There are probably a million reasons why Halloween has started to suck hard over the past decade.  But suck it does…

i still dress up, play, and use the holiday as an excuse to fart around with reckless abandon.  It’s not as though i really need an excuse, mind you.  The degree of commercialized contrivance has simply trumped everything i used to love about it.

Starting with Beggar’s Night.  That’s when children are encouraged to dress up, wander their own neighborhoods collecting treats in the dark!  My memories of Beggar’s Night are at the top of my childhood “Top Ten”. 

We would plan our costumes for a month.  Even as children, we weren’t big fans of the store-bought variety – with the hard plastic masks that were not only uncomfortable, but impossible to see through.  In hindsight, we never came up with any particularly brilliant costumes, but it didn’t matter.  They were ours.

The “Route Planning” would start about a week before the big event.  We would be turned loose for two entire hours – after dark – and were limited by time and suburban geography as to how much turf we could cover.  We’d draw maps of the neighborhood, identifying the shortest routes to cover maximum territory.  The goal?  Fill at least half a pillow case with loot.

With warnings from the parental units not to eat anything until it had been brought home and inspected for razor blades, tampering and whatnot, we generally ignored that shit, and ate the stuff we knew would be confiscated while we were on the road.  Forty years ago, there were still sweet old broads who would make popcorn balls and caramel apples for trick-or-treaters! 

We were daredevils.   If Granny wanted to poison us, we’d take our chances!

Halloween sleep overs?  The best!  Listing to scary records, haunting the laundry room, and telling ghost stories until we were all shitting our collective shorts.  One year, in the throes of the seasonal frenzy, we made a rather serious decorating faux pas which had lasting impact on a local family basement.  We ran out of scotch tape to hang the ghost and goblin drawings, and we thought it a brilliant plan to use Elmer’s Glue instead.  The parents were pissed, but patient, as it took us a couple of weeks to finish scrubbing all that crap off the walls.

Now?  Whether it’s “Fear of Child Abduction” or “Fear of Stranger Poison” or “Fear of The Devil” or “Fear of Things We Can’t Control”, we’ve sucked that joy from our kids.  Churches hold “Trunk or Treat” – good God People decorate trunks of automobiles and hand out candy to children in the church parking lot.  Whooptie Fucking Doo.

Oh, and there are Harvest Festivals!  More neo-religious influence trying to squash the pagan spirits and keep our babies out of hell.  No ghosties and goblins or devils or witches!  Pumpkins and inflatable bouncy castles and handing out pencils with bible sayings on them at the MegaChurch…  Again, Whooptie Fucking Doo.

In my neighborhood, here in God’s Waiting Room, there are no trick or treaters.  Zero.  There are maybe two or three kids who live here in the suitable age range, but if i were them, i wouldn’t want to knock on the doors here either.  If you’re lucky, you might score a Metamucil biscuit or some grapes…

Adults have further jacked up Halloween.  Costume shops make it easy to just buy “persona du jour” off the rack.  For us gals, it’s an excuse to be skanky*.  For the gents?  Seems to be a lot of cross-dressing.  Any fantasy will do, and if you don’t have one?  The racks at the Halloween Megastore can help you find one.

Nothing is as much fun as it was when we were kids.  At least that’s how it seems.  Probably because i’m now a crabby old fart.  Makes me wonder, though, if the current generation will look back on their childhoods with the same sweet memories.

* Again, i don’t need an excuse.  For the charity party i went to last night, my daughter had the good sense to stop me as i headed out and say “Jesus, Mom!  Is that all you’re wearing?  Can you cover those up a bit?” before loaning me a tube top to add a strategic layer to my costume…

44 thoughts on “Boo

  1. I’m sure the current generation will look back on the church parking lot fondly, as their kids sit in their virtual zombie town and swap Facebook candy with their friends, or whatever the hell they will do by then. Our neighborhood is more like God’s main lobby — all the kids are gone, but the reputation of the neighborhood is still good enough that we get some kids coming in from across town every year. Happy Halloween!

    • i asked my daughter tonight if she had fond memories of childhood halloweens – and she said “Sure. I got candy.” Takes a bit after me in that regard. in my previous home, where the kids got to go out begging, i’d get maybe 30 kids. they were rewarded with full sized candy bars, and the parents were offered beer (or candy). i miss that. i met a lot of neighbors on halloween.

  2. i’m thinking these kids today DO need a metamucil biscuit. their parents have harangued them so much that their assholes must be tighter than a prairie dog’s butt in a dust storm. a little metamucil might loosen them up, so to speak.

    but all in all? i’m with ya on this diatribe…

  3. sooooooo, last night we had about 50 kids hit our doorbell. i did notice one thing, the little ones (under the age of 5) were the most engaging and talkative. after that, it was just trick or treat, but they all said thank you. the last tricksters were teenagers driving a golf cart (it’s the south, honey) looking as if they were dressed normally. when i asked what they were supposed to be the blondest one told me we’re jersey shore girls! i have no idea what to think anymore…but i do have candy left. xoxoxox

    • i used to tell the teenagers to come back at 8:05 and i’d give them the rest of the bucket! they usually came through for me! LOVE the golf cart idea! Jersey girls would have the golf cart driven for them, i’d think!

