Is Falkirk’s Halloween becoming the new Hogmanay?

Pumpkins at the Howgate.
Pumpkins at the Howgate.

Halloween, with its guisers, witches and ghosts, used to be strictly for kids - but Falkirk town centre could be busier than Black Friday tonight.

Thousands of revellers are expected to flock to Falkirk in search of eldritch entertainment, and a quick look at various venues’ websites reveals there is no shortage of licensed venues ready to do their best to live up to the occasion.

But for many local residents it may come as a surprise to find that Halloween - traditionally a day when children dressed as witches or skeletons sang a song to neighbours for sweeties - is now rivalling the most chaotic grown-ups’ night of the year in the popularity stakes.

It’s probably still “quiet” compared to Hogmanay, but even that could change.

According to traders’ organisation Falkirk Delivers the Halloween Saturday already rivals the annual Black Friday “demob” from workplaces.

And because safety has to be paramount with any event involving high spirits, crowds and abundant alcohol, there will be a Safe Base operation in the town centre from 10pm right through to 4.30am - by which time all right-thinking Undead should be back in their crypts.

The Safe Base concept has proved it worth over several years, and provides both reassurance and practical support at peak late night entertainment times.

In a recent report English licensed trade magazine the Morning Advertiser sidesteps the depressing fact that many towns and cities down south are awash with drunken yobs at weekends and plays up the advantage of having a “multi-generational crowd” to bolster the night time economy.

It has cited a study which spells out how traders can shape the atmosphere of an entertainment area by creating the sort of “buzz” that appeals to different groups of people.

That, and proper organisation, is something major Scottish leisure players have known for years, realising that town centres are hugely more popular (and therefore profitable) if there’s a variety of entertainment on offer and much more to do than simply drink alcohol.

Halloween (a Scottish and Irish tradition) is the sort of themed occasion continental cities do so well, and it’s only in recent years that its full potential as a fun night out has been properly explored.

The fancy dress element sets it apart from any other event - when else do you get applause for being as outrageous as possible? - and the creepy theme, the bats, spiders, witches and all the rest provide endless scope for invention.

Meanwhile Halloween has the added advantage of being just a warm-up for Christmas, whereas Hogmanay is followed by the endless boring weeks of freezing January (when few people have any cash to spare for entertainment anyway).

For a supposed day of the dead it’s already one of the liveliest nights of the year - you just need to enjoy it with the right ... spirit.