The trick to treat­ing your fam­ily this Hal­loween

From ghost sto­ries and games, pump­kins and par­ties, John Meagher finds out how to have a spec­tac­u­lar spook-fest to­day

Irish Independent - - People & Features -

Hal­loween may be cel­e­brated the world over, but it was here — in Ire­land — that the tra­di­tion first got un­der way. It was through the an­cient Pa­gan fes­ti­val of Samhain that the mod­ern­day idea of trick or treat first emerged.

And to­day’s chil­dren, who will go from door to door tonight in search of sweets, crisps and other good­ies, are car­ry­ing on a cus­tom that is more than 2,000 years old.

Dr Sarah Cleary, one of the coun­try’s lead­ing hor­ror ex­perts and the or­gan­iser of last Sun­day’s Hor­ror Expo in Dublin’s Freema­son’s Hall, says Samhain marked the di­vi­sion be­tween light and dark, and be­tween this world and the su­per­nat­u­ral.

Our fore­bears would leave gifts out­side the door to ward off evil spir­its and the prac­tice was re­tained from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.

“The idea of trick or treat as we know it to­day re­ally took off in Amer­ica,” she says, “but its roots are here in Ire­land. I went trick or treat­ing as a child [she’s 32] but it wouldn’t have been com­mon for those of my par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion.

“Now, there’s no turn­ing back, es­pe­cially as Hal­loween has be­come so com­mer­cialised, but it’s worth­while to re­ally em­brace this spooky time of year and not make it too sani­tised. Hal­loween should be a time for ghost sto­ries and there are so many of those in this coun­try.”

So, how can par­ents — and the lit­tle ones — get the most out of trick or treat this year and what can they do to truly make this

Hal­loween one to send shiv­ers down the spine?

How best to trick or treat

Laura Ersk­ine, the ‘mum in res­i­dence’ at Mummy Pages, the pop­u­lar on­line par­ent­ing com­mu­nity, says it’s im­por­tant chil­dren fol­low reg­u­lar eti­quette. Only knock on doors where there are lights on in­side and where there are Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions on show. “Some peo­ple don’t want to be dis­turbed on Hal­loween night and their wishes should be met.” She be­lieves it’s best if kids go to­gether in small groups and are ac­com­pa­nied by an adult. “Our mums would say that it would never be okay to let chil­dren of pri­mary school age out on their own on Hal­loween night. They’d want to be in se­condary school be­fore that would be con­sid­ered and even then, there should be re­stric­tions on how far they travel.”

En­ter­tain­ing on the day

Pump­kin carv­ing has be­come very pop­u­lar, although Cleary says this is a com­par­a­tively new ar­rival to Ire­land. The pump­kin isn’t in­dige­nous to this coun­try. Pre­vi­ously, it was com­mon to carve Jack O’Lanterns from turnips

or, in my case grow­ing

up in Wex­ford, sugar beet. She be­lieves it is the per­fect time to seek out lo­cal ghost sto­ries and tales of haunted build­ings. “Some par­ents are a lit­tle re­luc­tant to ex­pose chil­dren to scary sto­ries, but many of us grew up with them — es­pe­cially, if like me, you read a lot of Broth­ers Grimm sto­ries as a child. Take them to a lo­cal haunted place.” Loftus Hall in Wex­ford is said to be one of the most haunted houses in Ire­land and was the sub­ject of para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by US TV shows.

Spooky events

There are rich pick­ings for fright fans through­out the coun­try this year. In Water­ford, there’s the hugely pop­u­lar Spooky Ex­press which runs on the old Water­ford and Suir Val­ley Rail­way. It’s not for the faint of heart or for very young chil­dren, but older kids will love the scares.

Fota House in Cork boasts the Fright At Fota walk

(above), where vis­i­tors are promised to be chilled to the mar­row as they ne­go­ti­ate the dark­ness in the es­tate’s ar­bore­tum. And just up the road in Cork City, your brav­ery will be put to the test at Cork City Gaol — an eerie place at any time of year. They know all about ghosts at Hunt­ing­ton Cas­tle, Co Car­low, too. The place, which dates from 1625, is said to be haunted and its an­nual Hal­loween tours book up fast as vis­i­tors are led through the cas­tle’s deep­est re­cesses, where whis­per­ing walls and creak­ing floor­boards will test the met­tle of many.

Hal­loween fes­ti­vals

There is no short­age of free events to put the fright­en­ers on those young and old. The Thurles Hal­loween Arts Fes­ti­val in Tip­per­ary show­cases the rich cul­ture sur­round­ing this ghostly time of year, ac­cord­ing to or­gan­iser Jim Ryan.

And fur­ther south, Youghal’s an­nual Spook­tac­u­lar in east Cork is just the ticket for any­one cap­ti­vated by witches, spells and covens. Make sure the kids have their pointy hats and broom­sticks with them.

A scare at bed­time

There are count­less books, TV shows and movies to whet the ap­petites of hor­ror fans, young and old. The now an­nual Bram Stoker Fes­ti­val in Dublin is bound to ap­peal to Drac­ula fans ev­ery­where and en­cour­age new read­ers to take on the clas­sic. Cleary rec­om­mends Mon­ster House and The Mon­ster Squad for young view­ers — “they’ll love them” — and teenagers and older view­ers have been smit­ten by the Net­flix se­ries Stranger

Things. Net­flix is also where you’ll find one of the best hor­ror films of re­cent years, the ter­ri­fy­ing Aus­tralian movie, The Babadook.

Stay­ing safe

Hal­loween may be a won­der­ful time for chil­dren, but it’s be­come a real headache for front­line ser­vices. Stay­ing safe is at the fore­front of all par­ents, but how can they best look af­ter their kids while let­ting them em­brace the spirit of the day?

“There are lots of hid­den dan­gers for chil­dren around Hal­loween,” Laura Ersk­ine says. “Every year, we hear

sto­ries of young peo­ple and chil­dren suf­fer­ing hor­rific burns in­juries. We would urge that all par­ents check the safety reg­u­la­tions on their chil­dren’s Hal­loween cos­tumes and to avoid highly flammable ma­te­ri­als.

“To pro­tect from in­jury, par­ents should en­sure their chil­dren wear clothes such as woollen tights or jeans un­der their cos­tume which works as a bar­rier in case their cos­tume catches alight. If the worst does hap­pen, chil­dren should know the ‘stop, drop and roll’ drill which al­lows the ground to suf­fo­cate a fire in­stead of a per­son’s hands.”

PIC­TURE: TONY GAVIN

Fancy dress to impress: Kel­lie Kear­ney with her chil­dren Kadie (2) Frankie (3) Kayla (7) and Ken­zie (1) in their Hal­loween out­fits

Su­per ef­fort: Kel­lie with her chil­dren Frankie, Kadie, Ken­zie and Kayla

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