I’ve always had mixed feelings about Halloween. On the one hand, I love the celebration of autumn and the feeling of liminality that the date conjures up.
On the other hand, I could really do without all the plastic rubbish. A report by The Fairyland Trust (a charity that gets children into nature), revealed that the UK created 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste during Halloween in 2019 from costumes alone. Not to mention all the tacky plastic decorations and sweet wrappers that get thrown away.
I’m not terribly keen on trick or treating either. It seems strange to me that children should ring the doorbell of strangers after dark in expectation of sugary treats.
I also have misgivings about the association of various creatures, such as bats, cats and spiders with Halloween. I can’t decide whether the connection celebrates the mysterious, nocturnal and predatory natures of these animals, or whether it stokes phobias and perpetuates myths.
Bats were voted Britain’s third least favourite mammal in a survey in 2015, after rats and mice, with one in five people claiming to hate them. The study revealed all kinds of misconceptions including unfounded fears that bats drink human blood, pass on rabies or can get tangled up in our hair.
The fact that coronavirus may have originated in bats has only worsened their reputation. However, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), it was human interference in ecosystems that caused the opportunity for COVID-19 to emerge. In fact, we owe much to bats as they keep down agricultural pests, reducing the need for insecticides, and many species are important pollinators too.
All this said, in these dark uncertain times we all need cheering up, so we’re going to embrace Halloween 2020 (while abiding to social distancing rules and avoiding too much waste, of course).
This week Gwendolyn’s nursery has been closed for the autumn half term holiday and we’ve been hard at work making cute Halloween decorations from bits and bobs in the recycling bin and art cupboard. We’ve made monster versions of the Rixon family out of tin cans; egg box bats and pine cone spiders. Weather permitting, we plan to hang these from the rowan tree outside our house.
On Tuesday, we took time out from our intensive crafting to take part in a Bat Quest event at Railway Fields, organised by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV). The rain briefly paused to allow us to roam around the nature reserve, in search of nine bat quiz questions, hanging from the trees. It turns out, I didn’t know quite as much as I thought about these arboreal chiropteran mammals. We got six out of nine right. Incredibly, the smallest bat in the world weighs just 2g and some bat species can live up to 30 years!
Yesterday, to satisfy our sweet tooth, we made spooky gingerbread biscuits. (Please be kind; it was Gwendolyn’s and my first attempt at piping!) I’d love to be able to give some of these away to the kids in our neighbourhood but I don’t think this would be safe so we’re going to put individual paper bags of chocolates on our garden wall instead – where there will also be eight spooky spider plants, looking for new homes to haunt….