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.” http://www.exposingsatanism.org/halloween.htm
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.