I attended Catholic schools for the entirety of my education until the point I went to University. My primary school St Mary’s was just around the corner from where we lived. I also lived a couple of streets away from my head teacher, and passed her house each morning on the walk to school.
I have little memory of my old head teacher. I was not the sort of person who was constantly in trouble and being sent to see them for a telling off, so my interaction with them as far as I can recall was minimal.
One thing that does stick out in my mind; her views on Halloween. Each year, as autumn approached, the school would gear up to celebrate the Harvest Festival, and then All Saints and All Souls, but the much more commonly observed (outside of my school at least) celebration of Halloween was absent.
It might not seem surprising for a Catholic school to avoid talk of witches and ghosts and the like, but I suspect had I been attending primary school now my experience may have been different.
I should be clear though, Halloween was not simply ignored, we were actively warned against it. Each year in school assembly, the head teacher would stand up and give a speech against Halloween. It was not exactly fire and brimstone and eternal damnation if you were to partake, but it was certainly not a positive talk.
The part of the talk which stood out for me revolved around trick or treating. My head teacher was very clear in her talk, and children knocking on her door to trick or treat would find themselves in trouble. Given I lived a couple of streets away, this part obviously struck home for me, meaning I felt the need to be extra cautious when trick or treating near her house. Whether she could actually punish children for knocking on her door outside school time, I’m not entirely sure, but the warning worked well enough for me. The head teacher’s house was off limits.
Although this experience marred my Trick or Treating experience, I am not sure it is entirely to blame for why I find it so uncomfortable as an adult. I went trick or treating until I was about 11ish, and gradually as I grew older I began to feel more awkward as I went up to people’s doors to knock and essentially beg for sweets. I was certainly glad when it was deemed I was too old to partake.
But the awkwardness was not over, because now as an adult with a house I am left with the joy of answering the door to today’s trick or treaters and handing out sweets to them. My mum and dad seemed to find it easy when I was younger. Open the door, make a generic comment about scary costumes, hand out the sweets and be done.
So why do I find it difficult?
I think for the most part it is making small talk with strangers, even children strangers, which I have always found a challenge. Put me in a room with people I know, and I can talk for hours. Put me in a room with strangers, and I much prefer to take a backseat in the conversation, chipping in only when I feel I have something to contribute. Finding myself one on one at my front door with witches, ghosts and the devil does not allow me such a luxury.
I have tried a variety of ways to get around my Trick or Treat anxiety. I have been out of the house at Halloween. I have bought a mask to wear myself to avoid some of the awkwardness. I have even volunteered to work. Nothing has made it any less daunting when the 31st October roles around again.
Clearly, this year is going to be very different. Trick or treating is on hold (saying nothing of a prearranged plan to go away for the weekend anyway) so I do not need to worry about the possibility of little terrors (!) knocking on my door. Would I have wanted my issue with trick or treating dealt with this way? No, of course I would not. Far too many people have suffered far too much to even consider this a bonus. But I will certainly appreciate the trick or treat-free Halloween this year, before I begin to steel myself for next year when I dearly hope things are back to normal.