Not that a reason has ever really been needed to have a party but very few occasions in the calendar lend themselves towards partying as well as Hallowe’en. To help in this respect the following is a concise guide to hosting the ultimate Hallowe’en party based on no empirical data whatsoever, more a finely honed sense of how to have a good time, all the time. As with the archetypal horror genre there are certain rules that must be adhered to in order to fully realise this fine holiday’s potential- rules that have been in place and celebrated for generations longer than our current, contemporary understanding of what a Hallowe’en party constitutes.
In order to begin even considering a Hallowe’en party first they must be put into historical context for us to get an understanding of what we should be aiming for, this is, after all, one of the longest standing celebrations in the Western world.
Hallowe’en- a contraction of ‘All Hallows Eve’, falls on the evening prior to ‘All Hallows Day’, or ‘All Saints Day’ if you will (and they do in many countries). It is commonly held to be the Christianised feast or celebration initially stemming from an ancient Celtic harvest festival. This traditionally marked the time of year when Summer was officially over and Winter began. Cattle would be brought in from their high pasture and the last of the crops would be harvested. It is strongly linked to the Gaelic festival ‘Samhain’ which is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish Literature. Without getting too technical about the whole thing (as there is a lot of history there) the event, pre and post Christian, would always be marked by a huge celebration. Communities would feast together and light ritualistic bonfires to cleanse and protect themselves. A vast number of folk stories would attest to drunkenness at Samhain. It was deemed to be a time when it was particularly easy for the spirits of the dead to passover from the ‘Otherworld’ and people would dress up in order to protect themselves from these spirits or ‘Aos Si’, as they were known. The tradition of dressing up was provincially known as ‘Guising’ or ‘Mumming’ and was often incorporated into performances and plays. It was also common practice for people to dress in their Guise and go door to door reciting songs in exchange for food. Whilst traveling after dark the revelers would light their way with lanterns carved from turnips, featuring horrific images made to represent spirits or goblins, deemed to offer them protection from malignant forces. Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were hugely significant in rituals carried out during Samhain.
Most of these practices are still observed in one form or another today although viewed through modern eyes and given a largely commercial slant thanks to America in particular shaping our contemporary ideas of what Hallowe’en is.
With this in mind the context is set for your party and you can rest assured that you are just one in a long, long line of people about to get wild on Hallowe’en in the interest of celebrated the dead.
The party warmup should be about getting in the right frame of mind and this entails one thing- watching scary shit. The following are a list of suggestions: George A Romero’s original “Trilogy of the Dead”, Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” or “Inferno”, “Hallowe’en”, “The Shining”, “The Exorcist”, “The Omen”, “Ring” (Japanese original preferably), “Hellraiser”, “The Blair Witch Project”, “The Grudge” (ditto as for Ring). Always to be watched in the dark, naturally.
Most definitely dress up although avoid anything “sexy”. You can dress sexy any night of the year but this is your one opportunity to go balls out terrifying. Be committed- chances are you will be uncomfortable- peeing may not be an option, nor may eating or drinking, deal with it. Sticking a witches hat on your head is simply not good enough. Draw inspiration from the aforementioned movies or maybe just your own worst nightmares. One recent Hallowe’en party saw a “Leatherface” mask fashioned out of pig skin. It was hot, heavy and by the end of the night it stank like mouldering pig flesh. Think severed limbs, open wounds, blood and guts.
Avoid anything themed in this department. Ultimately it’s a party and your music choice should reflect this. Looking like something from “The Evil Dead” is good but listening to the soundtrack on repeat will not make for a successful party.
AVOID PEANUTS they may be traditional but they make a real fucking mess. Anything that looks vaguely gross like bowls of offal is a good shout. Try and get a sheep head for a centre piece.
Punch is the party stalwart- cheap, plentiful and strong. Try and work in apples somewhere- either ducking for them in the punch or something more hygienic. Party rule #1 states that a party with lots of booze will be a successful party.
All light bulbs should be removed, either replaced by red bulbs (low wattage) or guttering candles. Cobwebs everywhere, bloody handprints down the walls. Cracked mirrors, REDRUM, lords prayer in reverse. Body bag in the bath. TV left on static in the corner of an empty room. Vintage prams. Pentagrams. Meat hooks. Think of the dinner scene from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
So there you have it, now you know all you need to keep the fine tradition of the Hallowe’en party alive. Stay safe, have fun, get scared.