Boo, Humbug!
October 28th, 2007

Are We Forgetting The True Meaning Of Halloween?

Time was when Halloween was strictly for children. It was our night out, a chance to push strange doorbells and venture incognito into unfamiliar living rooms. Through the eyeholes of rubber masks we’d spy on our neighbors while breathing heavily in the manner of Jason Voorhees.

From time to time as the evening wore on we’d rendezvous with fellow trick-or-treaters to compare the contents of our pillow cases. Who was the magnanimous soul handing out nickel Hershey bars? The pervert unloading sticky popcorn balls? Then we’d resume our merry rounds. Festivities would continue far into the night, until the last jack-o-lantern had guttered out. And that would be the end of Hallowed Eve until the following October 31.

Nowadays things are different. Today supermarket aisles turn orange weeks before the leaves do, and oh, my, what a lot of ghoulish gear there is on display! According to a recent online poll, Halloween ranks second only to Christmas in popularity, and as a result merchants of mayhem are cashing in—which is unfortunate, because I believe commercialism detracts from the true meaning of Halloween. Once an opportunity for young people to engage in necromancy, lycanthropy, satanism, paganism, witchcraft and the like, today Halloween is just another excuse for adults to go shopping. And to become overly involved in the erstwhile private affairs of their children.

I’ll admit that not long ago I was one of them. When my son was of trick-or-treating age, I made every effort to ensure that ours was the spookiest house on the block. Beginning as early as September, I’d start stringing fake cobwebs and hanging rubber spiders. I’d prop a luminescent skeleton in the window and replace the porch lamp with an ultraviolet bulb. I’d check the batteries in the coffin occupied by Igor, a homemade humanoid who would lie in state until someone lifted the lid, whereupon his eyes would glow read and an ear-piercing car alarm claxon would sound. Come Hallowed Eve I’d place the coffin on the front porch with a sign attached. PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB. Needless to say, Igor did not rest in peace!

By and by, as more young families moved into the neighborhood, Igor was joined by other ghouls. Today front yards up and down my street have been transformed into graveyards. Gruesome dummies dangle from every tree limb, sound-activated witches cackle and goblins wail, ghosts lurk behind every bush. And behind every trick-or-treater lurks a meddlesome parent.

As for me, I seem to be losing the Halloween spirit. Lately I’ve given up trying to creep up with Joneses—this after I discovered that boxes in my attic containing Halloween decorations outnumbered those of Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah combined. So I cleaned house, scrapped Igor, and this year my only concession to the holiday will be to forego sweeping away the real cobwebs and spiders. Oh, and I suppose I’ll whip up some goodies in the off chance any little kids and their hovering retinue of overly protective parents should happen to come by.

“What’s the matter with that guy?” I can hear them muttering in the background as I grumpily greet their designer-costumed darlings while dropping sticky popcorn balls into their Gucci-designed swag bags.

“We should grab some pitchforks and torches and run him outta town!”

-Richard Menzies