It is officially the spookiest time of year . . . election season. Oops! Wrong column. Ok, so Halloween is coming up. I know that a lot of folks don’t celebrate for various reasons: childhood obesity, safety concerns, the problems with hooligans, etc. But are these good reasons to end a time-honored American past-time steeped in tradition?
It is no coincidence that Halloween takes place at the same time of year as political campaigning. Going door-to-door, begging for handouts is the childhood precursor to political campaign financing. Trick-or-treating is very similar to running for office. For instance, there is a special time to go (Halloween night), things you have to say even if they are not true (thank you for the raisins), you have to deal with lobbyists (dentists) and special interest groups (vegans and UNICEF) and there is a special code to direct revelers to the right place (a porch light). Halloween teaches children about government.
Ok, so no one really wants to think about politics right now. Well then, think of Halloween as a teaching tool, and each year of trick-or-treating is an educational experience all its own.
One Halloween from my past stands out. Back then, costumes were plastic suits that had to be eased into or they might rip and then would need to be repaired with duct tape. Store-bought costumes came with plastic masks that had one big rubber band and two staples. My brother would come up behind me and snap that rubber band so hard that I thought my eyeballs were going to shoot out of my head. I could never see out of the mask because the eye holes were little slits conveniently located near my ears. I got so sweaty from trick-or-treating that the plastic would act as a giant piece of Saran Wrap. When I took off my costume it was like peeling the lid off of a warm pot-roast as condensation dripped off of the inside of my costume. It was like a sweat lodge for the grammar school set.
The year I turned seven I dressed-up as Wonder Woman. The poly- vinyl over two layers of clothing made me look like a lumpy Linda Carter after a botched liposuction. I was one of six Wonder Women in my neighborhood. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I really was the best one, since only I had the tiara, the bullet-proof bracelets, and the magic lasso of truth--all made out of aluminum foil (see, Halloween teaches us how to accessorize).
My sister used to eat all her candy at once. I used to code mine into two groups, the high end goodies (chocolate) and the lower end stuff (tootsie rolls, suckers, dots, gum, and any type of taffy product), then I could ration out my horde throughout the year and never be without sugar (saving for retirement).
At one point, there was an after-school special that warned against eating anything homemade or items not individually packaged. The hospital in my community started giving free x-rays for candy on Halloween night. The line to get candy inspected was lengthy, I was so hungry that I ate two Almond Joys, a Snicker’s bar, and a York Peppermint patty before my candy got the green light for consumption. It turns out; the only thing in my candy was nougat but as a bonus I got to have my stomach pumped (learning about healthcare).
If you are still not convinced that Halloween is educational, just remember, some of the most important life lessons can be learned from trick-or-treating. For example: Beggars cannot be choosers (you wanted Chick-O-Sticks but got Sixlets, bummer). Your parents are not above stealing from you (where do you think the expression “taking candy from a baby” came from?). You can never be too rich, or too thin, or have too much candy (unless it is those orange circus peanuts, no one wants those). You can become anything you want (as long as the total cost does not exceed $10, does not require actual sewing, is not flammable, or does not have some form of mechanical apparatus—swords and battle axes are ok). And finally, there is a return on investment (time spent running from house to house + size of treat bag = one fun evening).