Mean Old Witch

I have a love-hate relationship with this particular festival. Celebrating the turning wheel of the year is something I like to do.

(illustration from The Barefoot Book of Rhymes Around the Year by Marc Vyvyan-Jones)

 Halloween is the old celtic festival of Samhain and is a time to reflect on the coming winter darkness, the end of the year's growing and harvesting and also a time to remember those who have died. I like to mark it but in a simple, low key way. We carve pumpkins and I'm happy to hang up a few homemade decorations and to turn out a Halloween treat or two.

What I don't do is buy any of the halloween stuff that seems to swamp the supermarkets these days. Apparently Halloween is now one of the four most lucrative days of the year for retail, I can believe it. What I hate about all this rubbish is the effect it has on my daughter. My sons are unmoved by Halloween but my ten year old daughter is easily influenced by such things and thinks she must have things for Halloween because she's seen them in the shops. 

But what I really loathe and detest about this festival is......can you guess?  Trick or treating. I'm afraid I don't allow it . At.All. No, not one bit. I think it is little more than organised begging. Yes, I know one can organise a reciprocal affair with friends and neighbours, and I vaguely remember doing this as I child, but frankly I'm too lazy to supervise such an event besides the allergy thing makes it complicated and anyway I just don't like the idea of knocking on doors asking for sugary junk.
 We had callers last night and last year we had them on the 30th too. If you can't even get the date right then you certainly don't deserve treats.
 At Halloween I think I am entitled to become a Mean Old Witch (and at frequent intervals throughout the rest of the year too).
 I'm not that keen on carol singers either. Hummph.

So, this is our simple, junk-free, non-commercial, not-quite-sugar-free Halloween.

Jack o' lanterns
Scary face by my daughter and stars and moon by me.

Homemade decorations

Toffee apples
 using this recipe which I would increase by half next time as there was barely enough toffee to coat five apples.

Roasted, spiced pumpkin seeds.
 Drop in tomorrow for how to do this and more on how to use up every bit of your Halloween pumpkin.

This on our front door
which remains firmly shut all evening. I managed (just) to stop myself from writing 'bog off!' on it.

Happy Halloween!

And here's October's sampler :o)



  1. Oh, no ... I've just thrown away a bowl of pumpkin seeds as they'd been sitting there for nearly a week. Kept meaning to roast them but the truth is, I don't really like them!
    There's a sign outside our local Sainsbury's refusing to sell flour and eggs to under-18s through the Halloween/Bonfire Night season. Of course, there's about five other shops that would oblige within a minute's walk!
    But your decorations are great!

  2. Hear hear Sue
    I'm with you on 'trick or treating'

  3. very well said! I totally agree!

    I was lucky as a child - we lived in the countryside so there were no trick or treaters and if I had wanted to, doing it myself was not an option without a car! As an adult, and without meaning to sound to snobby, I consider it to be something that those who live on or were raised on estates do!

    I feel very lucky that Halloween had always escaped me. Like you, I like the original ideas and like to celebrate Samhain in a simple way, but I have no time for Halloween as it is today with all the tacky things in the shops etc!

    I look forward to seeing how you used up all the pumpkin. The roasted pumpkin seeds sound good!

  4. Anonymous7:12 pm GMT

    I realise that trick or treating is an american import but here in Scotland "guising" has been around for generations and I certainly don't see it as begging. I combine the homemade elements you describe with my friends and neighbours visiting eachothers houses, dressed up, telling stories and sharing goodies. I love the turning of the year and it's a perfect chilling night for guising tonight. Happy Halloween.

  5. Anonymous7:19 pm GMT

    Geez Louise- not TOO snobby. And I don't live on an estate.

  6. Anonymous7:19 pm GMT

    In addition to the above, you can also add to my list of keep away from my door:

    1 Jehovah's Witnesses' - I'm not religious and have nothing against Jehovahs really and each to their own but I don't want it rammed down my throat thank you very much - if I was interested I'd be down worshipping at your church.

    2 Charity collectors - now I'm not against charity either but what I am against is the people these charities employ to emotionally blackmail you to give them money every month - very bad tactics if you ask me.

    3 Anyone else trying to sell something - who in their right minds buys windows, etc etc from their doorstep - GO AWAY!!!!!

    Double bah humbug!!!!

  7. Anonymous7:49 pm GMT

    Typing this in near darkness as I don't welcome trick or treaters either. Lights out until 10pm apart from the my lovely huge autumnal pumpkin and candles that is. :-)

  8. I don't like the trick or treat culture.When I was a child in Scotlsnd we did go guising but it wasn't in scary costumes just fancy dress often homemade and you went to friends/relatives/ neighbours only but you had to do a party trick like sing or dance or tell a joke and you were given something simple like a tangarine or a cake. It was definately by prior agreement too! NEVER unsolicited. I dislike the fear and mayhem that the comercial culture has made a tradition. On a lighter note I was amused with my littlies yesterday when they complained about hollowing their pumpkins.................as kids we used to make our lanterns out of turnips!!!!!!

