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Hallowe’en traditions and origins

Hallowe’en History – where did it all begin?

Hallowe’en is one of the biggest celebratory calendar dates of the year and a perfect excuse to dress up for spooky fun, parading the streets and knocking on the neighbours doors for treats. People often say that Hallowe’en is an American import but in fact its origins lie here on these shores.

Over 2000 years ago the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain celebrated the end of the harvest each Autumn. The Gaels feared that at harvest time the line between life and death was thin and spirits could pass into the living World and ruin their crops. Rather than fear these spirit enemies they laid extra places at their feast tables to appease the spirits and keep them sweet. Lessons for today methinks.

Halloween decorations dolls heads with empty eyes

Turnips and Pumpkins

The Celts also bobbed apples and carved faces into turnips to ward off spirits and keep the faeries away. Much later, as Irish settlers moved to the U.S. they found the much more colourful and easily carvable pumpkin and the rest of this particular Hallowe’en tradition is history. Today’s carved creations can either be truly wonderful art pieces or the simplest wonky triangle eyes and a jaggedy mouth – both are equally fabulous in my view.

Halloween carved pumpkin spewing up guacamole

Spooky Costumes

Dressing up on Hallowe’en has also been around as long as the festival itself; the Celts dressed as souls of the dead and the slightly later Christian festival of All Hallows also involved dressing up as the dead, for the all important Hallows Mass. Fast forward several centuries and the Victorians brought their gothic style to Hallowe’en costumes, a huge influence that still plays a strong part today. More recently, and this is an American introduction; costumes have moved away from the scary to the cute or even sexy. I rue the day the spook went out of Hallowe’en and I don’t reckon witches are meant to be sexy. In the UK I think we’re holding onto the spooky feel and I think that’s great, just how it should be. Through all the fun and games Hallowe’en is an important way of relating to the ‘other side’ and the further away we move from that connection the less we understand and the more we have to fear what might happen at life’s end. So I say we should keep partying, ghoulishly!

Halloween kids dressed up on the stairs

Trick or Treating

The most popular modern Hallowe’en tradition of all trick or treating also originated on our own shores, rather than in the U.S. as is commonly believed. Way back in the 11th Century children roamed from door to door, dressed as angels, devils and saints, asking their neighbours for soul cakes in exchange for prayers for the souls of the dead. Later the prayers were swapped for poems and songs and then, in America, the concept of threatening to playing tricks was introduced in the 1920s. Sweets became the treat of choice and of course this has now become the most popular Hallowe’en tradition of all, for children at least.

children trick or treating on the street

So if you’re feasting, dressing up, carving pumpkins or knocking on your neighbours doors you are in fact getting in touch with your ancestors in a remarkably undiluted way. While we roam our city streets it’s easy enough to imagine or ancestors doing nearly the same. Even though they did have to go via the U.S. to be revitalised, the connection and the traditions remain strong across the centuries.

Carved pumpkin grinning face

Party Reports

Irene’s Family Lunch Party

THE OCCASION:
A family and friends lunch celebration to celebrate baby son’s christening and daughter’s 4th birthday
VENUE:

Roman Road Adventure Playground
THE BRIEF:
To create bright and cheerful surroundings for this relaxed family and friends lunch party
THE KEY CHALLENGE:
How to successfully decorate a visually hectic space

Irene's party venue before

What we did

Fight colour with colour we say!

Rather than trying to hide the hectic surroundings we went for a bright and bold decor scheme that would compliment the surroundings and and stand out loud and proud. We did cover some of the busiest walls but left the artwork on the rest. As well as suiting the venue an overload of colour worked well for this lunchtime party full of children and cheer, with friends and family gathering from as far away as Italy to celebrate.

perfect decor for a fun family lunch party

So crepe paper streamers and honeycomb tissue paper balls of all sizes and colours were our close friends. Crepe paper streamers are one of the oldest, cheapest and most colourful party decorations money can buy. At about £1.50 for 24 metres you get a lot for your money.

Tissue paper balls are another favourite, we have some amazing ombré balls at my parents’ house that they’ve been (non)religiously putting up every Christmas since time began. They’re from Habitat in the 70s I think. Must check this year.

