Tag Archives: Halloween

Over the River and Through The Woods: The Season of Giving

21 Nov

Although one should be charitable all year, we are of course entering the season of giving. I do confess to missing my American holidays in the autumn. Both Halloween and Thanksgiving perpetuate the pleasures of graciousness and generosity that have made America famous all over the world. Somehow the English holiday of Bonfire Night, where effigies of baddies are burnt in public fires, seems just too barbaric compared to the simple pleasure of opening one’s door to appreciative children all dressed up, thoughtfully raising their hands to request a single sweet on All Hallows Eve.

Thanksgiving is the most American of American holidays. For those unfamiliar with it, its name is derived from the English words “thanks” and “giving.” It’s a time when Americans pause and reflect on all that they have received over the year (excluding, of course, court subpoenas and STDs).  Oh, how I used to love to sit at a fine table, covered with the fruits of my hard labour. It was a time to stop and be thankful for my incredible talent which allowed me to provide such sustenance to myself and those lucky enough to spend the holiday with me. The scrumptious meal was always a sight to behold. The fat turkey carcass so packed with chestnut stuffing that it fell in clumps from between its legs; the preternaturally magenta display of congealed cranberries; the sweet potatoes bathing in an almost solidified river of syrup, holding tightly to marshmallow flotation devices; and the lard dumplings so filling that my great grandfather used the very same recipe as mortar to bond the bricks of his bomb shelter. Beautiful food for a beautiful nation. Thanksgiving reminds us to look outside of ourselves and appreciate all the people who have helped us to reap such a harvest.

However, those people are not acknowledged just on one Thursday of November because Thanksgiving is also the official opening of the Christmas season, when we give them gifts to show our thanks.  Of course, I don’t mean that we literally buy presents for those who have grown and harvested our food; those people make plenty of money off me already with the ridiculous price of fresh pineapple and mangoes. Instead we symbolize our appreciation of those people through gifts to friends and family, people we actually care about.

As we are on the cusp of Thanksgiving, I know my American compatriots are busily stocking their cupboards and refrigerators with food that they will undoubtedly end up throwing in the bin by next Monday. I imagine the shopping lists and the car boots filled to the rim. I miss such rituals! As a way to ease my homesickness, Christopher has promised to dine with me tomorrow, having arranged a turkey supper to be delivered from the Rose and Crown. He has also been working all weekend to construct a cornucopia in my drinks cabinets to symbolize the abundance of my earthly rewards. I can say without hesitation that I am very thankful for Christopher, and I only hope that the generous pay packet I give him each week goes some way in showing my gratitude. It’s never quite the same, though, having a Thanksgiving dinner just for two; I only wish more of my neighbours could join me in the feast. However, they are mostly dicks and therefore I do not invite them.

But I hope all my readers, whether American or not, will follow my model of wishing the world a wonderful holiday season. Please be charitable to those less fortunate and give thanks to those you appreciate!

NOTE: To donate to the “I’m So Thankful for Miss Agatha Whitt-Wellington that I’d Like to Help Her Retile Her Roof” Fund, please contact Christopher directly with your credit card details.

Halloween: We Fear What We Don’t Understand

27 Oct

Here is something I know: in England the current connotation of the word Halloween is “another American concept that is slowly destroying the world via our children’s innocence.”

Here is something you know: I am very clever and generally understand things better than you do.

Therefore, in the spirit of John 8:32, I would like to enlighten you to some truths about the Halloween holiday so that you shall be set free from your misconceptions. While the practices of the holiday should be limited to children, the theories behind it provide some good moral lessons we’d all do well to remember.

COSTUMES

Adults wear costumes (yes, of course, I’m talking about fancy dress, don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean) to escape their own mundane existence and live someone else’s life for an evening (although why people think slutty nurses’ lives are so fascinating is beyond me).

However, for American children, costumes serve an educational purpose; they’re used to introduce them to different career options. By the time American children reach puberty, they have already had first hand experience in a number of fields: medical, law enforcement, construction, super-heroism and witchcraft. Another benefit of children’s costumes is that they should be homemade. Homemade costumes are economical; support recycling (for at least a decade in America, all pantyhose were sold in plastic eggs, yet you never saw one of these in the landfills because they were ever so crafty); and encourage ingenuity within a family, forcing children and parents to discover new purposes within objects (I once wore Mason jar bands as earrings for my fortune teller costume, don’t tell me that’s not creative).

Sadly, families today often feel that they just don’t have the time to devote to the traditional costume-making process. Purchasing a costume loses some of the true meaning of Halloween; however, if it has to be done, the only appropriate option is a boxed costume which contains a highly flammable, colourful smock-type outfit and a plastic face with eyeholes and a thin, easily snappable piece of elastic to secure it to the head.

TRICK-OR-TREATING

Trick-or-treating is not begging. It’s actually an ancient form of barter: when you give a child a “treat,” you are actually paying for the entertainment they have provided you by making you feel frightened, amused or vaguely confused. Trick-or-treating in America is organized; there’s a single night chosen and if you don’t want to participate you just turn your porch light off. The “trick” part of the name is often interpreted as a threat, but this is incorrect. Despite what the horror films tell you, there are actually no recorded incidents of any mischief, criminal or otherwise, around Halloween on the books of any single American police station. Fact. Being scared, though, is part of the holiday’s tradition: ultimately, it’s a lesson in mortality and the sooner a child learns of his impending death, the happier the child will be, I always say.

Treats are generally candy, partly because sweets are enjoyed by most people and partly simply because they come individually wrapped. Years ago there was an urban legend that strangers were sticking razor blades in apples and contaminating cookies, so parents feel safer when a child comes home with individually wrapped candies–though, of course, a hypothermic needle could easily be used to inject candy through its wrapper without raising any suspicion (would-be poisoners should ignore this remark).

The candy most associated with Halloween is candy corn. To eat candy corn, you are required to bite off, chew and swallow the white bits and then discard the rest in the nearest bin. A little wasteful, yes, but it’s the law.

JACK O’LANTERNS

These days, there’s a real art to pumpkin carving. I myself prefer the traditional Jack O’Lantern face—circle eyes, triangle nose and the toothy grin. Carving even this relatively easy design is a great way to develop dexterity and knife-handling skills. The inside of the pumpkin is then frozen to be baked into Thanksgiving pumpkin pies and the seeds are roasted for a nutritional snack. In the carved pumpkins, you place a candle. You do this because it looks nice. Carving pumpkins is just nice, okay? Doesn’t niceness matter anymore?

Ultimately, I don’t care if you like Halloween. Support it or don’t, it’s no skin off my nose. However, if you decide you don’t want to be a part of it, keep your anti-American sentiment out of it. Halloween was an important part of my childhood; don’t let your ignorance try to taint my memory. If you find any of these meaningful traditions interesting enough to adopt in your own lives, I am happy to provide you with additional suggestions, costume designs and recipes. However, I request that you please ask your children not to come round my house during Corrie.  Halloween or not, that’s really annoying.

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