Post-Halloween Blues

November 1, 2009 at 2:55 am (Uncategorized)

It’s over for another year. I really do love Halloween. It’s my favourite holiday.

Confession time, I never went out on Halloween as a kid. I was born in England and lived there until I was 17; quite frankly,  Halloween wasn’t a big deal. We saved our enthusiasm for Guy Fawkes night on November 5th. I remember one of my friends, Richard W., coming round on Halloween one year, then yelling “trick of treat” and throwing a rubber bat at me (in a playful fashion.). That’s about it.

When I moved to Canada I was too old to go. Apart from a few parties Halloween didn’t feature very prominently until I had children (I do remember a party in 1984 where I went as Marilyn, Boy George’s friends, but given the spectacular hangover I had the next day, the less said about that event the better).

My daughter has gone trick or treating as a cat, a tiger, a princess, a devil, a witch (my favourite), and this year is a “crazy cashier.”  The boy seems to favour the super heroes. A faux Batman (twice), a Power Ranger and this year it’s Mr. Incredible.

Last year when I walked around with the kids I took a fake skull, referring to it as Yorick. This year, I put on face paint, and when asked, referred to myself as some dead guy hanging around with the kids. “No, I don’t like candy. Do you have any brains?” A great deal of fun.

And yet, people still get worked up about it. No one seems quite clear about the origins of Halloween. The standard explanation is it’s a Celtic New year celebration, Samhain.  The name apparently owes its origins to a corruption of All Hallows Eve (the day before November 1st – All Saints Day). Others point to traditions being carried from Europe, and particularly Ireland, to American, and then undergoing an Americanization. In any event, Halloween has been a heavily commercial affair since the early part of the 20th century. 

And some oppose it on these grounds. Another so-called social obligation, but really a business plot to get people to shell out money for candy (is the dentist lobby somehow involved?).  There’s no doubt that Halloween is a capitalist Holiday, just like that other one in December (sorry, the name escapes me at the moment), but it’s sure a lot more fun than Christmas.

Most Christian festivals are usually about feeling miserable. Take Easter for example. When I lived off of College Street in downtown Toronto in the Little Italy district, we were ‘treated’ every Easter to torture scenes as the parade headed right past my house. Truly horrible to watch. I’m always reminded of the scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex tells the prison Chaplin how much he has enjoyed reading the Bible and learning about Christ. Unknown to the Chaplin, Alex identifies with the Roman solider whipping Jesus

Halloween is about dressing up and having a little fun being scared. Remember the rollercoaster: oh my God, oh my God, I’m gonna die, let me off, let me off. Can I go again?

The other reason is the religious one. When I worked at the World’s Biggest Bookstore, Halloween meant the religious zealots would flood the store with little tracts warning about the dangers of devil worship and Halloween. Personally I liked the Jack Chick publication, but overall there were a little tiresome.

Just yesterday, my daughter and one of her friends asked another girl in the neighbourhood what she was going as for Halloween. “Christians don’t celebrate Halloween because its worshiping evil” said the five-year old. 

Huh? I’m not altogether certain how dressing up as a cashier, Mr. Incredible or even the Devil and asking for candy is worshiping evil, but there you go. My guess is that such people don’t watch much TV, go to the movies, or watch wrestling. either.  It’s theatre. As an atheist, the idea of ghosts and devils, and yes, God too, are stories for children, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good vampire story. It’s theatre, and you need to be able suspend your disbelief. (I note, too that a number of the trick or treaters’ parents in my area were wearing headscarves and speaking what may have been Farsi – hooray! Halloween candy transcends cultural barriers!)

This year, the turnout seemed lower. The lowest since 1991 when everyone thought Osama bin Laden was going to poison the candy. Surely a Saturday night would mean a bigger turnout. But is everyone so afraid of swine flu they wont leave the house? Perhaps a Halloween party is deemed safer (Note – if someone at your party has swine flu, it wasn’t safer after all).

And so, back into the basement goes all the Halloween stuff, and now it’s time to get ready for the biggest capitalist holiday of them all.

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