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.

6 Responses to “Halloween: We Fear What We Don’t Understand”

  1. susieb4547 Sunday, 30 October 2011 at 14:27 #

    I agree with most of your comments, Miss Agatha, but I want to know who Casper really is.

  2. SW/AWW Sunday, 30 October 2011 at 21:45 #

    I shall confess that it is a smaller version of my good self. For a brief time in pre-school, I was considering a career as the undead but quickly changed my mind after I saw the average salary and benefit packages of ghosts and/or phantoms.
    Yours,
    Agatha

  3. M G Monday, 31 October 2011 at 15:33 #

    My family likes to celebrate Halloween in the quiet and traditional way we have done since as far back as I can remember: we have toffee apples, dance naked in the local yew tree grove, and then sacrifice a goat to Beelezebub, the Lord of Darkness.

  4. Sarah Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 20:06 #

    I’m Irish and we have been all about Halloween from an early age. Most kids my age spent many Halloweens dressed in a combination of their Mum’s clothes, black plastic bags and the worst witches masks known to man. Our neighbours were always able to tell who we were. We used to carve turnips instead of pumpkins, play games (mostly involving apples) and tell ghost stories. Halloween is still my favourite time of the year. Anyone who thinks it’s just an American holiday needs to go to Derry to celebrate it – it’s a great experience!

  5. kyla p Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 05:36 #

    Where can I find a Casper (toddler)costume that I can purchase?

    • SW/AWW Thursday, 27 September 2012 at 05:41 #

      I must confess it’s been quite a few years since I was small enough to fit into one of those costumes. I’m not even sure if they make them anymore–I fear Casper is too tame compared to cartoons these days. But you might want to check eBay (they seem to have a few vintage ones around).
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Agatha

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