As the prospect of Christmas shopping threatens to crowd out the hazy fragments of summer memories, I decide to surprise the children with a question.
“What do you prefer,” I say, nonchalantly, “Hallowe’en or Bonfire night?”
As I utter the words, images from my childhood flash through my mind. Weekends spent stuffing and dressing a Guy, just to watch it burn in my cousins’ back garden.
A Catherine Wheel, banged half-heartedly into a tree with a bent nail, spinning off into the distance, children scattering in all directions.
And best of all, running, squealing down the path, followed by fizzing Jumping Jacks.
I loved Bonfire Night.
“Hallowe’en!” they chorus. It takes me a while for the truth to sink in.
“Hallowe’en?” I ask.
“There’s skeletons and parties…”
They are, for once, as one. I blame the Americans. If it weren’t for Trick or Treating, what would Hallowe’en consist of?
A party? Yeah, maybe.
Fancy dress? Well, yeah.
But door-knocking for sweets? It’s turned into licensed begging and I can hardly believe that we Brits are allowing our proud, political history to be overshadowed by this turnip lantern travesty of a tradition.
Poor old “Penny fo the Guy” can’t hope to win through.
Even I have been sucked into it. I, who was barely aware of Hallowe’en as a child.
Round our way we have to be careful. There’s one door we can’t knock on again because one year we were invited in.
Great, we thought, child-friendly house. But no. Not for us a few pear drops and a sherbet lemon. We were lined up on the sofa to benefit from an earnest, born again sermon.
We left, what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes later, our fists filled with leaflets that documented in graphic detail the error of our Pagan ways.
And then there are the house-sharers two doors down who sit, lights blazing and curtains open, blatantly watching telly and ignoring the plaintive knocking of our indignant offspring.
“Why aren’t they answering us, Mummy?” wails our cherubic daughter, her eyes blackened with layers of face paint that a Goth would consider OTT.
“What’s their problem?” complains our son, whose skeleton outfit is shaking with the righteous rage of the primary school know-it-all, “we only want a few sweets.”
Last year we decided to make a bit more of Bonfire night, in an effort to take them out of their Haribo comfort zone. So we trooped off to sample a fully catered, pub-based, Guy Fawkes experience.
The food, when we reached it, was good.
The beer, when Dad had queued for it, was refreshing.
The bonfire, once the wrong direction of wind ruled out a massive blaze next to the nearby housing estate, was small.
But the fireworks were “awesome” said son, and “loud” said daughter, who borrowed a friend’s ear muffs.
“So what would make bonfire night as good as Hallowe’en?” I ask them.
“Scarecrows flying up into the sky strapped to whizzing rockets,” says our imaginative, if slightly surreal, daughter.
“Sweets,” says her brother.
Guy Fawkes – one
Haribo – a hundred and one
So what do we do? Ban Trick or Treating in an effort to reclaim British history?
Send home-made effigies skywards to satisfy the fantasies of an eight-year old?
I guess we’ll just have to see which way the wind’s blowing.