Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween: The Oddest Holiday

“I was amazed to think that you would take the candy with you, too.”
- A Halloween break-up, described in Richard Shindell's Are You Happy Now?



Of all the holidays or semi-holidays or special days on the calendar, Halloween is by far most bizarre. I know, that's not really breaking news.

But have you ever sat down and thought through this celebration of the unwell, the unloved and the undead? It's a particularly unique festivity when you compare it to the happy, sunshiny ones like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Its origins may go back as far as the Roman Empire, but it's more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which acknowledged the end of the “lighter half” of the year and marked the beginning of the “darker half.”

Not to bum you out but that darker half is starting … oh ... right about now.

Western Christianity loads up early on the side of holy with back-to-back holidays in November. Between the fairly exclusive club honored each All Saints Day on November 1, and the much more inclusive All Souls Day on November 2, you would think that just about every human being who ever lived is covered.

But not so.

For every action there is a reaction, and so evil must have its day. And as evil has been known to do, it launches a pre-emptive strike on October 31. Many communities experience some form of “Mischief Night” on the 30th, too, but so far that's not an official event. (Still, you may want to mentally prepare yourself to deal with soaped windows, toilet papered shrubbery and/or egged houses.)

The pull of the dark side is strong. Only the holiest of holy parents prevent their children from trick-or-treating entirely. This usually results in years or even decades of intense therapy in later life attempting to answer the question “Why couldn't I at least be a bunny or a princess?”

Personally, I have gone out as a scarecrow, a cowboy and Dr. Zorba from the TV show Dr. Kildare, among others. I have it on good authority that even a big star like Frank Sinatra loved Halloween, and apparently went out for many years as different characters, including a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king.

Still, no matter how dark the origins of Halloween are, most kids are in it for the candy. (I have a theory on the connection between the dental industry and Satan that involves Halloween candy but that is for another day.)

For now, let me ask you this: Might Halloween candy be a gateway food leading to a society of brain-munching zombies?

Hmmm … Stephen King, eat your heart out.


* I'm very proud of the fact that I've completed this short piece on Halloween without once mentioning Christine O'Donnell and witchcraft … oh, damn … there goes THAT resolution! Well … be sure to vote this week.

2 comments:

  1. Brought back many memories of some of my worst costumes. Thanks, I think.

    ReplyDelete