Thursday, October 28, 2010

A rant on the eve of Halloween

Zara informed me this morning she has a cat costume but it isn't a body suit, just a mask and the tail needs to be sewn on, whereas Jackson is going as a devil and he has little ears and should look cute etc, etc.


I buried my head in my coffee and groaned. It’s that time of year again.

You can’t go to the kids’ daycare without being assaulted by plastic spiders in faux webs, you can’t go to Walgreens without tripping over great piles of candy or having some moving skeleton cackle at you. What the devil is the big deal with Halloween in the US?

Desperately, and let’s face it you have to be, I turned to Wikipedia for help. I was informed Halloween is mainly observed in the USA, Canada, Ireland and Great Britain.

But this only tells half of the story. Halloween may be observed in Britain but what happens in the US is a bit more active than merely observing. It's the difference between seeing a bucket of maggots on TV and jumping into them, cackling like a madman.
In Britain Halloween is a night when you sit at home nervously watching TV hoping no trick or treaters will knock on the door because they are normally intent on robbing the house or throwing darts at your cat.

But America enters this strange trick or treat wonderland when it’s open season to knock on people’s doors and demand their candy. All of which is a bit scary in a culture where it’s perfectly legit. to shoot an intruder dead.

That’s the other thing that gets me about Halloween, the uneasy alliance between the schmaltzy and the downright sinister. Let’s just say the 1978 film Halloween doesn’t feature a lot of apple bobbing; just a psychopath going around stabbing kids to death.

And while I’m on a Halloween rant I’d like to know what exactly is the point of pumpkins? I’ve eaten pumpkin pie and drank pumpkin spice latte but I’ve never bought a pumpkin and roasted it like a potato. For a vegetable this large it strikes me as a horrendous waste of space. And what marketing person back in the day suddenly decided pumpkins should be the vegetable of Halloween?

There are probably so many unanswered questions because Halloween, like Christmas, has a rather mixed up genesis. There’s a link to the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and the festival of the dead called Parenetalia.

Historian Nicholas Rogers notes a link to the Celtic festival of Samhaim, a name that means “Summer’s end.”

So no link to witches and plastic spiders there then?

The idea of trick-or-treating is apparently linked to the Middle Ages. It resembles the late medieval practice of souling when poor folk would go door-to-door on Hallomas, asking for handouts.

In other words trick-or-treating had a social function, although arguably it still does today because when kids’ mouths are gummed up with candy they are less likely to complain about the other nefarious ills of kidworld.

So with heavy heart and a heavier still pumpkin shaped bucket I assume I’ll be trawling round the neighborhood again on Sunday. Because it’s there and everyone else is doing it.

9 comments:

  1. I know, I know. I totally hear you. I've never been a fan of this "holiday" (da boys always felt that school should be closed in observance of it). I'll admit, I was relieved the first year Connor (13) said he wanted to skip it and just answer the door. He was only 8 or 9 but as my youngest, it meant I was DONE! Now I have an artificial pumpkin that I carved ONCE that'll last forever (and looks like the real deal) and I light it up with a night light and I'm DONE. I buy 1 bag of candy that I don't like (or I'll demolish it) and call it a day.

    Can you tell I'm not a huge fan of Halloween??

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  2. Ha ha ha ha ha ha....... [dont read my blog tomorrow]

    No worries you don't have to like or understand it...

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  3. well theres a few reasons

    as a kid you get a ton of free candy

    as a teenager you get to go get into trouble and its pretty much expected and a blind eye is turned

    as a young adult you go to parties and women wear the skimpiest costumes possible

    thats all i've got so far

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  4. Nice one Kathryn - there's much to be said for an artifical pumpkin and thanx for the follo. I'll read it Vodka. lol - must have missed out on the Halloween parties Chris and the one good thing about Hallowen stateside.

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  5. Being an immigrant myself my son was deprived of many Americanisms and traditions growing up. Just wait till we get to Easter and I will start ranting about coloring eggs... but let's get through Halloween first. I bought the candy, but ate it all.

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  6. I don't have all the answers, David, but I do have an idea about why the pumpkin was chosen. It has nothing to do with 21st century commercialism, either. Pumpkins are super easy to grow in this country & preserve very well over the long winter. Plus, in a pinch they can be fed to livestock who are running short on hay. (In fact, some folks claim hogs taste better come butchering after being fed turnips and pumpkins.)

    So I suspect early Americans grew *lots* of the things as winter food insurance, and therefore they got used as lanterns & decorations & featured in a zillion seasonal recipes because... well, we're a pragmatic people at heart. :)

    Stay safe Sunday night!

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  7. Well, I just agree with you. I've never been a fan of this holiday either...thouhg I love every county's customs.
    Great post and lovely picture you paired with this one!

    Happy weekend!

    B

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  8. Thanks Betty, have a great one. Good to hear from you again, Meredith

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  9. Hey David,
    I gotta say I LOVE Halloween. It's just a fun night where kids and adults alike can dress up and have fun. There is no stress like Christmas where one HAS to bye gifts and cook elaborate meals and invite tons of family you avoid on purpose to your home. For some folks it can be stressful;those who go all out. For the most part, its all about fun. I love passing out candy wearing a mask and scaring the kids when they ring my doorbell! Lately Halloween has become a fun night for adults as well. Lots of stores, bars, pubs, halls have been catering to adult activities with costume pub crawls, contests, and 21 and over parties. Here in Chicago there will be a parade in Boys Town(Chicago's famous, not only, gay-centric neighborhood). Its a hoot! I guess everyone isn't into it, but for me, its all about fun and enjoying life in a Scooby Doo costume.

    As for pumpkins, yeah, October 1st through November 30th is all about the pumpkin. From Jack-o-lanterns to Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice Latte, Pumpkin bread, pumpkin everything. I sometimes even decorate pumpkins in Santa hats and beards and leave them on the lawn for Christmas decorations. I know...I know, overkill. LOL!

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