Halloween is probably the best and most controversial holiday, well, behind International Orgy Day on May 1st (Thanks, Jonathan Coulton). There is something special about spending an evening in the end of Autumn (or here in Missouri, early winter) filling a city with kids laughing and giggling as random strangers give them free candy and then send them home to their parents to complain about how they’re not allowed to eat any of their candy until after it has been gone through to ensure that it was safe. You don’t really get a sense of community spirit from any other holiday like that, most of them are about family or celebrating you country by blowing up a small hunk of it.
I can remember being a kid and thinking about how awesome Halloween was for days ahead of time. There wasn’t a lot of money to waste on these things, so the costumes had to be creative and witty. I can remember a time when my mom took two pieces of poster board and put them together like a sandwich board sign, then drew hearts on the front to create a playing card costume.
I genuinely thought that was genius. Pure, creative genius.
Of course, as much as I have always loved costumes, and still do, Halloween was about one very important thing for me:
Gathering as much freakin’ candy as possible.
I am a fat guy, and I was a fat kid. Candy has a special place in my heart. It isn’t quite the love affair that I have with fried chicken, but it is special, almost sacred. I loved Halloween because not only could I get a lot of it, but I also got a lot of variety of candy. No other time of year did I get so many different tasty things to eat. I a candy aficionado.
I remember that I had a candy ritual, after the Trick-or-Treating was over each year. I would sit on the floor with my haul poured out in front of me, and I would begin separating them out into types. Once I had all of the candy sorted by both type and brand, I could begin wheeling and dealing to make trades with my brothers and sister.
This was a significant part of my childhood experiences with the holiday.
In some ways, I’m beginning to feel sad for Halloween.
I’m not sure why, but 10-15 years ago, some crazy, religious people decided that it was a demonic holiday that turns all of the kids that participate in it into uncontrollable heathens. When I was in high school these places called “hell houses” started popping up in church basements, designed to show kids how they will be punished for any inappropriate behavior.
Honestly, I think my early paranoia and frustration with organized religion stems a bit from these things. I mean, Halloween is a good, clean, fun time that brings together neighborhoods. People I have lived near for years but never talked to will say, “Hi,” to me when their kids are pawing through my bowl of dum-dums. It builds community.
That is disappearing, too, as more and more people worry about their kids being poisoned or kidnapped while they are out trick-or-treating. Instead of going door-to-door, these days people go to things like “Trunk-or-Treat” at the Elementary school.
I can’t say I’m against the idea. It is safer that way, and if I was a kid, being able to hit that many candy givers in one place would be ideal! After all, a younger me had devised a strategy that involved hitting up the plethora of trailer parks in my hometown because you could literally hit hundreds of homes close together and pull in entire pillowcases full of candy.
It just saddens me to see this brilliant, fun holiday being transformed from a celebration of all the things that make being a kid fun, candy, pretend, playing dress-up, into an excuse for women to dress provocatively and men to drink themselves stupid.
Of course, I might just be getting old and bitter. I don’t have any kids of my own, so I don’t really get to see the excitement from that side, but last weekend I did get to see my friend’s six year old son basking in the glory of his “Link” costume. It had been creatively made from a green polo shirt.
He was ecstatic, and I was excited for him.
Man, I love Halloween.