A long overdue Halloween missive

It’s pretty astonishing how being a father to a month old baby can change your perspective on the things that matter in life. Although, for the avoidance of doubt, I will never like peanut butter, no matter how much my daughter comes to believe it to be the lifeblood that keeps her in existence.

Nut spread issues aside, all other opinions and theories are now officially open to change. And that was never more evident than in my reaction to Halloween this year.

Now, bear in mind that I am the man that wrote this. I think it’s fair to say that I have never been the biggest fan of Halloween. Most Americans tend to take it more seriously than, say, breathing. In the same way that the likes of Hallmark have managed to persuade us that Administrative Professionals Day is a worthy use of our hard-earned cash, so costume manufacturers have managed to convince Americans that a pagan ritual is a good reason to provide extensive job creation for 7 year olds in Indonesia.

But then introduce a small child to the mix (one too young to even see a pumpkin two feet away from her, let alone participate herself) and everything changes. Suddenly when Halloween arrives, you’re focusing on whether you’ve got enough sweetscandy for everyone, and pondering whether you should probably go out and buy another three tons of mini Snickers bars just in case.

Of course, the presence this year of She Who Was Born To Worry probably helped foster the festive spirit. Particularly as after a couple of visits from local kids, she designated herself The Candy Witch, refusing to dole out more than one sweet per child, and giving venemous looks to anyone who failed to say thank you.

So while I resisted costume this year, and instead dressed merely as ‘confused new father operating on two hours sleep’ (a look that I pulled off with comparative ease, if I’m honest), I nonetheless entered into the spirit of the occasion. Fortunately enough questionable events occurred to ensure that I could maintain the healthy dose of overarching cynicism that you all have come to expect of me.

1. The little princess with dietary restrictions
The very first knock at the door came from a tiny princess, who could have been no older than six. She immediately endeared herself to us by pushing her nose up against the screen door to peer inside. Indeed, she was so sweet, I even managed to fight off the overwhelming need to get some spray cleaner and wipe off her smudgy little paw prints from the glass.

And the first thing she said as The Special One opened the door and proffered the bowl of many delights? “My mommy says that I’m not allowed any chocolate.” This came as a blow, given that the “many delights” in the bowl were solely chocolate-based. Thankfully The Special One managed to convince her that the Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup (the root of all candy evil, by the way) actually contained no chocolate, and sent her on her way with a smile on her face. But what parents send their kids out with specific dietary restrictions? “Now, little Elsie, remember that high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavourings are fine, but chocolate and gelatin are out. And don’t ring number 87’s doorbell this year – you know your brother’s never been the same since the electric shock.”

2. The little brothers and sisters
The age range of the trick-or-treaters varied wildly, from the three year old who practically had to be dragged up the steps to the door, to the dubiously aged teens whose skirts were short enough that their parents felt the need to accompany them. As a side note, I’m all for the principle that Halloween is an opportunity for women to show some skin, but I live by the motto that says if your parents need to come with you, you’re not old enough to show some skin. And as a further side note, if my daughter is reading this in – say – 2025, the age at which you are old enough to show some skin at Halloween is approximately 35.

Anyway, I digress. Kids of all ages came round, and they all received candy for their efforts. Even the ones who had dressed as “a kid wanting candy”. But on at least six separate occasions, once they had received their bounty, a kid would proffer another bag and say “Candy for the little one – she’s too young to come.”

Now, I’m still new to this parenting lark, but I tend to believe that if you’re too young to trick or treat with your whole family in tow, you’re too young to be eating sugar snacks. Leading me to the inevitable conclusion that “the little one” is a Halloween scam, with kids taking advantage of doting parents who sigh wistfully at the thought of poor little Johnny in his Merlin outfit, crying at home on his own while the older children go out to forage for him.

Next year, “the little ones” will be getting a bag of raisins and somw dried apricots, mark my words.

3. The double dippers
I appreciate that I’m getting on a bit now, but I’ve still got all my own teeth, and most of my mental faculties are intact. Sure, I forget the occasional thing or two, but The Special One’s electro-shock punishments are having a positive impact on my will to remember, I can tell you.

Anyway, the point is, if you come and get candy from The Candy Witch while dressed as a purple fairy, and then you come back twenty minutes later to try to get some more, we will remember and we will send you away with a flea in your ear. If you come back as something completely different (say, a pink fairy), we will almost certainly not rhave any recollection of you whatsoever and will lavish you with as many Twizzlers as a girl can eat.

