I think we all know the culprit.
Not just any old beagle, of course. Snoopy, the beagle who in the 1970s became about as big a star of UK kids’ TV as it is possible for a hound of any breed to be. Needless to say, then, when Snoopy and his human lackeys took it upon themselves to depict Halloween Stateside-style in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, millions duly tuned in and had their minds blown. First shown in the late 1960s, then repeated annually throughout my childhood, this cartoon impacted our low-key All Hallows Eve celebrations like a torpedo below the waterline.
We were children, remember, whose previous experiences of this event would not have been substantively different from those of our parents, grandparents, great-grand – you get the general idea.
First and foremost, it was no big deal. Not a patch on Bonfire Night, nor even close. Truth is, my generation probably placed far higher stock on the preceding Mischief Night. At best you’d carve a turnip or bob for an apple, catch a spooky tale on the box or wireless, a ghostly report on Nationwide. A billion miles and counting from the saturated media commercial orgy lately ensuing each October.
And then Snoopy and co came along to tear down our simple curtain.
Pumpkins? I’d never even seen a pumpkin, let alone scooped out one’s innards.
As for trick or treat, to a lad always feeling at least a quarter a week shy of his rightful sweet quota, the idea one could simply pound the streets extracting a toffee toll from all and sundry on pain of unspecified penalties – well, it seemed quite wondrous.
Not, of course, that my peers and I followed through. America still then felt like a very foreign culture, and our simple habits were ingrained enough that we mostly merely marvelled then resumed chiseling a lantern out of our rock hard swede, Elastoplast to hand.
But the seed was planted and, as modern US culture has steadily supplanted our own, I have watched this weed grow, choking the life out of our own hard to monetise traditions.
The Great Halloween Surrender, Charlie Brown.