Wednesday, October 30, 2002

OK, I’m not sure what to think of this Halloween thing.

I mean, on the one hand, what’s really going on, here? Ghosts, witches, chainsaw murderers… Is this really the stuff we should be celebrating? Is this really what we want our kids to grow up to be?

On the other hand, what’s the big deal, here? Kids dress up in fake blood and masks, stomp around the neighborhood and get all buzzed out on candy for the next few days.

I remember my father used to not like Halloween. “It teaches kids that they can get something for nothing,” he’d pontificate. I remember thinking to myself, “I thought that was what Christmas was for…”

Of course, I wouldn’t have DARED say that to him. I wasn’t about to cut myself off from TWO cash cows in a single mouth-off! Get real!

As I was preparing to write this, I did some web searches to try and find out the real origins of Halloween. I found out what I expected. There’s a lot of historical, religious, and rhetorical debate. Not everyone agrees. Most seem to lay the “blame” at the feet of the Pagans/Druids/Heathen in Northern and Western Europe before the Christian Era. Others point at the Romans, still others at the Catholics. I imagine the truth is sort of a blurry line in between all of the above.

But all that leaves me with the original question, namely, “What are we celebrating, really?”

I mean, I admit to a certain amount of dogmatic self-righteousness. Witches and evil spirits aren’t exactly the right role-models for my kids.

But that was before I had kids. That was before I saw the look on a kid’s face the first time he does the trick or treat thing. He shuffles up to the neighbor’s door in an ill-fitting mass wrapped up in a winter coat. One of the older kids with him pounds on the door, and suddenly everyone is yelling, “Trick or Treat”. He doesn’t yell with them, he’s still too overwhelmed.

The door opens, and an older lady coos and ahs over their cute and bloody costumes, then drops candy into his outstretched bag. While the rest of the kids are rushing off to the next house, he stands there in total awe.

It worked! He got candy! Suddenly all this weirdness is cool!

And even though the next few days will be spent pulling him off the walls as he works off his sugar buzz, by next year, all we’ll remember is his face and the fun he had.

And I don’t suppose that’s so evil…

Mark Hansen

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