Now it’s your cos­tume that will re­ally leave you spooked

Irish Independent - - Comment - Ian O’Do­herty

WELL, it’s that time of the year again, when we cel­e­brate the an­nual ero­sion of the layer be­tween the liv­ing and the dead by dress­ing up, stay­ing out late and get­ting into mis­chief.

In fact, in its mod­ern it­er­a­tion, you could say that Hal­loween is the one hol­i­day when all the fam­ily par­takes with the same en­thu­si­asm.

The kids get to play dress-up as their favourite mon­ster or Dis­ney char­ac­ter and wan­der around the streets in dis­guise – while their par­ents and older sib­lings do ex­actly the same, ex­cept rather than look­ing for nuts and sweets from the neigh­bours, they wan­der from pub to pub, availing of what­ever Hal­loween spe­cial of­fers might be on of­fer.

Hal­loween has al­ways been a big deal for the Ir­ish, which makes sense, see­ing as how it orig­i­nated here as ‘Samhain’, half har­vest fes­ti­val, half day of the dead.

In re­cent times, the Amer­i­cans have com­mod­i­fied and com­mer­cialised the tra­di­tional win­ter break into a bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try that now seems to feed off its own con­tro­versy.

But for any­one who grew up in Ire­land, Oc­to­ber 31 will al­ways have a spe­cial place in our hearts.

It was a far more rigid so­ci­ety back in the day, and any­thing even vaguely trans­gres­sive was frowned upon, so the idea of be­ing al­lowed to run loose was an en­tic­ing one.

In fact, Hal­loween marks the var­i­ous stages of grow­ing up for many of us.

As an only child, I must ad­mit that Hal­loween par­lour games were rather less than scin­til­lat­ing in the O’Do­herty house­hold.

For starters, bob­bing for ap­ples on your own isn’t much fun. Sim­i­larly, eat­ing col­can­non, that sea­sonal com­bi­na­tion of kale, mashed pota­toes and but­ter (al­ways lots of but­ter) which fea­tured coins wrapped in tin foil lacked a cer­tain sur­prise fac­tor when you knew all the coins had been mixed into your por­tion. If any­thing, the ex­cite­ment was see­ing how many teeth you could chip on 10 pence coins.

In my own case I can still re­mem­ber when the lo­cal Su­perquinn in Walkin­stown started sell­ing full Hal­loween cos­tumes rather than just those plas­tic masks which lasted just long enough to cut your face be­fore the elas­tic band at the back snapped.

Nu­mer­ous par­ents were out­raged – where was the ef­fort if a kid could just go in and buy their cos­tume?

In­stead, most of us made do with a bin liner or a white bed sheet, one of those ridicu­lously sharp and short-lived masks and a plas­tic bag to col­lect all the treats you’d pick up from your neigh­bours.

But as one got a bit older, the ex­cite­ment tended to ratchet up a few notches, par­tic­u­larly at the lo­cal bon­fire, where younger kids clung onto their par­ents’ hands and the older ones waited un­til ev­ery­one else had left be­fore throw­ing aerosol cans into the flames while hurling bangers bought in Moore Street at each other. Ah, the in­no­cence of youth! There was no such thing as trick or treat back then – and rightly so.

No, the only phrase we recog­nised was ‘help the Hal­loween party’ and, to this day, the kids who come knock­ing at my door and say “help the Hal­loween party” rather than the Amer­i­can­ised “trick or treat” tend to get more good­ies.

The old ar­gu­ment over the dif­fer­ence be­tween th­ese two catch­phrases sums up, in many ways, how the oc­ca­sion has changed and evolved over the last few years.

In much the same way that Ir­ish Amer­i­cans aren’t re­ally Ir­ish, they merely claim the ances­try, Hal­loween is no longer the an­cient Ir­ish tra­di­tion of let­ting your hair down, laugh­ing at death and scoff­ing the fruit har­vest. No, Hol­ly­wood has colonised the day, and while it has given us plenty of clas­sic hor­rors, the Ir­ish el­e­ment was sel­dom ac­knowl­edged ex­cept, per­haps, for the ter­ri­bly un­der­rated ‘Hal­loween III: Sea­son of The Witch’.

That kitsch slasher clas­sic saw Dan O’Her­lihy as an an­cient Ir­ish druid run­ning a toy com­pany called ‘Sil­ver Sham­rock’ who wanted to make a mas­sive sac­ri­fice of Amer­i­can chil­dren. Even then, how­ever, he de­rived his power from Stone­henge, which shows that while most Amer­i­cans have a vague no­tion Hal­loween orig­i­nated on one of the ‘old coun­tries’, they don’t re­ally care about the ex­act de­tails.

It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that a fes­ti­val that was once based around con­fronting our col­lec­tive fears of both death and the un­dead has now be­come the most fret­ful and anx­i­ety-rid­den so­cial oc­ca­sion of the year, but not for its orig­i­nal and far more in­ter­est­ing rea­sons.

Nowa­days – and we can once more thank our Amer­i­can cousins for this de­vel­op­ment – the very act of wear­ing the wrong Hal­loween cos­tume can make you a bigot, in the eyes of id­iots.

The big de­bate in Amer­ica this year is ‘cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion’ and one bafflingly in­flu­en­tial blog, ‘Rais­ing Race Con­scious Chil­dren’ (which would prob­a­bly be more ac­cu­rately ti­tled ‘Rais­ing Self Con­scious Chil­dren’), has warned par­ents about which cos­tumes are ‘suit­able’ or not.

In the won­der­fully skewed logic of­ten dis­played by guilt-rid­den white lib­er­als, the au­thor in­sists that al­low­ing your white daugh­ter dress up as the Poly­ne­sian Dis­ney char­ac­ter Moana is an of­fence against the new rules be­cause: “Moana is based on real his­tory and a real group of peo­ple. If we are go­ing to dress up as a real per­son, we have to make sure we are do­ing it in a way that is re­spect­ful. Oth­er­wise it’s like we are mak­ing fun of some­one else’s cul­ture.”

So if you daugh­ter wants to dress as Moana tonight, then she is a racist and so are you.

But what if your white daugh­ter wants to dress as Elsa from ‘Frozen’, that must be OK, right? Wrong.

Be­cause ap­par­ently: “Elsa is a white princess, and we see so many white princesses, her char­ac­ter sends the mes­sage that you have to be a cer­tain way to be beau­ti­ful.”

So damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

If th­ese peo­ple are so ob­sessed with cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion, why do they feel com­fort­able ap­pro­pri­at­ing an Ir­ish fes­ti­val?

There are no rules on Hal­loween, ex­cept one – re­mem­ber to keep your dogs in­doors, they re­ally hate tonight.

Any­way – once we get through this evening, there are only 54 shop­ping days left to Christ­mas...

While most Amer­i­cans have a vague no­tion Hal­loween orig­i­nated on one of the ‘old coun­tries’, they don’t re­ally care about the ex­act de­tails

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