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Slices of Life - Treacherous traditions date back thousands of years

November 1, 2012
Jill Pertler - Columnist , Dysart Reporter

Hidden identities. Planned thievery. Street walking. Threats and coercion. Tooth decay. All carried out under the cover of darkness. By your children. On your watch. Sounds a little like reality TV at its best.

Imagine the following: you instruct your precious and beloved young offspring to change out of their normal clothing and dress up in a manner that makes their identities unrecognizable. You may even provide them with masks. Together, you wait until nightfall. Then, you let them loose, knowing full well they plan to spend the next few hours walking the streets aimlessly. You direct them to ring doorbells of random houses, and not only talk to the strangers living there, but coerce them into contributing candy by placing it in a vessel your children have brought with them for just such a purpose.

Here's the real kicker: as parent, you're supposed to be okay with this outrageous situation and in fact call it a holiday. Sort of makes an overweight guy in a flashy red suit piloting a sleigh led by flying reindeer seem pretty reasonable, doesn't it?

Halloween hasn't always been a day to dress in costume and eat candy. The celebration originated about 2,000 years ago (give or take a century) as an ancient Celtic festival. The good Celtic farmers believed that on the last day of October, ghosts of dead spirits returned to earth to help them celebrate the end of harvest and the beginning of the long, cold winter. Somehow, they associated winter with death, which is understandable given all the ghosts floating around at the time. The day also precedes All Saints' Day a time for honoring saints and the recently departed another ghostly reference. Boo.

Over the generations, the day somehow evolved from harvests, saints and the beginning of winter to dressing up like a Power Ranger, demanding candy from your neighbors and coming down from a sugar-induced high right around bedtime. At least that's how things work at my house.

A normal person couldn't make this stuff up well, except the part about the flying reindeer. I know I couldn't. Then again, I don't have an imagination big enough for Halloween, so I guess that's to be expected.

Some people love Halloween. Some fun, creative and outgoing people with gigantic imaginations love the holiday. They are happy Halloweeners. I can't claim to be one of them.

I lack the necessary skills to be a successful Halloween hallower. For one, I can't seem to get into character. When it comes to roles, I always play myself. Talk about limiting. Especially on Halloween, when you've got to step out of yourself and be a witch, goblin, ghoul or at the very least Honey Boo Boo who is reportedly a hot costume choice this year. I'd never be able create the attitude needed to pull off Honey Boo Boo, and I'm not even sure what a ghoul is (or a Honey Boo Boo, if we're being honest).

There are some things I appreciate about the last day in October. Chocolate, of course, is one of them. What's not to love about a Reeses or a Kit Kat or maybe one of each? Exactly. I also enjoy a well-placed scary movie on a dark, chilly, somber night as long as I have a fluffy quilt to cover my eyes during the really frightening parts.

All in all though, when we're talking about October 31, I'm not the world's biggest fan. With the exception of my sugar-laden stomach, the day leaves me feeling empty much like the triangle-eyed pumpkin illuminating my front steps. There's no changing the truth: I am a hollow Halloweener.

Thank goodness my candy dish is nowhere near as empty as my pumpkin or my Halloween psyche (or lack thereof). A chocolate-induced coma now that I can appreciate, on October 31, or any day of the year.



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