It is widely known around here that I am The Man Who Hates Halloween.
My kids know it. My neighbors know it. Local representatives from the ICC (the International Candy Cartel) know it. Everyone knows better than to mess with Halloween’s Grinch — which, ironically, makes me sound kind of scary and frightening.
You know ... Halloweeny.
It should be noted that my personal feelings on the matter were not imposed upon my children. They were all staunch trick-or-treaters, from eldest child AmyJo’s adorable début as a six-month-old in a homemade clown costume to Jonathan’s semi-creepy turn in a way-way-way-too-small Power Ranger costume nearly three decades later. And I am confident that this year all nine of my grandchildren will be properly costumed and dutifully marched around their respective neighborhoods to grovel for goodies.
If my calculations are correct, that’s about 35 years of Halloweening by my heirs despite my grave — if you’ll pardon the pun — misgivings. In all that time, it should be noted, I have willingly participated in the traditional decorating of the house, including the ceremonial placement of the world’s most expensive Halloween decoration (an otherwise lovely Lladro porcelain figurine that was accidentally beheaded by a grandchild, and the head subsequently replaced by a mini plastic jack-o-lantern). And I have repeatedly caved in to the implied threat of trick-or-treating (“give us candy or else”). I have even been known to run to the store for more candy when the candy bowl approached empty.
But I haven’t liked it. Not one little bit. I don’t like the dark, foreboding imagery that dominates the Halloween landscape. I don’t like how it focuses on the morbid and the macabre. I don’t like the way it makes heroes of mass murderers and degenerates. I don’t like its emphasis on evil (by my own count, last year’s costumed devils outnumbered angels by 7-1 in our neighborhood). And can you name even one decent, uplifting song that the holiday has inspired?
OK, forget “decent” and “uplifting” — name one song besides “Monster Mash.”
“Uh-huh,” Anita says each year when I point all of this out to her as I’m dragging the Halloween decorations up from the basement. “And your point is?”
“My point is,” I exclaim you know pointedly, “what are we doing here?”
“Well, I don’t know about you,” she says, “but the rest of us are having fun.”
“But at what cost?” I ask. “What messages are we sending out to society? What are we teaching our children? That mayhem can be fun? That bad can be good? That once each year it’s OK to glorify guts and gore and to go from house to house making thinly veiled terroristic threats? And where is the Department of Homeland Security in all of this?”
It’s at this point that she usually smiles her most reassuring smile and pats me gently on the hand — you know, like how one would pat the hand of someone who is a spider web short of a spook alley.
“Sweetheart,” she says, lovingly, “lighten up. This isn’t the end of civilization as we know it. This is Halloween. It’s just pretend. Everyone knows that. So relax and have fun with us. And if you’re good, maybe I’ll give you a caramel apple.”
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