We can't escape it. It's everywhere.
Greetings cards, costumes, masks, cobwebs and spiders, skulls and skeletons. Themed television and radio programmes. Shop staff wearing witches hats. Products stacked on the shelves of our supermarkets - cakes, sweets, candied apples - all in bright orange and black paper wrapping and boxes.
At this point the sky goes dark and there's a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder.
If I hear one more version of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' I think I'll go mad. And this coming from an avid Michael fan!
On the surface it all just a bit of fun. A chance for parties, for dressing up, for eating lots of sweets, dunking for apples. An opportunity for little groups of children to prance around the neighbourhood in fancy dress to knock on doors and shout 'Trick or Treat?' and then open their little bags to accept handfuls of candy. It's like a scene out of an old American movie.
Which is exactly where all this comes from.
If you look up 'Halloween' or 'Hallowe'en' online you'll read that it's 'an annual holiday observed on October 31, which commonly includes actvities such as trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o'-lanterns, bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories and watching horror films.' (Wikipedia)
Although activities like 'trick or treating' do have roots in the past, this 'celebration' of Halloween is relatively modern, and largely American in the form we have it today.
Until just a few years ago, Halloween was a quirky night which we in the UK looked at with fascination from afar, a little perplexed as to why our American friends apparently embraced it so joyfully. Now, it seems, we in Britain are doing the same - at least that's what a visit to the shops and supermarket this week would have us believe.
Many of us remain sceptical, especially from a religious perspective. Is it just harmless 'fun' or will this annual emphasis create an unhealthy interest in witchcraft and the occult? Should those religious among us be encouraging our own children to attend 'Light' parties rather than celebrations of death, and all things spooky? Is there anything really wrong with a little harmless fright once a year?
I'm not going to get into the religious arguments here - but for the record, 'Hallowe'en' is the night before All Hallows Day - or All Saints Day - an annual Christian celebration which honours all the saints, known and unknown, each November 1st. Traditionally, the Church held a vigil on All Hallows' Eve when worshippers would prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the feast day itself. The name derives from the Old English 'hallowed' meaning holy or sanctified.(BBC website)
A long way from spooks and ghoulies, fancy dress costumes, masks and facemakeup, parties, witches, skeletons and skulls, weird rituals like 'trick or treating', the annual fright fest.
But - let's face it - a bunch of people solemnly attending church to celebrate the lives of good people who have gone before us and fasting ahead of a holy day hardly makes for a good greetings card or party theme. It won't sell many bags of sweets or cakes wrapped in orange and gold boxes. It's hardly likely to be the next theme for a Hollywood block buster.
Pure and simple, the 'modern' invention of Hallowee is an excellent marketing opportunity. A chance for the shops to make some autumn sales just before the big Christmas push, for television marketeers to sell ads around the late night scary movies.
Do I sound slightly cynical? You bet I am! Why else would we encourage our children to annually dress up as ghosts and witches, and pretend to be dead people and even undead people - zombies? Why else would we, this one day of the year, encourage them to visit the neighbours and knock on the doors of complete strangers and allow them to threaten them with some prank or nasty consequence unless they hand over sweeties/treats? If they did all this at any other time of year we'd be concerned about their morale and even spiritual welfare.
I'm all for a bit of fun. I'm just not sure that Halloween really is much fun. I think I'll wait for a week and 'celebrate' that essentially British custom of burning an effigy of a man on a big bonfire while enjoying a fireworks display! Guy Fawkes Night here I come!