As the second biggest event in the commercial calendar, trumped only by Christmas, Halloween is certainly scary – if only for the sheer amount of money spent and waste produced.
British spending on Halloween-related paraphernalia has risen from £12 million to £120m in just five years. It won’t be long before Brits have caught up with their American counterparts, who spend an average of £65 a family on Halloween decorations, sweets and costumes.
While the profit-driven side of Halloween has resulted in shelves and shelves of disposable single-use items, the spirit of the festival is something that doesn’t require the eco-minded to throw their morals into the cauldron.
Rooted in Nature
Halloween is based on the Samhain festival that pagans have been celebrating for approximately 2,000 years. Samhain (pronounced ‘sow’inn’) was viewed as the time of year when the barriers between the worlds of the living and those of the dead were lifted.
To celebrate Samhain, pagans brought harvest food and sacrificed animals to create a communal feast for the festival. Though the celebration has undergone many changes over the years, it is basically a transitional festival, marking the period where summer ends and winter begins and to give thanks for the harvest.
By keeping this natural focus in mind, eco-conscious Halloween celebrants can decorate their homes in a way that would have made the pagans proud.
So, without further ado, free up some time and head for the hills (or the beach) – it really is amazing what you can find when you start looking. And what better excuse to spend some time in the great outdoors?
There’s nothing like a storm-tossed, sun-bleached piece of gnarly driftwood to evoke a sense of the sinister – especially in candlelight. Make sure you do some research first, because in some areas it is illegal to collect items such as driftwood. Once you have found a suitable spot where there are no such restrictions, you can collect up any bits of driftwood in a bag – most pieces don’t weigh very much and the search makes for an enjoyable stroll on the beach. Check the tides before going, as you want to be able to search the high-tide line without being inundated by breaking waves.
The eagle-eyed scavenger will also be able to find washed-up bones, rusty pieces of metal, old rope and skull-like stones, which can be made more convincing with the application of a little paint. Dotted around for decoration, most flotsam exudes personality.
The countryside is another free and sustainable source of decoration, but remember to check for any restrictions first! Pick up any pine cones and nuts you find on the wayside. Holly and other thorny shrubs can be used to adorn hats and disguise un-Halloweeny household items – especially those that you want to keep little hands away from.
If you have time to make conserve, cordial and jellies, pick some of the many varieties of berry available during the autumn. If you don’t know which are toxic, there are plenty of sites with information on which to pick and what to do with them.
Also keep an eye out for apples. Apple bobbing is one of the few traditional Halloween games to have survived through the ages.
Feathers – especially those of crows and ravens – make perfect additions to Halloween fancy dress costumes.
If your child wouldn’t be caught dead in a homemade undead costume, then you’re going to have to rent an outfit. Don’t let yourself be convinced that buying is a good idea – it’s a rare child that will wear the same outfit year after year. Suppliers such as Halloween Express in the US and Escapade costumes in the UK offer a range of Halloween rental outfits.