Jewell: Why Halloween?
Updated Nov 2, 2015 at 10:11 PM
We might have topped out at a dozen this year. I’m fine with that.
Halloween is the most curious holiday our country celebrates. We have turned it into a decorating frenzy while concern for children’s safety has decimated the number of trick-or-treaters who actually go door to door.
The ghoulish celebration has gone amuck, especially considering what little, if any connection it has to its origin. Wikepedia cites the holiday having its roots in pagan rituals, leading to Celtic harvest festivals, leading to a Christianized feast incorporating “Allhalloween,” which was dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the “faithful departed.”
I didn’t see much remembrance of anything this year or in year’s past. Halloween, like Valentine’s Day and several other holidays we have evolved from some pretty serious stuff into party time and a paradise for specialty marketing, only this one is specifically for children (although there were some adult children I noticed running around as well).
For a couple of weeks, our neighborhood changed from middle-class comfort into a bizarre location for fake graves, blow-up pumpkins, ghouls hanging from eaves, with that gross white stringy stuff that looks more like faulty insulation than spider webs. This haunted makeup, complete with orange Christmas lighting comes with no small cost.
Not all of this is bad. Each Halloween, Maureen goes out and buys a bag of candy. She is careful to estimate the amount of ghostly specters that will haunt our door. Accordingly, the number and size of the candy bags have diminished over the years. Yet we always have candy left over. Each year on the morning after, Maureen collects the excess and gives it to her former place of work. But being somewhat clever, I get up earlier than her, go through the remaining candy, pull out the “Three Musketeers” bars and the “Reese Peanut Butter Cups” and stash them for later appreciation of all spooks.
Honestly, I don’t remember much about my Halloweens in Lebanon. I know the decorations were mostly limited to carved pumpkins. I guess there was some elaborate costumes and suspect I went as a masked cowboy, but later simply put on one of those “Lone Ranger” eye masks and wore whatever I had on that day.
There were some tricks having no bearing on the amount or quality of “treats.” Several were legend among the young boys. It would be inappropriate to describe the lone trick in which I was involved.
The “trick” part of Halloween was celebrated in Lebanon by male youth for at least one earlier generation. My father told me about how he and a number of other high school boys, including H.M. Byars, went out to the Bostick farm on the corner of Hickory Ridge Road and Blair Lane late one night prior to Halloween. The teenagers succeeded in making it to the pumpkin patch and each grabbing a couple of pumpkins. They then scattered to the nearby woods to munch on their claimed goodies while the pumpkin patch lay in shambles. When they settled down to enjoy their orange prizes, they discovered all of the pilfered pumpkins were still green.
About five years later, my uncle Bill Prichard and his bunch of buddies decided to make Halloween a scary proposition for Mr. Bostick once again. On Halloween night, the Lebanon High School boys headed out to the farm. This escapade was even less successful than my father’s. They decided to set several haystacks on fire. They accomplished their goal but someone snitched and the law caught them red-handed (or orange). I was not told what punishment for this Halloween prank was meted out, but I’m sure it was significant.
In writing this, I realized I have attained curmudgeon status. I’m not “Bah Humbug” for Christmas, but I am at least approaching that with Halloween. Then I remember Halloween 2011. It was the only Halloween we have spent in Austin with our daughters, son-in-law, and our grandson Sam. Blythe dressed four-year old Sam as a vampire, a fabulous job. We went to the day care celebration, and I tagged along for trick or treating. It was the best Halloween I’ve ever experienced.
So forget my negativity. I’m all for Halloween.
Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is [email protected].