Have I mentioned that I love Halloween? Its traditions appeal so much more than the trappings of a modern Christmas. For one thing it falls in autumn, that season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, when the trees turn their leaves into flaming displays before consigning them to the ground to be crunched underfoot on crisp, early morning walks. Fires may be lit and blankets wrapped around shoulders as sofas are snuggled into. Curtains are drawn early giving rooms a cosiness forgotten over summer.
Halloween does not demand that gifts be exchanged with all the pressure this brings. Friends may choose to get together but it is acceptable to eschew the social whirl. There is no requirement for an expensive, time consuming meal.
Have you guessed that I am not a party animal? I choose carefully the events I will attend and who I will spend time with. Whatever the occasion I wear clothes that are comfortable on my socially derided bulk. Christmas exacerbates my anxieties with its demands and excesses. It is glitter and false promises of joy to the world.
Had I been born back in the day, I ponder if I may have been considered a witch.
Witches were often women who would not follow the crowd. Perhaps they refused to marry, choosing to live alone rather than be dominated by a man. Perhaps they dressed differently and would not do as they were told. Some accused of being witches had simply drawn the anger of peers who believed in a hierarchy of sycophancy and aspiration. Witches lived apart and appeared content with that. Their autonomy angered many; in the time honoured tradition, conformists sowed fear of the ‘other’ – and witch hunts ensued. Maverick tendencies are anathema to those whose comfortable lives rely on social discipline.
The festive season, with its myriad of expectation, joviality and consumerism fills me with dread. Each year I dream of locking my doors and hibernating with just my family for company. At Halloween I am permitted to do this if I choose – me, my family and my books.
Recommended reading for Halloween
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Nancy Forest-Flier)
A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
The Blackheath Séance Parlour by Alan Williams
Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg
Pavement by Richard Butchins
The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
The Many by Wyl Menmuir
The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert
The Black Country by Kerry Hadley-Pryce
I shall be curling up with ‘Dark Matter’ by Michelle Paver. The cover promises me a ghost story…