  4. A great insight into Halloween, which is sadly attempting a lame ass commercial driven crash into the Australian scene…

    I love reading you reminisce about yr childhood, it made me understand why Halloween could be such a big deal (I previously thought American’s were just nutjobs – although that remains in question…!)

    Also, “farting around with reckless abandon” is my favourite passtime!

    • we were turned loose. at night. seems to me it was always unseasonably warm. and you’d be running house to house, in this warm darkness, and you’d hear voices from other kids out on the loose… it was mostly that we were free, for one magical night of the year, to EARN our own loot… magic.

      oh, and we ARE nutjobs. i’m not sure what happened. thinking people just gave up, i suppose. the “middle” gave way to the extremes. but i still think that underneath a lot of the political crap, the rampant consumerism, and general decline in civility? people here are not evil. just a bit lost.

      • No people are not evil. They are lost — lost in the wilds of FOXTV, trying to make a living, trying to make ends meet while at the same time buying every single thing they see advertised and not understanding why they are always so broke. . .

        Thinking people did not give up. We put on disguises and hid ourselves away for fear of being burned at the stake.

  5. Oh, the memories this brought back. Trick or treating in the late 1950’s was heaven on earth. We used to get full-sized Hershey bars, way bigger than the miserly little so-called “fun” size things they give out now. Some trusting souls who weren’t at home would actually leave a bowl of candy out on their front porch with a sign to take just one, please–and we did! I agree, it was magical—no parental supervision, just kids having fun.

    I went trick or treating until I was almost fifteen because I looked like I was ten. My best friend had to quit going at thirteen because at one house the guy looked her up and down and asked, “What do you want…a cigarette?”

    • it really was a big part of my childhood. tried to replicate it a bit with my spawn – they were allowed to run loose in a posse after they got to a reasonable age.

      i always sat on the front porch, in costume. with the dog. in costume. i enjoyed meeting the neighbors… i would offer the accompanying parents a beer.

  6. Nurse: Our house got egged on Saturday night.

    Do you know when I took The Daughters out trick or treating? 2:30 in the afternoon! That was the officially sanctioned time! I remember going out in the pitch dark. But they seemed happy so who am I to judge?

  7. Nick Disaster, all 17 months of him, dressed in a gorilla costume cuz it fit his personality, took to this like a stripper to cocaine, he was all about getting shit, of course he does have a big brother to learn from but the kid made his dad proud grunting up steps and holding his bag out, big grin on his face… and my hood is over-run with screaming kids, i think i actually enjoyed myself except i hurt my back something fierce chasing the little gorilla.

    • Gorilla? oh, crap, you need to post those pics (or just send ’em to me!). there really is magic in it… it’s not about the candy. it’s almost about the reckless bit of running wild. after they’re told all the time NOT to do this and NOT to do that… the parents say “GO RING DOORBELLS AND PEOPLE WILL GIVE YOU SHIT!”

  8. Ah, this really brings back memories. The making up of costumes was the BEST, and the majority of the kids where we lived did make them up. Our parents were not interested in buying cheap crap for us to wear for one night. I share your love of the costumed beggars night and it is definitely one of my childhood top ten too.

    We lived in a very rural area, and the town nearest to us was three miles away, it was where our school was. We were driven to town and dutifully stopped along the way at the McMillan’s house (he was our school bus driver) where we were given wonderful home-made cookies (pumpkin shaped with orange icing and green andyellow detailing) which we all consumed avidly during the rest of the drive into town. The town itself was rather small, and it was entirely possible to trick-or-treat the entire hamlet, which we did while our parents sat with their friends drinking coffee while we went out to ransack the neighborhood. There were ALWAYS fresh cookies, home made popcorn balls, wonderful crisp apples — and no one worried about them either. There were no strictures placed on us as to what we could eat.

    And the whole poisoning and razor blade thing is apparently a paranoid urban myth, which it is all too easy to buy into in this day of CNN’s 24 hour disaster of the moment coverage.

    I honestly don’t think the kids growing up today will have the same wonderful memories that we stored up in our childhoods. I mean, how fun is Wii? Or zombie attack? How free can you feel with your electronic leash always on your person?

