• December 8, 2022

Trick or treat? Our love/hate relationship with a US-style Halloween | Letters

  Reading time 4 minutes

Tim Dowling’s entertaining and informative article (‘It’s become a real monster!’: How Britain fell for Halloween, 27 October) missed one aspect of Halloween: the suspension of ordinary laws, which occurs in the spring and autumn festivals, as measured by the calendar ending one half-year and beginning the next.

This is why we still have budgetary accounting in April (allowing for the Gregorian-Julian calendars transference) to mark the date when debts had to be paid, just before normal law ran out. Walpurgis night is balanced by Samhain at the other end. Because normal laws are suspended, ancestral ghosts are able to bridge the divide.

Similarly, at Easter there was a tradition that new clothes were worn, so children had to be taken to see their relations, allowing all their families to recognise them in their new gear. This dates from a time when the clothing worn by different ranks and trades was fixed (sumptuary laws). It also explains why Robin Hood was so often able to dress as a beggar, a potter or other disguises: people couldn’t see beyond the costume and so were easily baffled. Ghosts could be similarly fooled, and a simple transference accounts for the dressing-up.John StarbuckLepton, West Yorkshire

Tim Dowling is quite right to emphasise the point that Halloween in Britain today has become very commercialised and Americanised, and he is also right to recognise that Halloween has long been celebrated in Scotland, albeit in a very different way now to how I remember from my own childhood 70 years ago.

There was no tricking or treating back then. Children would sing songs or recite poems or tell jokes to receive their reward of a penny or a sweetie from the houses they went round to. They would carry their turnip lanterns and the adults would have to guess the identity of children in their homemade costumes. Very different from the Halloween of Britain today. A memory of a less globalised time and place which seem destined never to return.Dave SelkirkKiltarlity, Highland

Halloween, All Saints’ Eve, is the day the Reformation began in 1517, hence perhaps its former greater popularity in Protestant areas. A friend who grew up in a strictly Presbyterian Scottish family (indeed, her father was once the moderator of their sect, and in that role helped expel from it the then Lord Chancellor, Mackay of Clashfern, for attending the funerals of two Catholic colleagues). My friend’s family did not celebrate Easter, Christmas or birthdays; the only day in the year when fun was allowed was Halloween.Greg BrooksSheffield

Am I the only person to be distressed and angry at the potential waste of food linked to the sale of Halloween pumpkins?

Every year the supermarkets burgeon with enormous piles of these wonderful vegetables; and every year piles of chopped and rotting food lie outside thousands of houses without a thought for the fact that the insides, removed to house candles, could have been made into sweet or savoury dishes of all sorts. A good start would be for the supermarkets to put a pile of recipe leaflets conspicuously beside the crate to remind families that a squash is not just for Halloween.Virginia OrreyCowes, Isle of Wight

One thing your readers need to be aware of is the immense environmental damage that the use of plastic entails, especially to birds and insects that get trapped in Halloween “cobwebs”.Guru Singh Shepshed, Leicestershire

Tim Dowling’s instructive guide to Halloween’s origins and customs pointed out that it falls on the eve of All Saints, not All Souls. So many local communities like ours celebrate with a “light party” rather than evoking deeds of darkness.Rev John SaxbeeHaverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

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