Like most people born before the year 2000, I say every year at this time “Halloween wasn’t around when I was growing up”, of course, it was. What wasn’t around was the supermarket’s obsession with filling their aisles with products to promote any festival for which you can dress up and eat themed foods three months before the event takes place – mince pies on the shelves before the end of the summer holidays is just not necessary.
For me, growing up with a Catholic mother who saw Halloween as a pagan festival which was doing its very best to promote the Anti-Christ and get all young girls pregnant, put an end to any hankering I had for dressing up as a witch. Trick or treat back in those days would have been a stale bourbon, or being told to sod off, rather than a handful of Haribo and a welcoming smile.
I feel that as children of the 70’s we missed out on the fun that is Halloween which now, like most festivals started with a religious connotation and has become popular with the mainstream.
Fancy dress is no longer reserved for special occasions. Accessibility on the hight street of cheap fancy dress goods has led to it being perfectly acceptable to don a wig, slap on excessive amounts of makeup and dress up as the character of your choice at any time of the year, day or night, no excuse needed nowadays for playing dress-up.
This Halloween I decided to make up for all those lost years, buck tradition and go to town with makeup and costume to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead, and luckily for me the immersive theatre show CopperDollar – the Back of Beyond were playing locally at The Old Market.
Dia de Los Muertos is where Halloween began, way, way back in old Mexico and it is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November – which coincides with the Catholic celebration of All Souls and All saints days. Mexican tradition has it that the doors of heaven open at midnight on the 31st of October to allow the spirits of dead children to reunite with their living families, and on the 2nd November spirits of the adults come along to join in but only for 24 hours.
It is a celebration of the dead – not a scary event of hauntings and demonic possession (thanks Hollywood for that) – a joyful occasion where altars are elaborately laid out with gifts and the favourite foods of those that have passed for them to enjoy once again. It is believed that happy spirits offer protection and good luck for their mortal families.
Traditional costume for Dia de Los Muertos is to paint the face to depict a skull, with blackened eyes and nose, but as time has gone on the makeup has become more and more elaborate and more and more beautiful.
I fashioned my costume thanks to eBay. A wedding dress, top hat and a selection of faux roses and plastic skulls for under £20. I made the decision to employ the services of a professional makeup artist and I couldn’t have been more delighted, she made me look amazing!
The Copperdollar experience was enormous fun and the majority of people had made a huge effort. The music was spot on and it was hard to pull yourself away from the dance floor. There was a mock funeral procession “New Orleans style,” coffins to lie in, professional dancers, mystics, video screens and a crowd honouring of a giant skeletal bride. All in all the whole evening was “estupendo.”
The next day I had my own personal Day of the Dead, staying in bed for most of the day, only dragging my swollen hoofs out the house and across the road to my neighbours for a little bit of trick or treat, a welcome smile and a handful of recovery Haribo.