There are few things in life that I detest more than fancy dress. The three times I’ve had occasion to dress up (as in, dress up or you don’t get to come to the party), it went so wrong that I think I’ve been scarred for life. Once, I went as a tube of toothpaste, complete with red, white, and blue face-painted stripes on my face and the word CREST painted down my white rigout. And still everyone thought I was a standard lamp. Another time I went as a female version of Che Guevara and was mistaken for Monica Lewinsky. Probably the most damaging to my sense of cool though, was dressing up as Big Bird and getting stuck in the door of a Dublin bus. It took Bo Peep and Mickey Mouse to unstick me.
It’s no surprise then that Hallowe’en is my least favourite holiday. I rarely, if ever, venture out. And yet tonight I wanted to do something – anything – just not anything that involved dressing up. I lost my voice a couple of days ago so there was little point in going to a pub. I couldn’t shout at the TV so there was no point watching the rugby. But I wanted out. And I found my something. A pumpkin display at Hősök tere. [I only found out afterwards that this is a charity event that has been going on for a couple of years. You bring your pumpkin and some canned food or other non-perishable food to donate to the Gyermekétkeztetési Alapítvány (Child Nutrition Foundation) – what a great idea.]
Hundreds of pumpkins were on show on the ledges around the monument and more randomly displayed on the ground. Carvers were walking around carrying their offerings while the rest of us were taking photos. Some had come dressed up on their way to somewhere else. Whole families milled around, and one impressive group from SINOSZ (Siketek és Nagyothallók Országos Szövetsége – the National Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) had made a particularly stellar effort to make a night of it.
There were all sorts on display, from your basic mutilation to more sophisticated artwork. My favourite had to be one of Marilyn. Exquisite. [Can you really use that word when talking about a carved pumpkin?] There were pumpkins decked out as houses, as castles, as scenes from fairy tales. There were cartoon characters, horses, owls, and the usual cohort of cats and bats. It was all rather lovely. [Am a tad put out though, that I didn’t know of the Japanese Hallowe’en thing going on just across the road – or, as it was billed – a meeting of Far Eastern and Western Ghost Mythology. I really need to do my research before the fact, rather than after. I think I’d have enjoyed watching a Japanese-fan-wielding zombies on the rampage.
Who’d have thought that Hallowe’en had made such a dent on Budapest life. It dates to Samhain, the Celtic New Year (1 November) so back in the day my pagan ancestors would be celebrating New Year’s Eve tonight. That puts a different perspective on it. I’d never thought of it as a New Year thing before. America has probably made the most of it, from a commercial point of view at any rate. Trick or treating is something every American kid grows up on. For me, growing up in the countryside, it was a lot tamer.
There are no shortage of face-painted, costumed monsters roaming the streets of Budapest tonight and most bars of note have a party on the go. For many it’s simply another excuse to let loose. For me, I’ve already made a note to myself to check the programme earlier next year and see what else is going on that doesn’t require dressing up. Seems like I missed a trick or two this year.