ColumnsRachael Foster

RACHAEL FOSTER: Hallowe’en can be a right horror show in my house

Well, the summer has now passed and being a single mum of five made if felt like 6 years – not 6 weeks!

I considered purchasing a wig at one point during the holidays due to the amount of stress which left me regularly pulling my hair out — decent wigs are surprisingly cheap on eBay as it goes!

Finally, the miracle of September arrived and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. How siblings can argue and wind each other up deliberately is beyond me; I’m sure its a form of sadistic personal entertainment. The thing is, it’s always me that ends up having to deal with!

The new term brought joy to me and a cloud of doom to my older children: days of lessons, routine and the dreaded homework. As a full-time single mother nothing pleases me more than them returning to their educational institutions. It may seem like a daily prison to them, but it’s a form of relief for myself!

However, now comes the lead up to Hallowe’en, Bonfire night and Christmas. All of these involve purchasing items and entertaining children in a way they will only appreciate monetarily, making a huge dent in a parents pocket. I feel obliged to involve my kids in all these celebrations so they ‘don’t feel left out’ (Christmas is a must obviously, even though we are not religious? Hmmm).

Hallowe’en  — or All Hallows Eve as it’s also known — is an imported ritualistic festival that is believed to be the one night where ghosts, ghouls and spirits can be seen by all mortal beings, therefore we feel obliged to buy a considerable amount of cheap black and orange plastic tat to celebrate, just to keep our children amused for one evening.


The idea of dressing up as a masked murderer brandishing plastic swords or devil with a pointed killing stick is acceptable once a year, to, er, get sweets and chocolate from your neighbours — does anyone else think this is odd apart from me? Oh well.. its a few weeks away and the shops will relish the financial rewards from Hallowe’en in which many of us will take part in..  and that’s just because we do.. for our kids.

I try and limit new purchases and have a box in the loft containing many a Hallowe’en decoration and sweet bowl accumulated over the 13 years I have been popping children into the world. Unfortunately, my children grow so new costumes have to be brought every couple of years.

Part of me resents the amount of effort one has to go to for only one evening of a few hours of activity. Pumpkin carving alone with five kids can take up so much time, time I would be rather be doing watching Coronation Street on catch-up. The mess these huge round orange fruits make once cut and attacked by several children is indescribable… but its a ‘fun activity’ and a necessity. Annoyingly  it always falls to me to spend hours scooping out the crazy amount of flesh and seeds these wonderful objects hide within themselves. The kids start attacking the inner contents with joy but after 3 scoops soon get bored and that’s when I am summoned to finish the job — sigh. Then comes the inevitable ‘face carving’. As quite a creative person I cannot help but to subtly infringe my ideas on my kids ‘designs’, constructive pumpkin design criticism from ‘Mum’ I have learnt over the years is really not altogether appreciated. As a borderline perfectionist I cannot cope looking at wonky cut eyebrows, or uneven jagged teeth, so the prep for this inherited ‘one night of fun can be quite hard for me on a personal level.

And then comes Bonfire night only a few days later. As a youngster I always thought It was spelt ‘bombfire’, relating to the meaning of explosion, in the sense that Mr Faulks was going to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Years later I’ve come to discover that its actual meaning is from the old English word for bone and fire. The term originally denoted a large open fire in which bones were burnt, sometimes as part of a celebration.

This celebration is more pleasing to me as I can purchase a few inadequate over-priced rays of spouting colour, along with sparkly sticks that can be appreciated in my own back garden (minimal preparation and planning). I have to remain hopeful I don’t set fire to my fence while staring at the wonders of a ‘Catherine wheel’ — God bless Catherine.

Rachael Foster is a single mum to five children and lives in Netherfield. You can read her popular blog about parenting at

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