be heard all the way from Turnham Green tube station. By six in the evening our pavements are packed with Trick-or-Treaters and their watchful parents. Cars crawl along our road bumper-to-bumper and mini vans from far flung locales empty out on the corners. News has spread across West London. This is the place to be on Halloween.

regular home-halloween-and-half-term-newOn a happy note, the children are usually very young, fully costumed and sweeter than the candy we are giving them. Their parents wave from the gate, say thank you and try to get their children to do the same, which is not always possible when the hunt for candy is on. There is definitely a gleam in a child’s eye when they are close to scoring their drug of choice. All that fancy etiquette they’ve been learning goes right out the window. You can practically hear their sugar addled minds buzzing with delight. I forgive them for their lapses in deportment because I still remember that sugar buzz I used to get at Halloween. It was simply glorious.

There are so many children that I don’t bother closing my door anymore. I sit on the threshold with a bowl of candy the size of a sofa cushion. There are sometimes thirty kids on my front walkway at once and for the most part it is quite civilized. Older children yield to tiny tots and often clutch onto their hands in order to push them forward through the crowds. In the past, I’ve had to bring little ones inside my house to protect them from the ‘candy crush’ happening outside my door. Yes, at times, it does feel a bit like being under siege!

We tell the children to take just one piece of candy, and aside from the odd fiend, they’re very obedient. The ‘take just one rule’ is essential. I gave out approximately 7 kilos of candy in ninety minutes this year. Yes, you heard me right. That’s close to the net weight of the candy excluding wrappers in nine tins of Heroes, Roses, Quality Street and Celebrations. For the purposes of this article I did an estimate based on the weight of individual pieces, which is around 10 grams. That means those nine tins had approximately 700 pieces of candy. We started answering the door at half past five and by half past six we were one of the few houses with any candy left. By seven we were down to 5 pieces and shut up shop. I could still hear children wandering the streets for the next hour. Some tried ringing our doorbell even though the decorations were down and the lights were off. I put up a sign and sent them on their way.

It was a good night and I think we put smiles on a lot of young faces, which is really the point of Halloween. It’s like having Carnival in October – a seemingly endless parade of glittering children in fancy dress who can’t quite believe their good fortune. Often the parents dress up as well. It’s festive, it’s fun and it’s unique to our little corner of Bedford Park. A strange American tradition that was transplanted here years ago has taken root and grown into something quite amazing. Of course, some residents hate it and all it represents, which is a justified reaction. They hide in their darkened houses or go off to the pub, only to return once order is restored. I have to admit to being a reluctant participant at times, but every year the children who come to visit win me over. They are very sweet and it’s so wonderful to give them this magical evening one night a year. So next year I’ll grumble but then I’ll give in and do it again like I always do. Maybe I’ll buy 8 kilos of candy instead of 7 but I’m not fooling anyone. It will never be enough. The children will just keep on coming.

A few notes on Halloween etiquette and safety to keep in mind for next year:

Parents please keep an eye on your children and our lovely neighbourhood. There are some questionable people wandering our streets, but on evenings such as Halloween there are far more of us than them. If you see a group of teenagers ‘shaking down’ little ones for their loot (yes, this happens) by all means gang up on them and tell them to get lost. There’s nothing scarier than a group of West London mums dressed as witches with their hackles up.

On a graver note, there was a mobile phone stolen off a thirteen-year-old boy this year. This is a particularly vulnerable age for children and not just at Halloween. Keep those phones out of sight.

Parents thank you so much for coaching your children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and when you wave from the gate, say ‘thank you’ and take photos it makes it all the more pleasurable for us at the door.

Please consider holding children back at the gate if there is already a crowd on the front step. Part of the fun is having a little chat to the kids as they come up to the door. At times I feel like I’m no more than a conveyor belt of sweets and the drone of ‘Trick-or-Treat’, ‘Happy Halloween’ and ‘thank you’ sounds more automated than sincere. It’s not as fun when this happens.

In the states a parent would never go Trick-or-Treating with their children unless someone stayed behind to hand out candy at their house. I know it’s difficult as it is early in the evening, but even though I worked when my kids were little, we always found a way. My children went out with older friends or another parent.

Please do not let your children go to houses that are not decorated! Halloween isn’t universal. There’s no reason to expect everyone to participate and I imagine it can be a very unwelcome intrusion.

Also, why not start your own Halloween tradition in your little corner of London? Buy that candy, decorate your house and carve those pumpkins. Believe me, the children will come.

Created on 11 November Last Updated on 07 July