So these two party classics are a perfect combination and they’re given a new twist when used in force. We strung the crepe paper streamers close together, uniformly and to and fro straight across the room for maximum impact. More is definitely more!

The paper balls break up the sight lines and the ceiling was high enough at one end for my precious giant tissue paper balls to come out of hiding for a rare outing. They’re vintage beauties and they’re beginning to show their age but they’re really impressive.

We laid the tables with bright tablecloths to echo the streamers and bring the scheme together, the perfect setting for a delicious Italian feast.

Irene's party table and flowers

Top tips

While this décor scheme is cheap to create it does require TIME to bring it to life. So we were up and down ladders like gazelles for a good few hours (can gazelles climb ladders?), but I hope you’ll agree it was worth the effort.

My takeaway tip from this party is to carefully consider how long it’ll take to achieve your desired effect. Climbing and repositioning ladders takes time, a lot of time when you have so many streamers to put up. We spaced them about 10cm apart and positioned them precisely. Uniformity is key here.

The verdict

Irene, her family and friends were delighted and enjoyed a fantastic lunch that was as colourful as the surroundings. (With permission) we left the streamers up for the adventure playground kids to enjoy the following week and the paper balls got carefully folded away for another day.

Irene and family

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Party Reports

Nick’s Hawaiian Party

THE OCCASION:
A grown-up Hawaiian party in rainy September. Just because.
VENUE:
Nick’s home
THE BRIEF:
To bring hot sunny Haiwaii to E3
THE KEY CHALLENGE:
Time! I had to create the whole theme at 2 days notice.

 

What we did

The main living room space was asking for something bold and beautiful. Nick’s flatmate had a roll of bright orange paper that he’d kept since college days so I decided to make giant hibiscus flowers using his paper and some more I bought in.

So huge pink and orange fluoro hibiscus flowers it was, with tantalisingly huge stamens naturally! There was no tutorial to follow so I created the design myself from scratch.

Additional hibiscus flowers wound their way up and down the stairs while we finished off the staircase with paper flower garlands.

The garden was a delight. Nick and his flatmate created a volcano, yes a volcano that smoked during the evening. So we just added brollies and flowers and lots of other fun bits.

Upstairs we hung paper pineapples all over the place. The room had films playing all night projected onto the walls, so it just needed a bit of extra silliness to carry the theme upstairs.

Top party tips

The giant hibiscus flowers made a fantastic impact downstairs, so we didn’t really need much else. The cocktails flowed and a big pile of luaus ensured everyone was in the party spirit from the moment they arrived.

My takeaway tip from this party is to create an impactful focal point for your celebration. This sets the tone for the rest of the decor which can then be placed where and when it works. This is particularly useful in a domestic setting where you need to work with the existing furnishings and decor.

The verdict

Nick and friends had a blast and the Hawaiian theme brought the sun marching into Bow while it rained outside.

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Party Reports

Kailash & Stephen’s Wedding

THE OCCASION:
Kailash and Stephen’s wedding
THE VENUE:
The Bingham Hotel, Richmond
THE BRIEF:
An East West fusion Summer wedding
THE KEY CHALLENGE:
To incorporate the groom in the decor scheme

 

Bingham Hotel wedding room before pic

Kailash is from India while Stephen, he won’t mind me saying, is a pasty white Englishman so the main challenge was how to reflect both Kailash and Stephen in the wedding decor at their fabulous West London venue, The Bingham.

Bringing Indian styling into a wedding is not hard; Indian weddings are colourful, lavish affairs and Kailash and Stephen wanted to bring traditional ceremonies and colours like gold and red to their wedding day. But Kailash was also keen to avoid a brash, OTT look. The Bingham is a beautiful boutique hotel overlooking the Thames the decor needed to respect those lovely surroundings.

The Bingham’s main wedding room is a smart, blank canvas divided into three so I wanted to unify the spaces, however with a low ceiling, bunting was out. So we wanted to achieve sophisticated wedding decor that would reflect Stephen as well as Kailash and bring a touch of Bollywood glamour to Richmond.

