Forget Christmas you've got to get through Halloween first. Trick or treat has fast become a much celebrated affair. Whether you love it or loathe it you can't get away from the Orange and Black which is now symbolic of October and the second most popular event of the calendar.
As a child I remember the smell of the burning turnip, which my Granda used to carve out for me, with triangular eyes and nose slits and the obligatory tea light which kept blowing out and the wonky string handle. My dad was really creative and when pumpkins took over from turnip lanterns he worked his 'Edward Scissorhands' magic and I had fabulously decorative pumpkin lanterns for many years. And while incredibly magnificent, the health and safety police had at this point taken over, and sadly but safely, my lanterns were lit with battery tea lights. Fun spoilt. Personally I still admire a well carved pumpkin but the memory of a burnt turnip smell always epitomises Halloween to me.
To make the perfect pumpkin lantern I would always suggest you cheat! Search the Internet and print a template. There are absolutely hundreds of brilliant designs and really easy to carve out, so much so you will want to do several. Pumpkins are a great activity to get kids involved as they are easy to scrape out and can be done quite quickly before they lose interest. The more pumpkins lit up on your drive or in your window the more enticing your decorations will look. Turn the insides into a warm winter pumpkin soup for when your trick or treaters get in out of the cold.
The more deathly decorations you have the better. Unlike Christmas, Halloween is not the time for tasteful decor. The bloodier the better, bandages and cotton wool stretched in weblike fashion with tangled spiders is always a popular choice. Scary ghosts popping out unexpectedly and scream masks. All of the shops have great decorations but you don't have to spend big as I said before with Halloween anything goes and to be honest the tackier the better. Again home made decorations can really work to create that atmospheric and haunting feel.
We always had a Halloween party and my Mum used to create a scarecrow like 'body' which sat in the porch on bails of hay and all of the kids used to come for the 'Trick' of putting their hands inside the body's shirt to feel the dead mans guts. Unbeknown to everyone it was just a large bag of cold spaghetti but this trick had kids from streets around in absolute terror but always desperate to do it again....years later there are still friends who talk about it.
Rather than just hand out obligatory sweets when the neighbouring kids come calling, look at some of the great ideas for 'tricks' online. Do something like putting your sweets in a bowl of jelly and make those 'pesky' kids work for their treats. Or try putting sweets on a tray with icing sugar or flour and get them to pick them up with their hands behind their backs. It is sooooo much more fun. You will surprise yourself how much it will entertain you too.
As time passed, for a while I fell out of love with October but this year my 13 year old cousin has signed us up for a night at Farmaggedon and I am looking forward (not) to ramping up the fear factor. Check it out on Youtube and you will see why I am feeling somewhat terrified. Fright night is well and truly on for me this year with the added pressure of not crying like a five year old in front of my cousin when I should be the brave one. We all love the adrenaline of scaring ourselves, what is that all about?
If you are not going to a party you could throw your own. It really doesn't have to be expensive. Most people will be happy to get an invite, a great excuse to dress up and challenge them to bring a scary buffet item. A punch with red or green juice or food colouring is a great centrepiece. Make spaghetti bolognese and rename it wriggly blood worms. Carrots can become severed fingers. Try traditional games like bobbing for apples go on we are all kids at heart.
Now it is all about choosing the right outfit and I must admit I do make quite a freakishly scary dead prom queen. It's the one night of the year when it's great to look your absolute worst. The best costumes are always the ones you make yourself and the more makeup and blood the better. I trawl Pinterest for hours looking for inspiration and mesmerised by how far some people will go for the perfect scary costume. Again it doesn't have to be expensive just imaginative. This year I've channeled my inner scary skeleton. My make up artistry has stepped up a notch from two Halloween's ago wouldn't you agree?
My mum once dyed a sheet grey wrapped it around herself turned up in a skeleton mask with a £2 scythe and became an instant success as the grim reaper! Her entire costume cost her about a fiver. Until I am too old to pass as a prom queen I will be sticking with my same outfit as every year the more dirty, bloodier, make up stained and worn it becomes the more authentic my look.
On this one night of the year our fascination for blood, guts and death is completely acceptable.
Happy Halloween & roll on Christmas x