  9. Guising! I knew there was a tradition like mumming in Scotland -couldn't remember the name. That's an ENTIRELY different thing from trick or treating -it's the sweets I really detest and the attitude of 'getting stuff' it all engenders.

    We used to use swedes/turnips too and make handles for them with string.

  10. Mmmm. I think we are very very lucky in our street. We DO go out trick or treating in a small gang (about seven children and three mummas) and the unspoken rule of the road is if you have a pumpkin out, you can expect a knock on the door. After we had come in from our little dark foray, and the Smalls had gone to bed, I brought our pumpkin in and we had no more callers. Easy. But I do appreciate that we are lucky. Our problem today was that the old bed sheet that I had ripped up for Small's mummy costume kept on falling off him as we trooped down the street revealing his (skull) pants. Not good street cred when you're six. We had to beat a hasty retreat and make a quick costume change into skeleton pj's. Sorry. Too long a comment. Love the star and moon pumpkin... Ax

  11. I was just posting a little about our halloween over on Ravelry, we've had a lovely day! I do know what you mean about the commercialism Sue, I don't like it much either. But where I live, Trick or Treating is such fun! Lots of kids of all ages (mostly with accompanying parents, from teeny tiny tots dressed as pumpkins to older ones in very good costumes. Its generally an unspoken rule here that you only call on houses that have some sort of decoration going on (ie a pumpkin lantern) and my goodness, the kids have LOVED every minute of it, both going out round their friends houses and opening the door to visitors. It lasted from 5.30ish to 7pm. Yes I do now need to cope with the surprisngly huge haul of sweets (and I am quite strict with allowing the little peeps to eat sweets, once a week only on friday after school), but it's only small thing to worry about.

    Anyhoww....just wanted to counter-balance your bah-humbug with a we-had-fun!!
    lots of love to you
    ps love your decs btw

  12. Anonymous8:50 pm GMT

    Oh no! I just chucked out the pumpkin seeds this afternoon!
    Love your cut-out decorations. Is there a template somewhere for those of us who are only artistic enough to copycat?

  13. Great decorations. Our first Hallowe'en with no visitors because no pumpkin at the window. It always bothered me if very young children appeared to be roaming about unaccompanied and we sometimes got some rather unsavoury visitors late at night so I'm not altogether sorry to be out of it now. It wasn't one of my own childhood traditions so we were a bit half-hearted about it with ours.

  14. Thanks for introducing me to the 'turning wheel of the year.' I also have very mixed feelings about this celebrated festival.

  15. We used to go guising too. Definitely only to houses of people you knew though and you had to sing songs/tell jokes. My song was Gobolino. It was good fun, something we looked forward to and did quite a lot of preparation for, including the turnip lanterns!
    We had one set of guisers tonight, friends of A & N, we hadn't expected them but it was lovely to see them and to know they'd made the journey up from the other end of the village to see us.
    Here's hoping it stays as guising and doesn't turn into trick or treating...

  16. Halloween has never been part of our culture here in Oz but, as in most things these days, we slavishly follow America and so the Trick or Treaters were out. Except that it seems to me it should just be called "Give us some Lollies". They has big bags with them to hold all this sugary stuff- all of it including mine store bought rubbish of the cheapest sort.
    I was prepared with lollypops for the young kids but I draw the line at 15 and 16 year olds!
    And you know, it is the only part of Halloween we copy. No children's parties with bobbing for apples or anything else.

    Bah humbug from me too!

  17. I'm just plain grumpy and don't believe in any celebrations of darkness, ghouls and witches. We are fortunate that people only knock on doors that look like a halloween invite and ours is very far from that. Fortunately I have managed to convince my 10 year old that it's a boring very uncool festival and so we just ignore all the commercial hype andcarry on regardless! Sweet xox

  18. Yes it is the Anerican version that we follow which I detest. If it was Samhain I would be in with the best of them.
    I had one visitor last night with not a scrap of anything to give her. Last year I made sure I had treats and not one knock at the door. It seems the years I have treats no one knocks, the years I don't some one comes knocking.
    Sandi xx

  19. I haven't had a toffee apple since I was a kid and those ones you've made Sue look absolutely scrumptious. I'm looking forward to seeing what you might be making for Christmas. Christmas cake, fruit mince? You have such wonderful recipes! :-) And I love the photos you post of your cullinary creations.

