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Homemade Halloween – 80s Style

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Gen X-ers know what I’m talking about

So 2020 is still going strong, ruining things left, right and centre. And as just about everything is else has been different this year, then Halloween is going to be no exception.

My kids are already disappointed that ongoing (and tightening) COVID restrictions mean there will be no neighbourhood trick-or-treating this year. Well, the kids call it trick-or-treating. I’m old so I call it “guising”, because that’s what we used to do in Scotland before Halloween got a bit more global.

With that in mind, I cast my mind back to the sort of Halloween we used to have in the 20th century – you know, the good old times before commercial costumes, “proper” decorations, and when you couldn’t even buy a pumpkin in most of the UK. This year, if for no other reason than to annoy your children, why not have a retro Homemade Halloween just like we did in the 80s?

Here’s how to go about it:

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1. Make Your Own Hallowe’en Costume

I can’t remember anyone having a shop-bought fancy dress costume when I was a kid. Most costumes consisted of either a ghost made of an old sheet with eye-holes cut out, or something indescribable made out of black bin bags. Lots of duct tape was involved. Although I think we called it gaffer tape back then.

Witch hats were made out of black cardboard, or if you wanted to be really fancy, your mum might have been persuaded to make you a cat costume mainly involving face paint and a tail fashioned from the stuffed leg of a pair of tights.

2. Carve a Turnip

I wasn’t joking about the pumpkins. I don’t think I even saw a pumpkin in the flesh until I was well into my teens. In Scotland in the 80s, we had turnip lanterns. (That’s swedes, or rutabaga, depending on where you’re from.)

One of the many downsides of this invention was the fact that it’s practically impossible to cut a rock-hard turnip at the best of times, so hollowing one out and carving an actual face into it is quite the feat. The other main drawback was that they stank. They reeked even before the candle went in, they smelled weirdly charred with the candle in, and the earthy pong hung around until you threw them out a few days later.

On the plus side – and this is where they win over pumpkins – they tended to look genuinely terrifying.

3. Sweets? Nope, have some monkey nuts

Halloween Monkey Nuts

We did get sweets at Halloween – it wasn’t completely miserable. But these days, kids tend to come home with a bag exclusively filled with chocolate and sweeties (and possibly some impressive handmade items, depending how competitive your neighbours are…although one year the children came home with surgical gloves full of jelly…)

Anyway, back in the day there were altogether fewer sweets and really quite a lot of monkey nuts. (In case the phrase “monkey nuts” is some weird Scottish-ism and I’m not aware, then monkey nuts are raw peanuts still in their shells.) So, basically the worst possible food to give to small children to eat unsupervised. Hey ho, it was the eighties.

4. Dook for Apples in a Freezing Bucket

No Halloween party was complete without bobbing for apples, or “dooking” for apples. It was mandatory for this game to involve a large container (it was usually a baby bath) full of freezing cold water, and filled with lots of apples covered in the teeth-marks of other children. You queued up at the baby bath and then stuck your face right in and tried to get an apple out with your mouth. Fun, yes? In the era of COVID, this now seems unthinkable. Tbh, it wasn’t really enjoyable then either.

5. Play Donuts On a String

Halloween Donuts

Another Halloween party classic. Get a pack of sticky donuts and string them up from the ceiling. Then get everyone to put their hands behind their backs and try to eat a donut. In theory, this should be less gross than the apple dooking. In reality, it usually involves a scrum of hyperactive children with their tongues out, licking every single donut. The game ends when every participant’s hair and eyes are stuck together with sugar, and everyone has shared their communicable diseases. It’s still more fun than apple dooking.

So there you go – all you need for a Homemade Halloween, 80s style. Bin bags and baby baths at the ready.

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