Sarey's Scarey '06 Halloween Album ...
and Tracey and JJ, too

Happy Halloween, kids! With all three of you out of the house, a Halloween website this year seemed—well, just like water-boarding to Dick Cheney—a no-brainer. Here are some photos of Mommy and Daddy celebrating Halloween in Charlotte without you and with some other people’s children, who are less expensive than you are anyway. And here are some paternal reflections, in lieu of sweets, to guide your footsteps as you travel through the nooks and crannies of life on this scary night.

They say my verse is sad, no wonder,
Its narrow measure spans
Tears of eternity and sorrow,
Not mine, but man’s.

Beware. Spooks and goblins are out to get you on this nite. And, as some of us seem to be too well aware, it’s all the work of the devil!

There’s much to learn from anti-Halloween enthusiasm. The other morning on "The View," which your mother makes me watch to atone for past sins, some otherwise forgettable guest hostess revealed that she did not let her children go trick or treating because Halloween celebrates the devil. It was left to Rosie O’Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg to set her and the rest of us straight, which, of course, they didn’t entirely do.

First of all, they were way too patient. The proper way of handling the situation I believe, would have been to scream into the hostess’s face: “You blithering idiot, shut up! You have no idea what you’re talking about.” The worst that can be said of Halloween it is that it derives from an ancient, ritualistic commemoration of the dead. And calling it a celebration is like saying Pearl Harbor Day celebrates Japanese military prowess.

Halloween is more like a very old tradition grounded in long-forgotten superstition. And, of course, thirst. If you’ve been paying attention to this site over the years, you already know that it was invented by the Irish. Natch. Here’s some more nuanced detail.

It began over 2000 yrs ago with people known as the Celtics. They lived in what is today England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This was also the beginning of the Celtic new year, a time to give thanks to the sun god for the harvest.

Halloween, All saints day, All hallows eve or All souls day is a festival. It was held to honor the Samhain the so called "lord of death". It was a Druidical belief that on the eve of this festival Samhain, lord of death, called together the wicked spirits that within the past 12 months had been condemned to inhabit the bodies of animals.

It was a pagan belief that on one night of the year the souls of the dead return to their original homes, there to be entertained with food. If food and shelter were not provided, these evil spirits would cast spells and cause havoc toward those failing to fulfill their requests.

Sacrifices were offered on this night to the dead spirits because it was thought they visited their earthly dwellings and former friends.

There was a prevailing belief among all nations that at death the souls of the good men were taken possession of by good spirits and carried to paradise; but the souls of the wicked men were left to wonder in the space between the earth and the moon, or consigned to the unseen world. These wandering spirits were in the habit of haunting the living...But there were means by which ghosts might be exorcised.

To exorcise these ghosts, that is to free yourself from their evil sway, you would have to set out food and provide shelter for them during the night. If they were satisfied with your offerings, they would leave you in peace. If not, they were believed to cast an evil spell on you.

This version of the details, which seem pretty straightforward in excerpt and which I believe are fairly accurate, comes from a website, which your father didn’t do, entitled .”Exposing Satanism.”

Huh? The lady on "The View" was just dealing in ignorance, the way most of us go through our whole lives. But the devout soul that authored this website was basically in possession of all the facts. So how is it that he or she evidently couldn’t draw a correct conclusion even armed with a paint-by-numbers set?

[Tonight’s first lesson is this: Even the truth shall not necessarily set you free.]

But back to our story. As it happens, we as a people in time begin to make fun of our own superstitions. Kind of like what the Republicans are doing to themselves with this upcoming election.

Forgive me if I’ve told you this one before, but when I was little I had a goldfish, which eventually died, which made me very sad. I took it out to the woods behind our house in Towson and buried it in a little funeral ceremony that included lots of crying. I found the experience so satisfying that I proceeded to dig the fish back up and repeat the ceremony. It wasn’t as powerful as the first time, but I continued to do it several times before I left the fish in eternal peace and headed back to the house to see what was on tv.

I think it was Rosie who set the unremembered hostess straight. She said, it’s about candy. And I think that’s about right. Whatever their Celtic forebears were thinking about on Oct. 31 two thousand years ago doesn’t mean a whole lot to a bunch of tots with visions of milky ways and butterfingers in their sticky little heads and focused mainly on trying to keep their little eye holes centered over their little eyes.

[Tonight’s second lesson is: Try to maintain some historical perspective, which is why we study history in the first place (just in case none of your teachers remembered to mention this) before you chuckleheadedly deprive your children of one of life’s great thrills and make them hate you for the rest of your dreary existence. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to do that later on.]

At least, when I was a kid, Halloween was about candy. Now I’m not so sure. Like all things, even celebrations of the dead, Halloween continues to evolve. It’s more and more becoming an adult holiday again. More beer is sold in bars on Halloween than any other day of the year—except for St. Partick’s Day, what else?

Promo Magazine (a periodical aimed at the marketing trade) offers the following Halloween-related statistics.

• 41 million—potential trick-or-treaters in the five-to-14 year-old demographic (5.3 million in costume-crazy California alone) [See that JJ? California: Crazy: Right there in black and white.]
• $44.00—estimated average U.S. household expenditure for Halloween in 2002
• $7 billion—amount spent annually on Halloween in the U.S., making it the second-biggest consumer holiday of the year, behind Christmas
-69% — share of Halloween expenditures of mass merchandisers and discount department stores, meaning grocers take it in the shorts…again!
• $2 billion—amount spent annually on candy, making Halloween the largest candy selling occasion of the year, ahead of Easter (open wide and say “Ouch!”)
• #2—Halloween is the second-largest occasion for on-premise beer sales, behind St. Patrick's day. Now that's really scary!
• $586 million—amount spent annually on decorations, making Halloween the second-largest home decorating occasion, behind Christmas
• 831 million lbs.—total U.S. pumpkin production in 2001. Illinois was the biggest pumpkin producer, with 319 million lbs. grown.

