x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The new consumer holiday

This is the age of consumerism and life in Abu Dhabi, for me anyway, is full of it

This is the age of consumerism and life in Abu Dhabi, for me anyway, is full of it. With Ramadan and Eid over, all the holy month offers have been swept away and the shops that cater to the western expatriate community have readied for the next commercially exploitable date on the calendar - Halloween. It started with all the costumes and other spooky paraphernalia, such as haunting CDs, spiders webs, cauldrons and plastic jack-o-lanterns. Then this week, the pumpkins appeared in large piles in the fresh produce department at Spinneys.

This is our sixth Halloween in Abu Dhabi, but I remember for the first couple of years scouring the shops for Halloween consumables before convincing my eldest that her little mermaid outfit was appropriate for the forthcoming festivities. I asked a seasoned Abu Dhabi mum where to buy a pumpkin and was disappointed to learn that they weren't available anywhere in the city. Some lucky families had arranged for visiting relatives to pack a few kilos of real pumpkin, along with other Halloween must-haves, but we had to make do with some rather ghoulish, misshapen, orange-dome squashes procured from the markets at Mina Port.

Apart from the dressing up, Halloween is all about trick or treating, or rather treating. The kids, of course, are all terribly excited, and thanks to the North American community here, Oct 31 tends to be a much bigger and better, supersized version of its English counterpart. The city's housing compounds are the best places to experience such complete over-the-topness, which, along with the sugar, seems to send the kids wild. Lit by pumpkin light and doused in cobwebs, the houses and occupants are transformed. And with the exception of a few very young casualties of fear, mobs of screeching children run from house to house filling up cauldrons and carrier bags with sweets.

Writing this column led me to ponder what the community of non-Halloween observers must make of all this dressing up, mutilating pumpkins and begging for sweets. It was then that I realised that I had absolutely no idea what it was all about either. As a kid, we were lucky to get a few boiled sweets, but why we did what we did, I hadn't a clue. I'd like to say the internet sorted out the Halloween issue for me and that I'm now going to explain it all in the next 50 words, but after reading a few "history of Halloween" pages, I'm even more confused. It's pagan, over 2,000 years old, has a lot to do with the end of the growing season, and something Roman which is where apple bobbing is thought to originate. Thankfully, my sugar-focused children haven't shown any interest in its meaning, so I think we'll leave the education element for this year. See you Friday.