Mind, Reviews, Seasonal

Acceptable in the 80s: 10 Halloween traditions that wouldn’t be invented today

Cast your mind back… to a time of bin bags, pillowcases and ‘going around the houses’ with a herd of other 9-year-olds in the dark of night accepting nuts off strangers and setting fire to shit. Happy memories.

Anyone of a certain vintage will remember the below traditions fondly, the rest of you – you haven’t lived!

1) Charcoal Make-Up: You wouldn’t dare go near your mam’s makeup bag. Instead, you’d squirrel some bits of charred wood away from the fire and rub it around your eyes. It wouldn’t happen today because, well, fire and because only non-toxic EU/FDA regulated, paraben free face paints are now permitted.

2) Bobbing for Apples: essentially waterboarding for children, but with the added jeopardy of having charcoal filtering into your eyes. It wouldn’t happen today because someone may get an asthma attack or mess up their non-toxic face paint.


3) Snap Apple: You’d tether an apple to the ceiling with a bit of string and then attempt to take a bite out of it with your hands behind your back. The best technique would involve cradling the apple in your eye socket to stop it spinning around, before suddenly whipping your gnashers up to snap a bite. It wouldn’t happen today for fear someone would chip a tooth/get a black eye/look stupid.

4) Apple Pairing: Indeed there was a lot of apple-related activities, and we’re not even listing Pass The Apple (which wouldn’t happen today given it’s advocating a level of physical intimacy most may not be comfortable with). Apple Pairing involved children quickly peeling an apple with a knife. The child with the largest piece of skin pairing would win. It wouldn’t happen today because knives.

5) Turnip Carving: Essentially involved repeatedly stabbing a turnip until something resembling a face appeared. Then you’d add a candle. Turnips were the traditional Jack o’Lantern until the Americans came along and pointed out that pumpkins are a hell of a lot easier to carve. It wouldn’t happen today because, again, knives.

6) Flour Tower: A bit like apple bobbing, this game/exercise in humiliation called for the participant to dive head first into a pile of flour in a bid to locate a cherry with their teeth. It wouldn’t happen today because the fine flour particles would lead to breathing difficulties, plus it’s murder if it gets into your eyes.


7) Blindman’s Buff: It’s currently being described as “tag but with the added element of a blindfold”. Really it’s just blinding someone and then beating the crap out of them when they’re at their most vulnerable. It wouldn’t happen today because “someone’s bound to get hurt.”

8) Ghost Stories: Dogs licking people’s hands, inquisitive sorts ringing to see if you’ve checked the children, headless horsemen, haunted basements, and comb throwing banshees… They’d all have you rattled to the core and climbing around the bed. It wouldn’t happen today lest a child be left traumatised.


9) Barmbrack: If you got the ring, you would marry. If you chomped down on a coin, you’d be wealthy. Gagging on a bit of cloth meant you were going to be a pauper while gnawing on a thimble would mean – OH HORROR OF HORRORS – a lifetime as “an old maid.” It wouldn’t happen today because of potentially cracked teeth, choking hazards and gender stereotyping, never mind the sugar content in the dried fruit and the clear presence of gluten.

10) “Runaway Knock”: Ringing on a neighbours door and then running away to hide. It wouldn’t happen today because it’s the exact opposite of what it is and therefore grammatically incorrect.


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