Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dear Halloween Detractors, Part II

When I was growing up, Halloween was a big deal.  Where I lived in both Pennsylvania and Delaware, kids owned the night on October 31.  Great care was taken in picking out the perfect costume, and rigorous tests were performed on whatever pillowcase or satchel you planned to use to haul all of your candy home.  The truly entrepreneurial kids would plot out the best route, taking into account the houses with the best and worst candy from years past.  When I started school in Maryland, the school even took part of the day out to do a "Costume Parade" where all of the kids got to show off their Halloween costumes before the big night.  You'd think that it might seem uncool to the kids to do that, but we were always excited, because Halloween is that good, only perhaps eclipsed by Christmas and summer break from school. Even parents would get involved.  Houses were always decorated, and someone would throw a haunted house or try their level best to scare the hell out of every kid that came for candy.

Look at this.

I was freakin' adorable.  And awesome.  Not much has changed in the ensuing years.  Sure, a fat white kid could make some better choices than Dracula or Zorro, but whatever.  I was doing what I wanted, and having fun. Side note- the eye patch in that picture was stolen, years later, by Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish. 

Flash forward to now, and I don't know what to think.  I live in the middle of farm country, so for the past few years, I go into town and sit in my friend's driveway while we pass out candy.  That's all well and good, except only twenty or so kids come through all night.  This is a big development located near restaurants and other developments.  There is no call for such a lackluster showing.  Worse, we seem to be the only ones even trying.  Barely any decorations are out, and only half of the houses have jack-o-lanterns.  I grew my own damned pumpkins the last two years.  That's commitment, you jerks.  I asked my friends what the deal was, and was told that it's the way it is.  The schools have the kids come in for a "safer" Halloween thing if they so choose, but it just isn't what it used to be.

I stood, aghast.  Safe?  Halloween is not supposed to be safe.  Kids dress as goblins and witches as a safeguard from the things that go bump in the night.  It is every adults given right to scare the children mercilessly, and then reward their fear with candy treats.  Halloween is that first taste of delicious fear that lets your blood run cold, and lets you know, "Yes, I am alive, and I have a glittered up pillowcase full of tiny Krackle to prove it."  This is how participation trophies start, by taking away Halloween.

I  only to became angrier when I found out that this seems to be a symptom of the county I live in, not the world at large.  I have been assured by friend that live elsewhere that Halloween is alive and strong outside my twisted burg.  Maybe, but I look on tv, and I don't see the great Halloween specials I used to see growing up.  The networks still give lip service to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but that's because old people find it non threatening.  This year, there will be a Toy Story Halloween special, and there was a Shrek one a few years ago, so maybe there is a small effort being made.  AMC does their FearFest thing for the adults too, but I still weep for the days when The Halloween That Almost Wasn't was a television staple. 

I remember driving with my friend Jefe, of TheAngryScholar fame, to Atlantic City in October of 2006.  A favorite stop of mine along the way is the Woodstown Diner in Woodstown, New Jersey.  Jefe and I were awestruck as we drove through Woodstown that day, because every house had up Halloween decorations.  The town had decorations on every post, and banners across the street.  That drive, seven years ago now, is probably the last time I can remember getting a feeling of Halloween like when I was little.  As hokey as it sounds, it was the community feeling that Halloween is something special, something that we can all do to make things just a little cooler for the kids, and for everyone.

I like to think maybe my friends aren't lying, and that Halloween is still thriving away from where I am.  Maybe I just don't see it, because I stick around here, and the only time I got away in the past decade, I got to see that not everyone is pooping on the parade.  It would be a shame, because as much as I complain about kids, they deserve to have Halloween be as great as it was for me.

Last year, around 7PM on Halloween, prime trick or treating time, I was on my exercise bike, watching Hell On Wheels on Netflix.  That's no way to do things.  I should be ashamed as much as anyone else. This year, I need to go for the gusto.


  1. I share your disappointment, my friend. Our house is decked to the nines(maybe not the nines, sevens though), but in the three years since we've moved here the amount of trick or treaters seems to be dropping. I won't let this crush my Halloween Spirit, though. We'll still be watching horror movies, feasting on pumpkin pasta and guzzling Pumking all week.

    1. You definitely get points for the outside Night of the Living Dead. My great aunt and uncle were zombies in that.

  2. I don't get any Halloween at all. Count your blessings. Dumb old southern hemisphere, thinks it's so smart. I'll show it.

    But I think it probably is related to the area. Plenty of places in the States still go nuts for the holiday. And on college campuses there's that whole other version of Halloween. You know the one. THAT one. You minx.


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