[Tonight’s third lesson: Nothing is so sacred or so silly that some son of a bitch in marketing won’t figure out a way to make a buck off of it.]

When it comes to making money, to focusing in with laser-like intensity on how to separate you from your money before you even know what is happening, nobody, not even the mob, beats big business. From the birth of the Christ child to the death of a Pope, someone’s selling advertising into it. Really, what chance does some poor, anonymous stiff looking distractedly around for a new body have against a motivated MBA?

So go out and have fun tonight, all the while maintaining a healthy skepticism about devils, ghosts, goblins and all the people who are convinced that the former are out to devour the latter. Most of what people worry about is nonsense. And remember that the real devil is the guy trying to put his hand in your pocket. Oh, and while you’re out and about, keep a sharp weather eye out for drunk drivers. According to MADD, The Halloween three-day period is one of the deadliest holidays for alcohol-related traffic fatalities, more deadly than Memorial Day.

Last lesson. Words to live by.

Love, Dad

Last year's pictures
Town fears street party could become a monster mash
POSTED: 1:55 p.m. EDT, October 28, 2006
MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) -- To avoid the mayhem that previously marred a downtown Halloween party that attracts up to 100,000 people, leaders in Madison, Wisconsin, are imposing new restrictions and tighter controls this year.

Whether the changes are just the trick needed to make the Saturday night event a treat won't be clear until the witching hour, when the bars close and police want costumed revelers to leave. Officers have used pepper spray to disperse the crowd the past four years.

Playboy magazine cited the annual event when it named the University of Wisconsin-Madison the nation's top party school in April. But the celebration is taking on a different look this year, thanks to city and campus leaders who have tired of the violence.

Police had arrested 68 people as of early Saturday morning after the opening night of the celebration, significantly lower than the number of arrests following the party's start last year. Police spokesman Mike Hanson did not list the charges but said 13 of those arrested went to jail.

While the city has not officially sanctioned the event, it is for the first time selling tickets for access to State Street, a pedestrian-only avenue lined with bars, restaurants and shops. Police plan to block off streets to enforce the $5 admission fee.

City officials have lined up bands to play on two stages at either end of State Street. They gave the event a start and end time -- 7:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. -- and a name, "Freakfest on State Street."

Police hope to avoid riot gear, pepper spray
Organizers hope to put a damper on the rowdy behavior by controlling access to the party. They also hope ticket sales will help to recoup some of the police costs, which were estimated at $600,000 last year.

"Our hope is that we can get through this year without having to use pepper spray or have cops in riot gear," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. "I'll consider it to be a success if the event ends peacefully, and there are no serious injuries and property damage."

But the city is making no promises. A Web site it created with details about the event carries a disclaimer: "The City of Madison cannot and does not guarantee your safety at this event. You enter the event area at your own risk and are responsible for your own actions and safety."

Based on ticket sales in the weeks heading up to "Freakfest," the changes were not going over well with people looking to party. Just 8,500 of the 80,000 tickets printed had sold as of Thursday.

Most tickets will be sold Saturday, in the hours leading up to the event, said Tom Wangard, a UW-Madison sophomore.

Wangard and other students initially argued for changing the location of the party to a nearby street to avoid the city's interference. But after working with officials, Wangard now supports the event and said he expects it to be a success.

Rock throwing, car tipping
But he also said there is always a potential for mayhem.

In 2002, revelers threw rocks and bottles, breaking at least 12 windows and damaging police cars before officers broke out the tear gas.

In 2003, store windows were broken and at least two cars were tipped over. Then, in 2004, a small bonfire started. Police used pepper spray to break up the crowd and arrested 450 people.

Last year, 447 people were arrested. Police also used pepper spray to quell a crowd of about 2,000.

Police presence this year will be comparable with the past, with 225 officers on duty Friday night and more than 250 on duty Saturday, said Mike Hanson, a spokesman for Madison police.

Even though the bands will stop playing at 1:30 a.m., bars are allowed under state law to stay open until 2:30 a.m. And because daylight-saving time ends at 2 a.m., bar-goers will have an extra hour to imbibe.

The goal is to have State Street cleared and back to normal before the bars empty, said Joel Plant, the city's alcohol policy coordinator. In past years, revelers leaving bars added to the difficulty of dealing with the commotion started by others, he said.

"We're not going to force anything," Cieslewicz said. "As long as it's a peaceful, I don't care if I'm there until 5 in the morning." ----

A scary story: we spend £120m on Halloween

Sunday October 22, 2006
Amelia Hill, culture and society correspondent
The Observer

Critics attack the growing Americanisation of a ghoulish fun night while retailers prepare to make millions

Not so long ago Halloween was a simple night of homemade horror which included making witches' hats from egg boxes and scaring siblings by telling ghost stories.

It is now a multimillion-pound industry: Britons' spending on Halloween paraphernalia has risen from £12 million five years ago to an expected £120m this year.

In Britain, Halloween is the third most profitable event for retailers after Christmas and Easter; way ahead of Guy Fawkes Day and Valentine's Day. 'The seven days before 31 October, 2006, are expected to be the second busiest shopping week of the year,' said Michelle Harrison, director of market analysts the Henley Centre.