I like Halloween. I really, really do. The concept is so pure. Kids dress up. Kids say trick-or-treat. Kids get candy. The end.
But what the hell has happened in the last few years?
I’m okay with the store-bought costumes. Busy parents don’t have time to make a robot out of a box. I’m okay with the buttload of candy that is pushed in the stores, because when it is all left over on their shelves after two weeks I buy it at 90% off and bring it to work instead of pumpkin bread. But when did it become such a thing to decorate for Halloween? You used to just buy a couple of pumpkins, carve them, and put them on the porch. Maybe, if you want to go for that spooky feel for trick-or-treaters, you put some fake webs on the bushes or a Halloween picture on the door.
But now there are the gravestones, and the skeletons, and creepy bloody hands. There are orange blinking lights and ghost lights. You can go scary Halloween or cutesy Halloween or silly Halloween. There are towels for the bathroom and decorations for all inside the house. There are the shirts and the socks and the month-long marathon of Halloween shows on Nickelodeon.
This used to be the easy holiday. One day. Two costumes. Three bags of candy. Four pumpkins. Five hours of fun. Done.
I’m bitching, but I really do like Halloween, and we’ve kept it simple. We carved our pumpkins on Sunday, because it was so warm outside. We’ll get dressed about 5:30 and stop at a couple of neighbors’ houses. Then we’ll head to our old neighborhood to trick-or-treat with our friends. It’s a townhouse development, so the kids come home with tons of candy which we dole out as their after-dinner treat for months. After they’ve made the rounds, we go back to a friend’s house where the kids watch movies and count their stash. The adults sit around a fire pit and drink beer and eat chili. For a few years, we had neighbors who would do a fire-eating show. I kid you not. After it all, we come home way too late and way too full. And it’s awesome.
In school today, my fifth grader will have nothing special going on. Maybe a spooky story. The second-grade teachers have come up with a great way to celebrate the day, without actually doing a Halloween party which is now quite taboo in our safe, politically correct schools. Since the second grade studies bugs as part of their curriculum, October 31st is Bug Day. The kids come in bug costumes. They play bug games. They have bug crafts and snacks. They do bug math. And they have a great time. I went this morning to help out with the crafts and it was the cutest things to see all the creative costumes. You won’t find many store-bought bug costumes other than butterflies, so there were interesting spiders, ladybugs, beetles, and bees.
I usually read to the class around Halloween, but I just didn’t get around to arranging it. I did give the teacher two books to read during the day, and she was happy to take them. One is a favorite of many librarians and teachers, The Hallo-wiener by Dav Pilkey. It’s the story of a dachshund who is always teased by his doggie classmates, but especially after his well-meaning mother gives him a hot-dog costume for Halloween. But when his doggie friends are spooked by a ghoul, it’s the little dog who saves the day. It’s a funny book, but you can add a little spooky suspense when the ghoul comes into the picture.
The other book that I suggested is The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz. It’s about a pumpkin that isn’t picked for Halloween because he looks so strange. As he travels through November, he comes upon more like him and realizes that he’s not a pumpkin at all. He’s a squash! And he’s just in time for Thanksgiving! Cute twist on the ugly duckling story with a nice transition to the next holiday on the calendar.
Speaking of transitions, let me transition my way off the computer and into the real world, where it’s sunny and 72 degrees outside. I think I might have time to read a book before I get the girls from school. Have a Happy Halloween with full-sized Kit-Kat bars and chilled Coronas. And if you’re lucky really lucky maybe even fire-eaters.