Whatever has happened to Halloween? In 2001 we spent a collective £12m in the UK, by last year, this had grown like a prize winning pumpkin to a big fat £235m!
Shoppers to the nations favourite supermarket, Tesco (where every little helps, apparently) can pick up a 'Devil Witch' costume, age 3-10. If these tough economic times are straining your Halloween budget, you can settle for a 'Devil Alice Band' for £3 - I always thought there was something dark about the Alice band.
Before 2001 it seems we were happy spending our money on just the one big festival at the start of the winter season - Bonfire Night. Invented by our Anglican friends to help fuel anti catholic feeling & necessitated by fears of invasion or terror attack. Substitute Catholic for Islamic, add 500 years, & this festival sounds surprisingly contemporary.
You would think that in our current climate of fear, stoked up by an eager press, Bonfire Night would be the perfect symbol of our struggle for freedom? A celebration of Englishness, of triumph in the face of adversity, of standing firm against threatening & dangerous foreign cultures?
Enter stage left in a Monster mask (available at Morrisons, £3.99). It seems American culture has already invaded, silently, a bloodless coup (fake blood capsules available in all larger Sainsburys stores). Never mind Islam, Hary Potter, Twilight & American Teen culture got there first. We went down without a fight, led beguilingly by our all powerful supermarkets. We have simply given in & bought wholesale what they put in front of us as though it was what we wanted in the first place! Guido Fawkes beats a hasty retreat, monsters beat Anglicans!
All this presents a bit of a pickle for those of us brought up to believe that 'thou shalt not trick or treat' was in the original Ten Commandments. In an age where we tell our kids that it's not safe to walk down the garden path, Halloween actually has quite a lot going for it. News out today confirms that most young people don't feel they belong to any community, they never speak to anyone over the age of 40. In this dislocated climate, Halloween has some redeeming qualities - one of the few nights of the year when families do come out together, when you meet the other folks in your street, when you might actually talk to an older person (albeit from behind a grotesque rubber mask)!
Is Halloween then an opportunity for the Church? Is it a chance to build a bridge into our culture,rather than wave a placard & burn our bridges? Cheryl from Newcastle, interviewed on national radio this morning put it this way, 'Maybe rather than us kids just hanging in our own groups, weekly meetings could be put on where people of different ages & backgrounds could mix?' (I've edited out the 'likes' & 'yeahs?')
It's a wide open door - I hope the churches of Newcastle are tripping over their placards to invite Cheryl & her friends to come along to just such a meeting at 10.30am next Sunday morning! We've got so much to offer our disenfranchised society as the local Church, we happen to do community rather well, it is really rather attractive - But unless we wake up & smell the Corpse Coffee (available in all Asda stores) we allow others to set the agenda.
Now where did I put that Alice band? Happy Halloween everyone!