The whole point of Halloween is to get away with things you can’t normally do on any of the other 364 days of the year.
On the last day of October, you get to dress up and come to school in clothes that on any other day might get you sent home. Ten-year-old female students can come to school in fishnet stockings, mini skirts, and heels all in the name of a Halloween rock star costume. Adults, whether they are bank tellers or teachers, go to work and get paid for doing their job dressed in pajamas and slippers, pigtails, and a pacifier—all in the name of the Halloween spirit.
And then there’s the night-time ritual of “trick-or-treating,” which is just a euphemism for “demanding candy.” On no other night will my doorbell be rung incessantly. And on no other night will I be expected to give away sugar-filled, cavity-causing treats. We still go around asking for candy. Candy, when we talk of childhood obesity, middle-age obesity, any-age obesity. And we don’t stop when we get a few pieces.
And yes, I meant “we.” Children can’t trick-or-treat without adult supervision. And an adult in a costume, any costume, including their tennis outfit or an apron and oven mitt, wants candy also. We’re not satisfied until our bag, and not a Ziploc Snack Size bag, but a large tote bag, is full. Of candy. And if a house should be visited that strays from the norm of candy and attempts to give out a healthier alternative, such as a box of raisins or mini-granola bars, that house is branded, and word is spread on the street that that house doesn’t give out anything “good.”
No other holiday so elaborately celebrates a vegetable. September is over, apples are forgotten, and suddenly it’s October and pumpkins appear in market bins and at once-vacant street corners; its round orange image emblazoned across t-shirts, boxer shorts, and socks.
For a short time, “pumpkin” rises in ranks and becomes an essential cooking ingredient. Pumpkin cookies, pancakes, coffee, soup, and ice cream not only appear on menus but on our plates. These pumpkin dishes are savored and enjoyed. And yet we enjoy them for one month, maybe two, if you stretch it into Thanksgiving.
And eating pumpkin isn’t enough. People want to carve this squash-like vegetable. After cutting the top off and removing the gooey, stringy tangle of seeds, a face is carved into the pumpkin, transforming it into a jack-o-lantern. And from then on, it’s just a matter of time until your once complete vegetable is a moldy, soggy, smelly, hollowed-out mess with a crooked grin.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for fun, and make-believe, and chocolate. But really, on what other day of the year, will it be considered cute for a group of children to stand outside a neighbor’s home and chant:
“Trick or treat, smell my feet.
Give me something good to eat.
If you don’t, I don’t care,
I’ll pull down your underwear.”