Happy Halloween - a day where we hand out candy to kids wearing costumes of fantastic creatures that have become increasingly mundane.
Sadly, it has reached the point where the only thing that separates Oct. 31 from the other 364 days of the year is the extra calories.
At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, Halloween has changed in the last 20 years and not for the better.
Unfortunately, Halloween has followed in the footprints of Christmas, a one-day celebration of goodwill toward of one's fellow man (and woman) that has devolved into a twomonth orgy of consumer spending and conspicuous consumption with a minor religious component served up on the side.
As a young lad, Halloween was a magical time, a once a year festival where our imaginations ran wild. We would carefully plan our candy collection route with the goal of hitting as many houses as possible in our two-hour window of opportunity with the express goal of maximizing our sugar haul.
Costumes were selected with this task in mind. The temperatures were usually cold, which meant warmth had to be taken into account, but we also needed extra pockets for storage, plus freedom in the leg area to ensure we could maintain a brisk pace.
I remember one year my cousin thought he had hit the motherlode when he modified a moving box as his costume. It was great; he didn't even need to carry a candy bag - he just told the homeowners to toss the treats into his costume.
The only flaw in his grand design is he forgot to seal off the leg holes, effectively turning his costume into a candy-dispensing device that scattered sugar bombs across the streets and lawns of the neighbourhood.
He only discovered the error of his ways at the end of the evening when he opened his costume and was dismayed to find he had far fewer treats than the rest of us.
Such tales are no longer a reality as fewer and fewer kids bother to go door to door any more. Instead, parents prefer to drop off their little goblins off at shopping malls for cheesy horror-themed, sugarfuelled consumer festivals. The demise of trick or treating is only part of the decline of Halloween into irrelevancy. Candy sales now begin in September, a time of the year when most of us are still hoping to milk a couple of extra weeks out the summer and not even thinking about what will be happening at the end of October.
The best deals on candy are in that month as well, with sweet sales on sweets that grow progressively sour the closer we get to the actual day designated for treat consumption. Who buys their Halloween candy in September? The prices are slashed then because the stores know anybody buying their sugary confections that far in advance will consume the chocolate goodies before the Thanksgiving weekend. Those shoppers then become repeat customers as they return to the stores for second and third rounds of candy shopping before the end of October.
As discouraged as you are with your lack of self control for indulging in pre-Halloween sugar binges, further disappointment awaits when you open the packages and behold what passes for "fun sized" chocolate bars. Primitive South American cultures have their shrunken heads, modern North Americans have shrunken chocolate bars. Restaurants hand out bigger mints after meals than what passes for a Halloween chocolate bar these days.
Even the costumes have lost their buzz. Strange clothing and eerie makeup is no longer a once-a-year exercise for trick-or-treaters and adult partygoers. Increasing numbers of the population have turned such activities into year-round normalcy.
Creepy makeup with a vampire motif? That's just a day in the life for those among us who are inspired to adopt the goth look and lifestyle.
Spooky spiders and webdraped doorways? Those items can now be found tattooed on the neck of your daughter's new boyfriend.
Vampires, werewolves, zombies, aliens - all plenty scary at one time, but these themes have become so watered down that we can watch television shows dedicated to these subjects throughout the year.
When I was a kid, Halloween was right up there with Christmas and Easter on the holiday charts. As I grew older, Christmas still topped the list, Easter morphed into a feast day and my favourite fall day was no longer Halloween, but the day when clocks turn back an hour and I could get some extra sleep.
Even with all the changes wrought to Halloween activities, however, there is still one component of horror attached to Oct. 31. On Nov. 1 the prices on all the remaining holiday candy are slashed as retailers rush to make way for the giant cash cow that is marching through the front doors. Halloween heralds the end of autumn and the onset of Christmas season, complete with fake smiles and lousy music and garish decorations and funny tasting milk and obnoxious advertising and peer pressure consumerism and zombie shoppers and...
Scary stuff indeed.
Michael Booth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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