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Lynette Fay: I'm here for the pumpkins and Derry-inspired fun this Halloween – trying to carve would a turnip would be far too scary...

Lynette Fay

Lynette Fay

Lynette is an award winning presenter and producer, working in television and radio. Hailing from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, she is a weekly columnist with The Irish News.

Lynette has embraced pumpkin carving as a new Halloween tradition – tackling a turnip is too likely to end with a scary visit to A&E...
Lynette has embraced pumpkin carving as a new Halloween tradition – tackling a turnip is too likely to end with a scary visit to A&E... Lynette has embraced pumpkin carving as a new Halloween tradition – tackling a turnip is too likely to end with a scary visit to A&E...

HALLOWEEN celebrations have progressed a lot in 40 years. In the mid 80s, the outfit consisted mainly of black clothes, a false face from Wellworths, a trip to the bonfire, 'collecting' round the doors of the housing estate, and back home with my spoils to try and find the 50p piece Mummy had hidden in her freshly made apple tart.

The apple tarts are still as delicious, but I wouldn't fancy my chances trying to convince the almost-four-year-old that a plastic face is a good enough Halloween outfit.

At the time of writing, I have just called in with my cousin whose wee boy headed off to nursery today dressed adorably as The Highway Rat, wielding his sword and telling everyone he met to "stand and deliver". My daughter's fancy dress at school day is tomorrow, and I am now writing frantically hoping to finish this column so I can panic buy in the pound shop.

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I have reached the point of parenthood where I feel like I am a character in Motherland. You can decide which one. (Where is the winking emoji when you need it?)

Back to Halloween. I love this time of year – Samhain – the spirituality of it, the colour, the slowing down. I never thought that I would embrace the costumes and pumpkins, but it's incredible how becoming a parent can change you.

I get too much enjoyment out of watching the rest of the family really getting in to Halloween – not to embrace it in some way would be just foolish.

Crowds in Derry at last year's Halloween festival. The festivities in Derry are regarded as Europe's biggest Halloween festival. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN
Crowds in Derry at last year's Halloween festival. The festivities in Derry are regarded as Europe's biggest Halloween festival. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN Crowds in Derry at last year's Halloween festival. The festivities in Derry are regarded as Europe's biggest Halloween festival. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN

We all know that the traditions of Samhain have travelled from these shores, across the Atlantic, and the cross-fertilisation began. Trick or treating and pumpkins made the return journey and they're going nowhere.

Locally, there's only one place where Halloween is done well – Derry. We went on a family visit to the city just before Halloween last year. Even with a couple of days to go, the atmosphere was electric. All the shops, restaurants and cafés got involved.

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The Guildhall decorations were out of this world, huge dinosaur like creatures roamed the streets, we bumped into ghosts on the walls. I loved the short animated film in the visitors' centre which mixed ancient Irish mythological figures with spooky Halloween stories from the city. Then there was the light show on the side of Austins department store. Genius.

We hit up two Halloween baby raves which left a lasting impression too. It is no coincidence that Monster Mash has been on repeat on the school run since the beginning of September. If you have never seen the Halloween Parade in Derry, put it on the bucket list. The creativity and imagination, hard work and ambition of the city shine bright at this time of year. Go check it out, it's infectious.

So infectious indeed, that I tried to be creative with my pumpkins this year. I was inspired by the pumpkin carving competition between staff members at the Holiday Inn Express in Derry last year. Guests were asked to cast their vote. Some were carved, come decorated, one was a mixture of both.

A giant spider comes out to play in the Forest of Shadows, after dark during last year's Halloween festivities in Derry. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN
A giant spider comes out to play in the Forest of Shadows, after dark during last year's Halloween festivities in Derry. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN A giant spider comes out to play in the Forest of Shadows, after dark during last year's Halloween festivities in Derry. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN

I got the pumpkins last weekend, wanted them to last until Halloween so we opted to decorate – a much safer option for the little hands that want to get stuck into everything.

And before anyone says it, yes, I have sold my soul to the Americanisation of Halloween. I won't be carving a turnip. To do so would inevitably lead me to A&E...

The child has made me embrace pumpkins, but I wouldn't thank you for ghost or horror stories or films. After scaring the wits clean out of myself at an early age by watching Salem's Lot and Nightmare on Elm Street and listening to stories about the black butler at Tír na nÓg Irish college in Garron Tower, curiosity well and truly killed this cat.

Crowds in Derry at last year's Halloween festival. The festivities in Derry are regarded as Europe's biggest Halloween festival. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN
Crowds in Derry at last year's Halloween festival. The festivities in Derry are regarded as Europe's biggest Halloween festival. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN Crowds in Derry at last year's Halloween festival. The festivities in Derry are regarded as Europe's biggest Halloween festival. PICTURE: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN

But, not to miss out on a good podcast recommendation, a couple of years ago, I stupidly thought that I could handle the Battersea Poltergeist podcast. I stopped at the point where a young girl was described as levitating over her bed. Only for curiosity to bite me again when the Uncanny series featured the student halls at Queen's.

No, a few sleepless nights afraid that someone was in the room has taught me that the film Practical Magic is as horrific as I can manage.

Beannachtaí na Samhna oraibh.