I love Halloween. What’s not to love about sexy skeletons and candlelit vegetables? We’ve been celebrating throughout October by watching all the horror films we can on Netflix: Child’s Play, Halloween, The Witch, Friday 13th, Cabin in the Woods… I’m not really one for horrors but I’ve created a scare filter by knitting mittens through every film. The jumps aren’t as jumpy but sadly I may miss crucial plot points.
Last year we fed kitchen scraps to the massive pigs at the farm and they passed lots of vegetable seeds through, so that this year we’ve found several random pumpkin plants sprouting up in their old paddock. I used one to make a spiced pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing and ate four slices in a row. We also grew our first ever pumpkin on the allotment! It’s hardly the ‘gigantic’ variety promised on the packet, and it’s sort of completely anaemic, but it’s OURS (along with a stray beetroot, three marrows and two squashes I discovered while clearing the beds).
By this time of year we are all expecting colder weather and frosts, but the temperature today will reach 16°C and it’s extremely pleasant outside. Last week the mornings were thick with mist and the pylons across the field were eradicated, drawing the farm back from modern chaos. Aside from Halloween, I always enjoy seeing photos and messages celebrating Diwali at this time of year. I remember being in primary school and learning all about the festival of lights – we were allowed full crayola access to design a vibrant greetings card, and each given a little candle to light at home.
I always wonder with big celebrations like Halloween and Diwali whether there is some historical connection or seasonal change that links them together. Halloween originates from the pagan festival of Samhain, when the veil between the worlds of living and dead was at its thinnest, and naughty ghosts slipped through. But beyond the spookiness, it also marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of darker days, a concept shared with Diwali. The Hindu festival traditionally dates back to ancient India, and takes place after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartika, on the darkest night barely lit by a new moon. Much like our harvest festival, everyone prepares a sumptuous feast and welcomes in the winter season; it is one of the happiest events in the Hindu year, and candles burn all over the world to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness.
We light candles every evening in our extremely cosy flat to warm up our souls against the drizzle outside, but I love looking for colourful beacons in the countryside that refuse to give into the greyness of winter. While hunting around for fallen chestnuts the squirrels have missed, I found a purple toadflax (Linaria purpurea) with radiant mauve petals. Apparently it’s originally from Italy, so I imagine it’s a little disappointed with our mediocre climate. Soz.
But my favourite thing about this time of year is not spider-themed chocolates or zombie cocktails, although these are great triumphs of humanity. Each autumn we are subject to the barking opera of a stag attempting to woo his hareem. He wanders hither and thither trying to look as handsome as possible, and the other day I caught him trotting across a neighbouring field and managed to capture a blurry photo. Look at those antlers!