". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bah, Humbug

I'm a Halloween Scrooge. Or maybe a Grinch.

Either way, I just don't get it. I don't get spending hundreds of dollars on decorations that don't make a house look prettier. I don't get taking little bitty children who can barely even say the words "trick or treat" around the neighborhood asking strangers for candy. I don't get voluntarily going to "haunted houses" to have the wits scared out of you. And I don't get dressing up in ghoulish, ugly costumes.

When my two oldest children were a lot younger, we did do some trick-or-treating. But we dressed them in cute, cuddly costumes. We generally only took them to houses of people that we knew or that lived on our street. And we stopped trick-or-treating long before they got to junior high.

The older I have gotten, the more I resent the whole Halloween ritual. I resent being expected to spend $20 or more on candy for kids I don't even know. I resent that many of the kids to whom I will give that candy will be taller than me and probably have more discretionary income. I resent the assumption that I will be participating unless I send some kind of overt message (such as turning off my porch light and hiding in the back of the house) that I am not.

One of the things I noticed upon moving from Texas to Illinois 14 years ago was a heightened appreciation of Halloween. It's not that we didn't "do" Halloween when I was growing up in Texas. But it has always seemed to me that there is a lot more effort put into it here than I remember as a child. Perhaps I am just paying more attention now than I did back then. But I was already an adult when I moved to Illinois, and I noticed the difference right away.

Another difference I noticed upon moving further north was the greater time and effort that people here put into their yards. As soon as temperate weather comes, the work of planting and watering and mowing and trimming begins, and it continues all summer with an intensity I never saw as a child. And indeed, the results are beautiful. I have always been impressed by the care that my fellow Illinoisians take with their homes and yards.

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that the two things are related. When you live in a climate that keeps you indoors for almost six months of the year, you cherish the times spent outdoors. When year by year you watch almost everything turn brown and die, you develop a high appreciation for the growing season. So maybe that's what Halloween is all about--a last fling, a parting hurrah for people who are about to be hit with winter in all its fury.

In that case I suppose I should have a better attitude. My husband says we should look at Halloween as an opportunity to be good neighbors--to build up our relationship with the people we live nearby. But it's hard to focus on good feelings when Halloween seems to be a lot nastier than it used to be. And I'm not the only one who has noticed an increasingly sinister element to this "holiday." (Hat tip: Dr. Veith.)

I think next year at this time I'd like to do something like this. Maybe then I would have a better outlook. Until then . . . bah, humbug.


Jane said...

I have always loved the "dress-up" aspect of Halloween, but I hate the ugly stuff. We were actually at a church a few churches ago that had a very gruesome haunted house in the school gym. That almost sent me into the anti-Halloween camp.

I don't like Halloween decorations, and don't get spending all of the money, but I *love* giving out candy to the hundreds of kids that will come by our house tonight. (We live in a big neighborhood, with another attached.) And I don't care how old they are as long as they're wearing a costume. :)

Jane said...

Oh yeah, you've been tagged. :)

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I agree with you. People out here get into it way more than when I lived out West. There might have been an occasional haunted house that you went to, but the yard decorations here are more hyper than Christmas decorations.

My husband has the same take yours does. We found living in California that Halloween was the only time that we could really actually MEET our neighbors, since they were all working to try to afford those expensive houses and their kids were locked inside with the nannies or at afterschool programs.

If it hadn't been for that take, I think I would've been in the anti-Halloween camp as well. But we try to avoid gross and gory.

So....Have a glorious Reformation Day, and Happy Nevada Admissions Day. Two much better things to celebrate

AmusedMomma said...

I agree -- we haven't celebrated this "holiday" in years. And like Julee, I enjoy the great chocolate harvest that will come tomorrow!

We are roasting pumpkin seeds after cooking the huge pumpkin so we can make pie and bread tomorrow. Earlier today we made banana bread with cream cheese to enjoy while watching Luther!

Cheryl, you're a good writer, your blog is interesting and thought-provoking.

elephantschild said...

An added plus: the Luther Rose hanging on my house kept some of the creepier-costumed kids away, while allowing all the cute little kids to come stomping up my walk. Woo-hoo!

(I think the creepy kids were a little afraid they'd get a Jesus-tract instead of candy. Too bad for them, 'cus I was handing out chocolate and Starburst!)

Cheryl said...


Thank you for your kind words! I am flattered.

Jane, I have been too busy for words the past few days. But thanks for the tagging. I'll file it away for a quieter day!

Elizabeth said...

I love to decorate my yard! For Thanksgiving, that is. :) I put my "fall" thanksgiving display up every year during the first week of October and take it down the weekend after Thanksgiving. If I still had my camera, I'd take a pic and put it on my blog. Then you could see first-hand my passive agressive approach to Halloween. :p


Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

I second your observations, Cheryl. I've definitely noted how much more low-key the Halloween festivities are here than I remember from home in WI. I think you're spot-on about the climatic motivations for gardening, too. In my 16 months in Monterey, CA, I was shocked to see so many ill-kept yards in a climate that could grow just about anything. Even many of the multi-million-dollar houses in Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach barely have anything you could call a garden. Sad.