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Out of the box -  Forget your inhibitions, get involved in Halloween!

October 2011

This is our regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try. 

If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.




HalloweenHalloween is American! it is a new idea just so supermarkets can sell costumes and other paraphernalia! Trick or treat is begging and threatening and shouldn’t be allowed in Britain!

Yes, most of us at our age will have heard of these sentiments and more – after all, when we were kids Halloween wasn’t a normal part of our childhood. Today many of us refuse to get involved and turn children away, or at least show our disapproval by not entering into the spirit of the occasion.

But today Halloween can offer lots of fun and areas where our generation can participate.

To start with, it is worth knowing that the festival is very much European in origin. Typically a festival at this time is linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, to note the end of summer. The word Halloween is thought to be a variation of the Scottish All Hallows Even, the night before All Hallows Day which is certainly noted in the 16th century. Turnips used to be included in the celebration, but when immigrants arrived in America, they used the native pumpkin which was more readily available and also more dramatic.

Trick or treating is associated with the Scottish activity of “guising” when children perform a sort of trick, traditionally singing a song or telling a ghost story, to earn a “treat”.

All in all, Halloween is a very traditional festival.

So, if we have got over our inhibitions about Halloween, how can we get involved?

Well, today there are lots of ways to join in and have fun as well.

The easiest way is simply to buy a large pumpkin to create a real Halloween display for your window. If you make a lovely face it will cheer everyone up as they pass by.

Select a pumpkin that is free of nicks and cuts – nicks can develop mould which can spoil the pumpkin quickly. If you want to create a witch, then choose a pumpkin with little bumps or nodules on the surface as these can be coloured into warts!

When you have your pumpkin safely home, with a marker pen draw a line in a circle around two or three inches down from the top and then cut along this line with a sharp knife. Carefully remove the top and then scoop out all the inside of the pumpkin. You will probably need a spoon and even a knife to get this done – you can remove the seeds and put the flesh aside to make a delicious pumpkin soup later. Wipe away the black marker line from the top of the pumpkin.

Also look at the bottom of the pumpkin, you may need to trim off a very small section to ensure it stands firmly and straight. It is important the pumpkin can stand securely but you must be very careful not to cut right through or there will be nothing to stand the internal candle on.

Now comes the fun bit. With a light pen, draw an outline of the eyes, nose and mouth. A triangular nose is very traditional but the mouths can vary and some people take enormous trouble here, perhaps carving out the odd tooth in a scary smile, so you might want to look at drawings of other Halloween pumpkins before finally deciding on your design – there are lots of ideas on the internet.

Word of warning though, initially don’t be over ambitious. Unless you have bought a commercial “pumpkin face” set, you will find cutting through the tough skin of a pumpkin can be quite difficult. Also, don’t set the eyes too close together as the skin in between can collapse or break off the space is too narrow.

Once the face is drawn, find a sharp knife and off you go, following the lines of your drawing and very carefully slicing out the skin to create your face. You need adequate openings so that enough light from inside the pumpkin will glow out into the dark for that really scary effect!

Once the holes have been cut and you are happy with the face, then the next step is to insert the candle. The tea light variety set in their own sturdy little metal holders are by far the best type of candle to use; you are doing this for fun and there is no need to create a fire hazard by using long unsteady candles.

Make sure you have scraped out a sufficiently flat surface at the bottom of the pumpkin to insert the candle; for larger pumpkins you may want to use two or even three candles together. The tea light candles are good because they simply burn out in their container, leaving an empty holder.

There are lots of ways to display a lighted pumpkin; most people put them in their front window if they are near a street, stood on a tray on the windowsill or on a small side table by the window with the curtains well drawn back. On dry nights you can display them outside on a pedestal or even on a step. It can be a good idea to put tinfoil or a protective mat underneath the pumpkin.

Of course there are lots of additional ideas for Halloween pumpkins; you can add decorations to make them into witches, or cut out mock flames up the sides of the pumpkin instead of making a face.

If you have skills, and get organised in time, you can prepare a number of pumpkins and sell them for your local charity and there may be local groups running Halloween parties that would be grateful for your help.

You don’t have to take part in any “trick or treating” or “guising” that occurs in your neighbourhood; increasingly Halloween these days is celebrated by organised parties and events; but you may want to have a few sweets or biscuits on hand just in case a local child comes “trick or treating”.



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