“May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house”. (George Carlin)
“Humans are nervous, touchy creatures and can be easily offended… They become focused and energized by taking offense; its makes them feel meaningful and important”. (Michael Leunig)
“The farther we’ve gotten from the magic and mystery of our past, the more we’ve come to need Halloween”. (Paula Curan, October Dreams)
“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin”. (Linus Van Pelt, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown)
Perhaps you remember a time when Halloween was a fun loving little holiday where folks enjoyed using their imaginations to don costumes, go around the neighborhood trick-or-treating, carve pumpkins; and decorate homes, schools, commercial buildings and public spaces with spooky themes and harvest time imagery.
Growing up in a Celtic household we understood that this was a time to enjoy caramel light, Autumn colors, apple-bobbing, scary ghost stories, community bonfires, masquerade balls; and to beware of mischief-making pranksters, while visiting haunted attractions. Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows Eve, is generally known as a celebration on October 31st, observed in a number of countries, that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. In our Cornish family tradition, Halloween was regarded as a liminal time when the veil between this and other worlds, including the realm of the dead, was especially thin and an opportunity to connect with our ancestors.
Now, within our increasingly dystopian society, we find that Halloween has joined several other holidays which provide the occasion for our ongoing culture war flare-ups. Dedicated Christian, Michael Snyder is apparently secure in his belief that Halloween is nothing more than a pagan celebration of dark and dangerous supernatural forces . In a similar vein, he warns that, here in the USA , the number of self-identified witches, coming out of the broom closet, doubles every 30 months. Moreover, Snyder maintains that for the last eleven years, dressing up as a witch has been the premier costume choice for adults and that there may be as many as 8 million undeclared practitioners of “the craft” throughout our country. (endoftheamericandream.com, October 2015). To be fair, not all Christian Americans are tightly-wrapped Evangelicals, scared of their own shadow. And, a number of other faiths refuse to celebrate Halloween, for various reasons. Most simply choose to leave the rest of us costumed revelers in peace.
It seems however, that our ultra-conservative, Christian communities remain divided on this subject of Halloween. As part of their ongoing war on sanity, Fox News took this opportunity to promote Halloween as a force for “All-American Good” in need of defending against immigrants with cultural differences (mostly Muslims) . According to their ongoing noise machine, the real demons of October 31st are those schools and communities banning costumes and celebrations out of consideration for outsider-induced, political correctness. So, basically, this mainstream media “news” channel is devoting prime time to their message that Halloween fun is being canceled because of the immigrants, who, we are told are also responsible for climate change, economic collapse, epidemic diseases and more. Never mind, that Halloween was brought to our shores by immigrants (Hunter, thedailybeast.com, October 31st, 2015)
Contrary to what one might expect, even the Goth sub-culture has issues with Halloween; that one day of the year when their pale faces, and basic black wardrobe of vintage elements from another era actually blend in. As I understand it, their basic complaint is that, on this one day, the “normals” adapt their style; and then revert to ignoring them during the remaining 364 days of the year. (dailybeast.com, October 30, 2015 ).
While trick-or-treating excursions throughout the neighborhood in search of sweet treats used to be fun and a bit scary; paranoia now reigns. In many communities coercive types have banned this practice due to media-driven scare-stories about drug and razor blade laden fruits and candies, despite the reality that verified cases of strangers handing out anything that actually killed kids is practically zero.
Nevertheless, as a parent and grandparent, I support the idea that adult supervision is always advisable and that all candy bags be thoroughly inspected with a minimum of fear inducing fuss. Other vague concerns about safety and also food allergies have put the kibosh on kids enjoying Halloween treats and “responsible parents” have taken to handing out local notices encouraging people to hand out carrots on Halloween and have posted signs urging neighbors to avoid giving treats with nuts, gluten or dairy. As a celiac myself,with multiple allergies, I can understand the care and concern involved with this effort, however, I cannot quite imagine a child overjoyed to return home with a bag full of carrots, or even…apples only. We do need to remember that kids can choke on carrot sticks and many studies have proven that chocolate is actually beneficial for most of us. (salon.com, October, 29, 2015).
Evidence that the spirit of Halloween Grinch is alive and well, appears in schools which prefer to celebrate this holiday as an all inclusive, shadow-denying, “Fall Festival”. While I am all for inclusive Fall Festivals, I remain uncomfortable with these events being promoted as either inter-changeable or some sort of politically correct replacement for Halloween. Consider for example, the back-bending policy of elementary schools in Connecticut where students will be permitted to dress up as “literary characters”, as long as it is clearly understood that theirs is not a Halloween costume. Within this policy, a Frankenstein outfit is completely acceptable because he is a literary icon. Politically correct culture, also known as speech and thought control,continues on unabated. In everyday reality, this means that talking in any accent other than your own is politically incorrect, during Fall Festival or anytime, ever. (salon.com,10/29/2015)
As Katherine Timpf advises, if you dress as a sexy nurse or teacher, it becomes your fault that they are paid less, and sexy police and female film star costumes, actually make it more difficult for women to succeed in these careers. Black face and Hitler masks are not approved costume choices, nor are head-wraps, hi-jabs or Saudi bur-qua or pajamas. Those planning to don fangs or claws should presumably be downsized to within limits approved by local dentists and manicure specialists. With these caveats in mind, my plans to appear as a nudist, while sure to terrify, (me especially, if unauthorized photos surface on Facebook) for reasons other than political, are best postponed for some other lifetime.
If you are still unsure as to how to navigate the complexities involved with our Halloween season, or any closely related night-off for fun, many of our nation’s loftier colleges and universities, as long revered bastions of intelligence and wisdom, have issued flyers with telephone numbers of campus officials, also known as “sensitivity control experts” that those in doubt can consult. As expected, snarky political or topical news costumes are discouraged, and dressing like someone from another race or culture “carries on a deadly system of oppression”. Next we can anticipate legally appointed cultural sensitivity officers to bust into any location and round up anyone in a sombrero with fake drawn on mustache, Afro wig or Native American feathers and/or beads. Those already suffering white knuckle outrage fatigue will have little time to rest, given the predictable skirmishes that will soon be upon us with our upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.