I don’t really remember celebrating Halloween growing up, but I do remember one year, when I was about eight or nine, dressing up as a witch – complete with homemade black hat (a black paper cone on a black paper donut that was a little big for my head) and cape and my grannies “besom broom” (one of the ones with the twigs tied together for sweeping leaves and dirt outside). We walked around the neighbourhood reciting little poems. We didn’t get many sweets, but it was still fun.
We did make lanterns every year, though. They were seen as positive things, frightening away the spirits of the dead. Growing up in England, we would carve turnips and not pumpkins. It was quite difficult, as turnips tend to be a lot smaller than pumpkins, but it was still a lot of fun. I do remember I loved the smell as the turnip warmed up from the candle inside. We would string them up and carry them around with us. Usually, the faces weren’t very intricate… just two triangle eyes and an ugly slit for a mouth. Granny Edíta would always stew up the turnip for lunch the next day – nothing ever went to waste!
Sometimes, we’d even make little dudud lights from potatoes and set them along the path to our house or in the windows. They were much, MUCH harder to make than the turnips and didn’t really last as long either. Often we wouldn’t even put faces in them, just hollow them out and set small candles inside (usually the ends of taller candles).
We didn’t usually make any kind of special food. For Halloween we played dookin (ducking/bobbing for apples) and drank Lamb’s Wool (Lamasool – warm stewed apples mixed with milk, cinnamon, and ginger – though adults often mixed it with more whisky or rum than milk!)
It’s become so much more commercialized now, even in my old hometown, with pumpkins, pie, and decorations becoming ubiquitous. I do miss those simple old days when we’d light our turnips and dudud to keep the spirits at bay.