What we did

Stephen is a keen gardener, proud of his allotment and all its bounty. So I suggested that for just one year he replace his carrots with dahlias and fill his flower beds with marigolds. This he did, so the flower arrangements and Kailash’s bouquet included dahlias grown by Stephen and his parents. You can’t get much more personal than including the groom’s home grown flowers in the bride’s bouquet and it s a perfect example of how to creatively reflect both of you in your wedding surroundings.

Bollywood English fusion wedding decor ws

Behind the registry table where the official marriage ceremony took place I created a display of cascading ribbons and bright coloured fans to create a focal point and backdrop for the whole day. I made napkin rings from richly embroidered Indian ribbons and we scattered Stephen’s home grown marigold petals on the steps for the garland-exchanging ceremony. I also made 100 metres of gold circle garlands which we hung to follow lines of fairy lights that criss-crossed the room and unified the three spaces. The diminutive golden circles worked perfectly with the low ceiling and bounced twinkling light everywhere.

Bingham Bollywood wedding guests ws

Top Tips

Choose your decor wisely taking into account the venue’s attributes and its limitations. The Bingham’s main wedding room is beautiful but it has a low ceiling so bunting, a common wedding decor choice, really wouldn’t work well in this space. My gold circle garlands are a simpler and beautiful choice that enhance the surroundings and reflect the light of a truly special day.

Bollywood English fusion wedding embroidered napkin ring

The Verdict

Overall I think we created a sophisticated and yet colourful scheme that reflected the bride and groom’s personalities and cultures perfectly. Glamorous Bollywood with a London twist.

Frou Frou days inverted commasThe attention to detail was phenomenal from lighting, to wall decorations, to keeping the toddlers happy with a wigwam, to creating beautiful backdrops in the garden. The colours, oh the wonderful colours!  Subtle Bollywood glamour fused with English sophistication. There are not enough superlatives, she thought of absolutely everything.closing speech marks

– Kailash and Stephen

 

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Party Reports

Jo’s 60th Birthday

THE OCCASION:
Jo’s 60th birthday party for family and friends
VENUE:
The tiny ballroom above Pub on the Park (East London)
THE BRIEF:
To create a lovely coherent theme to celebrate Jo’s birthday. Jo is a piano teacher and musician with a rich musical heritage that we wanted to reflect through the decor.
THE KEY CHALLENGE:
A small budget for a big day

 

What we did

Jo’s musical heritage was the perfect start point; it’s what makes her who she is. I acquired books of old sheet music from her that she no longer wanted (I told her it was for a school art project) and then turned it into metres and metres of sheet music bunting and paper chains.

The ballroom above this pub is gorgeous in a diminutive way. It has classic floor to ceiling windows and great proportions so it was important that the decor should play to its strengths. We strung the bunting too and fro across the room, put Jo’s photos up around the walls and used the musical paper chains in the bar area. In both spaces we added balloons and felt garlands in Jo’s favourite colours. These colourful touches added so much; without them the space would’ve felt rather cold.

Jo is a lover of flowers but the small budget meant we couldn’t do an expensive flower market run. Instead I got Jo to pick flowers from her own and neighbours garden and we hot-footed it round to Tesco the day before the party and picked up their reduced flowers at VERY low cost. Had I not managed to get these I would’ve added a few gerberas or something else colourful to her friends and neighbours flowers. We placed little displays on all the tables and had enough flowers to create beautiful arrangements on the mantlepiece in the fireplace and on the bar.

Top tips

Use a limited budget to inspire resourcefulness. We spent very little on materials for Jo’s party yet created a party scheme with real impact that was totally personal to Jo.

My takeaway tip from this party is to work with the space when installing your decorations. The decor should enhance the space not detract from it or fight it.

The Verdict

We specialise in personalised party decor that brings our client’s life and personality to life, so I’m very happy that Jo loved her party and the fact that it reflected her so closely. I’ll let her tell you…

  My 60th Birthday party was properly enhanced by Clare’s beautiful  decorations, involving massive amounts of handmade BUNTING using old sheet music which was absolutely my delight and the flowers and table decorations were totally perfect. The personal identification of what I needed for my party at this significant point in my life was perfect. Frou Frou Days have the knowledge and the skills and the love to do it right. Huge love xxxx closing speech marks

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