    As Helsie said above, Halloween has never been a tradition in Australia but I always have some lollies on hand just in case someone comes to the door. We choose not to get involved in Halloween but I've got nothing against people having some fun. Like all celebrations, you can spend heaps of money, be sucked in by commercialism or do your own thing, make your own things, do it your way or not at all. The same can be said for Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Easter and Christmas. Hot Cross buns are usually in our supermarkets a couple of weeks after Christmas, how weird is that. I like Hot Cross buns, especially toasted. So if I want some I'll buy them but not because it's anything to do with Easter. Quite frankly I've had to work very hard at minimising stress in my life and I've chosen not to let all this stuff get to me anymore. Oh I've been very grumpy about it in the past, I just find it's better for my health if I let it all wash over me.
    Have a fantastic week,

  20. Anonymous3:06 am GMT

    We have never had any trouble from Trick or Treaters and like other posters its an unspoken rule that they only call at doors with jack o lanterns. I hada surreal moment yesterday...my DD eas sat carving the lantern chatting away to the scary head. Even more scarily the head was talking back to her!!! Too much morphine me thinks...no she was chatting to a friend on speaker phone! Love your pictures. Mollyx

  21. Anonymous3:14 am GMT

    "Halloween is the old celtic festival of Samhain and is a time to reflect on the coming winter darkness,......" Glad I live in OZ ...we are going into summer and so don't need to celebrate this festival. Mind you, the retailers would have us think otherwise ...anything for a buck. No ghosts, darkness or tricks and treats here, thank goodness.

  22. I don't 'do' Halloween either, I agree with your sentiments entirely. For those reasons I'm thinking of not 'doing' xmas either in future! (an even grumpier old witch than yourself!)

  23. We are very lucky - we live down a dark lane with only a few houses in our close. It is too far from town for the trick or treaters to bother.

    We do get pre-arranged visits from my little nieces & nephew but thats it.

    I prefer a quiet evening - lit by candles and a little toast to mark another turn in the wheel.

  24. Totally forgot about it Sue!! Son not so bothered now. The best bit was always being out in the dark. I am happy to report that living in the country has its benefits, no one comes knocking.

  25. I'm with you 100% on this. We do nothing to encourage trick or treaters but ususally still get some callers which we ignore by retreating to the back of the house and playing loud music! this year, the village must have realised that I am a mean old witch and nobody bothered!
    Halloween is just yet another excuse for the supermarkets to make money and the end result is another pile of Chinese made plastic that that ends up in landfill.
    Meanwhile poor old Guy Fawkes seems to be almost forgotten...

  26. ya not a meanie ,its just the worlds gone bonkers and we crave simple times hx

  27. Bah Humbug Sue! :) I have to admit to loving Halloween and we encourage trick or treaters by displaying lanterns outside. It is an unspoken rule in our village that you only call on homes that display pumpkins outside and it is a fun time here with the children dressing up. I love your witch decoration. I too roast my seeds, either with salt or chilli powder and use the flesh for making cakes.

  28. Anonymous3:15 pm GMT

    I don't do anything at all for Halloween and never have (may have done a bit of apple-bobbing at Brownies but that's not allowed now is it?!) Well, I don't disapprove of anyone's fun as long as that is what it is. In the past I have opened the door to trick or treaters and some are rather sweet and others are horrid little so and so's. You never know what you will get so the door stays closed. I don't think it is particularly safe sending children out and I think 'begging' is a suitable word in some cases - as you feel compelled to give something, (only certain treats are acceptable too, which is horrible rude behaviour to encourage in children I think.)Even with adults in tow, I think it sometimes leads to arguments. Flinging flour over people as well as breaking eggs over cars and generally intimidating people is not on! I live in a busy city and actually was bothered by no one. If you live in a nice little community and you know everyone is happy to be involved then it is OK. Otherwise, I think it is something that passes me by! Unfortunately not everyone takes notice of lanterns in the window etc and people get quite aggressive. It's nice if you had a good time,but for some people your children knocking at doors are frightening and they dread this time of year. And yes - it is a bunch of old tat in the shops - the things you have done are lovely,toffee apples are a perfect thing to do. I think I would like things Tickety Boo's way - still enjoyable without the scare factor or the commercialism. My real 'hell' though is just days away - Bonfire Night. Now that really does genuinely terrify me!

  29. Our family does do trick or treating. They (between the 4 of them) bring in enormous amounts of sweets but are only allowed 1 piece per day. On Thanksgiving, any leftover treats get put in the garbage. I too agree that the holiday is way too commercialized. I love making my own decorations and the kids costumes (when they let me).

    Love the witch cut out!!! And the pumpkins were lovely!


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