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"How I got on board with Halloween. And then got carried away. "

The tricky business of Halloween.

Today we bought the teeth and the fake blood. My six-year-old was beside herself. ‘I can’t believe I finally have fangs! I’ve been wanting them for ages!’

My little girl doesn’t fantasise about dressing up as a fairy or a princess or even a ballerina. She wants to be a vampire. I like to think of it as gender-diverse role modelling. Sadly I think it’s just powerful marketing of American cultural traditions into our Aussie pop culture.

My eldest daughter is 20, and while Halloween was on our dress-up agenda, back then we were usually the only family wandering the street. Me in a black doona cover with my broom, and the kids covered in bed sheets. I refused to cut eye holes because the only white sheets I had were 1000 thread Egyptian cotton. Being blind ghosts put them at an advantage, they didn’t have to experience trick or treating rejection first hand.

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“Me in a black doona cover with my broom, and the kids covered in bed sheets.”

No-one was expecting us. No-one gave us anything. It was demoralising.

But, like most young Australian families fed on a diet of Nickelodeon, we persisted, and now more than a decade on, this Halloween thing has really caught on. Some people even carve pumpkins. One website told me that I could carve decorative pumpkins in just a few hours! What kind of loser dedicates hours to vegetable sculpture? Isn’t there a jack-o-lantern setting on the Thermomix? We don’t even have the right sort of pumpkins. You just don’t get the same ambience with a butternut or a Queensland Blue.

I almost removed a finger trying to cut some eyeholes and then I couldn’t work out how the hell you light the candles. Instead I’ve carved a few eggplants. Much softer medium, and I figured the candles might dry roast them nicely so I can use them in my salads next week.

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I wasn’t always on board with this Halloween thing. I stood on the sidelines with my sanctimonious sisters who scorned the unchecked distribution of sugar to children at a time of peak obesity. But then I watched their lonely sad children eating sultanas, with their healthy little faces pressed against glass wishing they were one of the happy fat possibly pre-diabetic kids on a sugar stampede having anarchic fun. So I thought, what the hell. It’s only one day of the year, and it’s kind of creepy and non-nonsensical, which appeals to my evil side.

I love that you dress your beautiful child as some sort of tormented demon and then door knock the people in your street who do their best to ignore you for 364 days of the year. This is the one day where you have an opportunity to either demand sweet treats or egg them. Either way, it’s a unique way to connect with your neighbours.

100 years of Halloween costumes in just 3 minutes:

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Most years I have a bunch of kids with me. It always starts off well, the children are polite and well mannered, but after the sugar kicks in, so do the addict behaviours. Someone will start crying ‘you have more lollipops then me!’ and then snatch one to even the score. Then that kid will punch the thief in the back. Then there will be crying. Then I knock on another door, with my screaming, crying brood. I can see the person inside hiding. They’ve obviously run out of treats.

Halloween pumpkin carving
That amount of lollies can only end in tears.
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A few years a go a packet of minties would get you through. These days you need a $40 investment at the lolly shop. And don’t even think for an instant you can hand out muesli bars. You’ll be blacklisted as a healthy house. We have favourite houses in our street. I was delighted when a child told me that my house is rated high as a ‘must hit’ Halloween address. (I leave my husband home alone while I take my kids trick or treating to distribute the sugary loot. I had previously tried an ‘honesty’ system with a note ‘Just take three treats of your choice’ – it went pear shaped after one little monster took the lot. He was later found holding his tummy moaning with sherbety foam tracing his lips.

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Mandy Nolan and her family. “Last year I themed the family as The Walking Dead. Bleak I know, but it seemed the perfect comment on suburban life.” Image: Supplied.

I love checking out the dress ups. It really pushes a Mum to the brink of creative desperation. Anyone can buy a costume on line. It takes real genius to come up with an outfit in just five minutes. Who doesn’t love the kid wrapped in toilet paper aka Egyptian mummy? Last year I themed the family as The Walking Dead. Bleak, I know, but it seemed the perfect comment on suburban life.

And as I discovered, there’s nothing that bonds a family more than covering yourself with mud and fake blood.

Have you got your Halloween costumes sorted? 

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