4. Commuting to Trickortreatsville
Despite my cynicism, I have to say that Halloween promotes a healthy sense of community, with all the residents of a neighbourhood interacting with each other on a level that’s more harmonious than “for the 837th time, can you sodding well turn that music down?”

But when you’ve got carloads of kids being shipped into an area by their parents because it looks like a place where you might get Toblerone rather then Tootsie Rolls, it’s suddenly less about community, and more about a 12 month campaign of reconnaisance and intensive evaluation of candy sales across the five boroughs. The kids probably sell their swag in their schools for the next year. Or save it for the next Halloween, to provide the gift of gastroenteritis to unsuspecting locals.

Still, I’m starting work on my Halloween costume for 2010. Like a born-again convert, I’m going to put some serious effort into getting it just right. I’m thinking ‘new-ish father operating on three hours sleep rather than two, but still as confused as ever’. Better start working on those bags under my eyes right away…

13 thoughts on “A long overdue Halloween missive

  1. Silverback

    There is no trick or treating in this retirement park and any skin flashing kids who try to enter through the laser beams and electrified cattle grid will be sure to remember that next Halloween.

    But we DID have a dance and I bought a combined t-shirt and face scarf thing (see blog) and I do believe that was a first for me. The abundance of dentures on show obviously meant a total lack of chewy candies but the oldies sure liked to dress up – maybe harking back to their golden Halloween days. Thankfully little or no skin was on display (although I believe a fair amount was swept up afterwards) and not just because their parents weren’t around !

  2. Expat Mum

    It’s those bloody pillow cases they cart around with them. I mean, how greedy. I must say I insisted on the two-per-kid rule, and no, you can’t have any for your mother.

  3. Little Sis

    You should come back to Blighty – i bought a big bag of sweets in anticipation of a busy Saturday nights Halloween trading. How many trick or treaters did we get ? None, zero, zilch !
    Although, showing the bare faced cheek of some youngsters, 10 days prior to Halloween there was a knock at the door and a chorus of ‘trick or treat?!’. When i pointed out it was the 21st, not the 31st, i was told that they knew that but they were going on holiday ! Only in the UK….

  4. Brooklyn

    Dylan: You and I differ on the subject of Halloween.
    Despite the commercialization of Halloween, unlike Xtmas, Halloween is not the subject of constant and ubiquitous advertising for six weeks. ( whatever happened to the rule that each holiday is given its own time, so that Xmas advertising did not begin until after Xmas? On that same subject, when I was a kid one of the harbor his of the dreaded beginning of the school year as the appearance of advertising for the fall television season in August; I pity kids who are subjected to advertising for the fall television season in June!)

    And, for those of us who do not celebrate Xmas because, despite the efforts of retailirs, it is a Christian holiday,* Halloween is one of the few, it’s not only, US holidays ith no historical significance celebrated by almost all Americans.

    [* I know that certain pagans, fundamentalist Christians, an Orthodox Jews and concern themselves with religious aspects of Halloween. Since I’m not one of them, their views of Halloween does not affect me.]

    As for the trick or treaters which have been trucked in, there is an explanation. If the kids live in neighborhoods compose solely of apartment buildings, which generally prohibit trigger trading, the kids and their parents are only following the Willie Sutton rule.

  5. Brooklyn

    “administrative professionals day? Brilliant!”
    Brilliant ? Not so much. It is a supposedly more politically correct name for the greeting card created “Secretaries Day.”

  6. Alasdair

    Sarah – perhaps someone needed an Administrative Professional to polish the wording before publication ?

  7. sarah

    you know Alasdair, you might be onto something….now where did i put that phone list for the administrative professionals recruitment consulting agency…

    😉

  8. Brooklyn

    sarah:

    “um..yeah i was being a tad sarcastic….i guess i thought maybe it would translate in text…

    maybe not…”

    Ooops, sorry.

    I do find e-mail and blog posts to be very poor media for expressing sarcasm. You can’t see the eye rolling.

  9. Hans

    I’m no Halloween fan either, but then in the UK it’s a bit more sinister than over in the US – here you’re more likely to get eggs lobbed at your house and fake blood through the letter box than little princesses with chocolate aversions.

    I was told recently that my cousin’s mother-in-laws friend (tenuous I know)who lives somewhere Texas-ish had over 2000 trick or treaters this year. Now that is a serious expense on what is basically a celebration of all things ugly. I remain unconvinced. Maybe Halloween in the US next year when I’m married and Americanness is slowly filtering into my bloodstream I’ll change my mind.

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