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Ingrid Skeels

Halloween and how to keep the spirit safely

posted this in Children's play, health and wellbeing, Community, Street Space on 21/10/2020

Child holding Halloween pumpkin

The nights are drawing in, it’s getting colder and the trees are ablaze with colour. As every child knows, this is Halloween weather! But how to safely honour the festival this year?

We’ve gathered in some ideas and hopefully, wherever you are and whatever the restrictions, there will be a way for you to take part. But first, here’s why Halloween is about far more than just spookiness or sweets for children.

Imagination and celebration

Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, has Christian and ancient pagan links and is an important time for some communities to celebrate and honour the dead. And of course, it’s now one of the big consumer pressures of the year too: how much money can shops get us to spend on orange and black stuff?

But for children, Halloween is mainly a festival of the imagination, celebrating the unknown and the scary, with a bit of carnival thrown in. What do I want to become tonight? How can I change myself into that thing? What will we see tonight out there? Who will we meet? What goodies will we manage to get for free?Young girl with Halloween face paint

In more normal times, we adults help to create and manage this safe ‘unknown scariness’. Some of us accompany children until they’re old enough to go alone. Others dress up and decorate their houses, or leave out lanterns and offer treats. And most people help by simply ‘allowing’ Halloween to happen, ignoring any noise or madness and driving more carefully on the night.

Freedom and community

As we’ve written about before, Halloween is also a festival that celebrates freedom and develops community for children. Wandering around your ‘patch’ at night. Calling on neighbours or people you may not know. Every year going a little bit further, a little bit later. Every year being a bit more interested in ‘who else is going’ until that becomes the point. And together, reclaiming the streets for one night.

But what about this year – how can children still get some of the spirit of Halloween?

1. Feed the imagination at home

Trawl wardrobes or charity shops (if that’s possible) for items to turn into costumes. Draw lantern designs or other spooky pictures. Carve faces and paint designs onto pumpkins. Make pumpkin soup with the scooped out middles, or toffee apples – both easy and cheap. Tell or read spooky stories by candle or torchlight. Let children make witches’ potions from water and natural things they find outside, or re-purpose things for a vile indoors potion: Blood (tinned tomatoes or red paint), Ground Bones (flour), Worms (cooked spaghetti). It’s disgusting, it’s messy, but they’ll never forget it.

2. Join in or start a Halloween trail

Lots of communities are encouraging neighbours to dress windows in spooky, creative ways to keep the scary fun of Halloween alive this year. Some are more formal and involve a map, like these Window Wanderland trails or this local example near us: BS3 Haunted House. Others are more informal, with people sharing the idea for decorated windows on social media including in some local playing out groups.

Doorway decorated with spooky skull

3. Go for a spooky walk

Whether you’re dressed up or not, able to meet friends, going to look at Halloween windows or just taking the ghostly air, time outside can be good. As long as you’re following all guidelines for your national and local area.

4. Take part from home

If you can’t or don’t want to go out, or if there is no trail in your area, you can still take part from home. Spooky drawings or lanterns in your window mean YOU are creating Halloween for others walking by and – as with rainbow pictures – you are part of something bigger. Albeit something bigger and scary!

5. Don’t forget to get your own treats – maybe to hide?

So even though sharing or taking treats from others is out, children can still get that sense of luck and bounty!

We wish you all a happy and safe Halloween, however you mark it or not this year. We’d love to see your pictures or hear how it is if you do. Tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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