    • your halloween memories sound pretty delicious. it was as much about the freedom as the goodies. my mom was the most paranoid mother in the neighborhood – always makeing sure we cut up any apples we got “just in case”, and she inspected all candy looking for signs of tampering. oh, and she usually claimed any boxes of “Junior Mints” as her tax…

      the kids today? their memories will be their memories. as they grow, life will start to suck, and i guess they’ll look back fondly on a time when they didn’t have to work, didn’t have to be responsible, and could screw off all the time…

  9. some of my favourite childhood memories were from hallowe’en and those pillow cases filled with candy, apples and razor blades. i wonder why the modern parent is so determined to remove all traces of such a wonderfully innocent time.

    oh shit, my rose-tinted glasses just fell into my gin & tonic …

    • it’s a symptom of the culture of fear. controlling every aspect of a kids life makes a parent feel safer, i guess. ten years ago, i tried to balance it for my kids, but i know they had more restrictions than i did. but then again, mine were ‘latch key’ in late elementary school/junior high, so in a sense i had to trust them MORE.

      and i love “oh shit, my rose-tinted glasses just fell into my gin & tonic”. sums it up pretty well, i think!

  10. I’m happy to report that Halloween is still alive in some places. I was excited to move someplace that actually still has Trick or Treat *after dark*. I loved the one house with a blood stained sidewalk. We dragged the little ones in wagons for a while before returning to home base, when the older kids went back out for another round. One house had a scary enough setup (with someone hiding in the bushes even) that the 7-9 year olds wouldn’t go near it.

    Even last year in the lame “daylight” Trick or Treat neighborhood, we had the old head-on-a-platter gag at one house (person sticking their head up through a hole in the table). My son about jumped out of his skin, went back twice to see it again, and still talks about it.

    This year though, I loved the fact that a lot of the costumes were not store-bought. I liked the wheelchair bound kid as Thomas the Train. Sometimes my favorite are the ones that were obviously thrown together at the last minute. (“What are you dressed as?” “I’m HOCKEY!”)

    After reading your post I have a little extra appreciation for where we live now…

    • after talking with a few folks at work, it seems there are still some localized venues where there are TONS of kids out and about on beggar’s night. just less global than it used to be. i’m thrilled to learn that there are still places where people do it right, complete with the ‘head on a platter’ – a classic! we used to get the guy on the porch, dressed like a dummy with a bad mask, holding the bowl of candy, and a sign that said “please, take only one”. if a kid made the mistake of getting greedy? KA-POW! instant load in the shorts, as the dummy jumped and growled!

      ‘thomas the train’? absolutely love it… brough me a big ol’ smile…

  11. We had lots of trick or treaters, but I spent most of the night walking my kid and his two friends around the neighborhood. When I got home, I drank too much and ate too much candy. Wine+beer+whiskey=blatz. I’m still recovering. But the kids had fun. I dressed up like an executioner. It was pretty easy. But I couldn’t wear my glasses with the mask, so the entire evening is a blur.

    • i’m encouraged that this still goes on… well, the rampant trick or treating, not the wine+beer+whiskey thing! that might have contributed to the ‘blur’…

  12. Ok, i’m an “odd” Mommy.
    I make my kids costumes (and mine).
    I give good candy.
    I go out AT DARK.
    I have an adult beverage in hand.
    I have more adult beverages ON hand for other parents.
    I have my oldest pass candy out while I take the youngest (he’s only 5), and then my oldest hides in the evergreen and scares the hell out of the kids.

    I love Halloween!
    Oh, and my oldest DID TP his friends car.
    I was so proud! 😀

  13. “popcorn balls and caramel apples for trick-or-treaters!”

    I don’t think I would have minded getting a razor blade straight to the gum line if I could have at least tasted something homemade. Now it’s so boring. Plus, no one even wants to give me candy because I’m an adult. That’s just discrimination.

  14. I was in a bar on Halloween, because I knew I won’t run into any candy-begging children there. Also I was sort of hoping if I showed up to a bar with a bag, they’d fill it with Guinness. They didn’t, but it was worth a shot.

  15. Took the wee one out around our little burg Trick or Treating on Sunday Night. Thanks to GW Bush, it was still light out when we hit the streets at 6 pm. I estimated that we had between 15 and 20% participation rate, but it was enough to half fill her bag and it was heavy enough that I had to carry it home for her.

    My childhood Hallowe’en’s were a bit like yours. I think my dad was a little disturbed the year I dressed up in drag, though. I think that was the year one of us received an apple with half a razor blade embedded in it. WTF was that, anyways?

    • there was one year when there was a strangler in my hometown, and all the local ‘burgs switched to daytime trick or treating. it sucked. but we still dressed up and got candy, so it wasn’t boycotted or anything.

      STUNNED that you really got a razor blade in an apple! must have been because your shoes didn’t match your pillow case?

  16. One of the only reasons I would want to have kids is to be a goof and take part in Halloween. That is high praise for Halloween. But the times they are a-changing. So I’m probably better off just sticking with cats.

    • enjoyed having children during the halloween season… probably a lot more than over christmas. and it seems that tere is still fun to be had… you could dress up the cats and go door to door. compromise?

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