x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Tips that will do the trick for Halloween

If you are out and about this Saturday night, don't be surprised to see zombies and witches strolling down Airport Road. October 31 is Halloween, and as soon as the sun goes down, the parties begin. Its pagan origins aside, Halloween these days is more about dressing up and having fun, particularly for children (though more on that later). Traditional activities range from apple-bobbing (picking up apples from a big bowl of water with your teeth) to trick or treating.

"On our compound, Palms Oasis, and the other large compounds, a leaflet is sent round to everyone in advance saying the timing for trick or treating will be between 6pm and 8pm for residents and their guests. If you want to take part you leave your porch light on. To be honest, it's more about treating than tricking," says Nik Findlay, who takes her two daughters door to door every year. Some neighbours go to great lengths to decorate their porches and the Findlays are no exception. "This year we're doing less goo and more effects. We have a cauldron and a small device with flashing LED lights which you add to the water in the cauldron to produce a mysterious smoke. We've also got a black light and a fog machine."

Halloween costumes can be bought all over Abu Dhabi, from Lulu and Spinneys to Toys R Us. Posters also have a great range of rubber rats and eyeballs. You don't need to break the bank to enjoy the occasion. Ti Seymour of Abu Dhabi has made fabulous pumpkin outfits for her children in the past. "I saw a picture on the internet and thought that they couldn't be that difficult; I have a sewing machine and some experience of sewing," she says. Seymour adds that in Abu Dhabi there are plenty of resources to make your own costumes. "There are loads of fabric shops selling material with Halloween prints on, so you can be quite inventive if you want to, or take the material to a tailor."

Seymour explains that when she was a child in the UK, people rarely bought their Halloween outfits, but wore whatever they had in their wardrobes. Similarly, her husband, who grew up in Canada, used to trick or treat wearing his football gear. Today in North America children tend to wear general dressing up clothes, whereas in the UAE the taste is generally for more ghoulish, scary costumes. Parents can easily get in on the act. I, for one, will be donning my black wig and witch's hat together with stick-on glow-in-the-dark false nails. Fans of the vampire teen-romance books by Stephenie Meyer, could indulge in a Twilight moment by encouraging their husbands to don white face paints and fake pointy teeth.

At a party she put on for her children and their friends last year, Seymour read out a spooky story and gave the children a sensory experience with it. "They had to put their hands in a bowl of mushy jelly, and at the right point in the story, fish out the witch's brain, which was a cold wet sponge, and her eyeballs, which were frozen cherry tomatoes. I think I put some chicken bones in there too." Seymour also made Halloween table decorations by filling a latex glove with water and putting it in the freezer. A few hours later, she stripped off the glove and arranged the frozen hand shape coming out of a fruit bowl.

No doorstep or window ledge is complete during Halloween without a scary faced lantern. Pumpkin lanterns are traditional and derive from the rather grisly tale of a farmer named Jack and his encounter with a monster. Pumpkins are on sale in most large supermarkets, but if the premium price puts you off, use a watermelon instead. The original jack o'lanterns were made from turnips anyway. In the UAE, celebrating Halloween is relatively safe in comparison with many parts of the world, as Seymour says: "There's a great community spirit, trick or treating; having your child in a safe environment and them being totally excited dressed up." But above all else, stock up on sweets to dole out to trick or treaters knocking at the door, or you may have to bear the consequences.

* Jo Wadham