Bringing Unsexy Back – Putting The Freaky Back Into Halloween

Flirty, naughty, sexy? Just when did Halloween costumes start having to be any of those? It's a creeping trend that has taken hold to such an extent that it is oozing right all over costumes made for the under-6s, something that I find way more chilling then Norman Bate's mother fixation. Just check out the array of most of this year's groaning rails of pyro-plastic taffeta-infested blancmange creations if you don't believe me.

Boys get to be wolves, vampires (with all their clothes on), skeletons (again, covered from head to toe) or zombie football players. The girls' options take an early, and worryingly different tack. Cue 'zombie' prom queens, complete with 'fabulous' sash, pink rouge and cherry lipstick, 'pretty' corpse brides or semi sexed-up witches – or you could opt for a the devil red jewel number with off-the-shoulder sleeves and corseted detailing, available in sizes ranging from aged three – just what you want to be sticking your little preschooler in so they know the true meaning of celebrating All Hallows Eve: it's not just about going round in something more inflammable then a Trump-Kim Jong-un twitter spat, it's got to be either pretty or alluring. So other than taking part in some kind of crazed human sugar experiment, Halloween for girls is slipping into the kind of dangerous territory of the everyday human realm – where you can perhaps be a bit scary, but you most definitely have to be attractive.

And unsurprisingly the problem comes from the top down, with the adult mass-produced versions being equally horrific. Men get to wear capes, and either slash or save all around them. Women get to wear corsets, and be saved. Or we can be a cat, and fulfill all your nubile feline fetishes. But wait, there is this year's hottest and latest reboot, that doyenne of emancipation, Wonder Woman, so (phew!), we get to dust off those old blue hot pants. Lucky us.

Yes, you may argue, what spirit we care to conjure on All Hallows Eve as grown-ups is our own prerogative and for some, it is a welcome chance to indulge their fantasies. But the way it is overspilling onto kids just feels really creepy. Halloween is about embracing the darkness, it's origins are spiritual, not sexual.

It also gives everyone a chance to be intentionally ugly for an evening, which actually has some excellent perks. Instead of checking your lipstick in the mirror, you need to make sure your fake carbuncled nose and electrocuted hair is still on, or your Day of the Dead makeup hasn't slid onto your neck. And this should be heaven for kids; carte-blanche to gross everyone out for an evening, and be praised and given sweets for doing it.

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As our daughters begin to engage in a genuinely and frighteningly over-sexualised world, this should be an opportunity to completely thwart the everyday stereotyping and objectification by getting their actual freak on and experience with it perhaps some of the liberation that comes with it. Ghostbusters? Yes please. You get to wear a proton pack and a jumpsuit. What's not to love?

Five ways to Samhain up your Halloween

Largely believed to be the basis from which Halloween evolved, the pagan festival Samhain literally translates as the "end of summer" and signaled the end of the Celtic year and the start of winter. The Celts believed that everything began in darkness, and then worked its way towards the light, and this was a time of reflection before a new beginning.

Commune with the dead
Most children from a preschool age are fascinated with death, but it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Finnish families, for instance, visit graveyards en masse on Christmas Eve to remember their dearly departed, lighting candles and paying respects. We tend to hide that stuff from our kids now, but it was a key Samhain tradition to give offerings of food and gifts to the dead in order to secure a bountiful harvest the following year. You may not want to pull out all those stops but a trip to the graveyard is a good place to start.

Pick a pumpkin, or two
There are almost a dozen pumpkin farms across Ireland now and many of them hold picking festival in the run-up to Halloween, often with activities and hot food on offer.

Get to Spooktacular Boo at the Zoo
Usually running from 12 to 4pm on 31 October with kids in costumes admitted half price, there are monster-themed discos, face painting and spooky trails through the zoo.

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Read Samhain Stories
Samhain was seen as the beginning of the 'darker half' of the year, a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the 'Otherworld' thinned. This and other spooky nuggets are found in The Halloween Book of Facts and Fun by Wendie C. Old, available from Amazon.

Make Barmbrack
Smothered with butter, with lashings of tea, and the kids get to find the hidden treasure too. Donal Skehan's recipe is easy to follow, the whiskey is optional.

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