Halloween Editorial

by Green Deane

in Blog

Halloween today is the most debatable of non-holiday holidays. With a past that perhaps goes back to Roman times it became in the Christian era All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, November first. All Hallows Eve was traditionally a time to remember those who had passed, a Memorial Day if you will, a remembrance and a time for contemplation. It also explains how the deceased theme became associated with Halloween.

I would not know this save for the fact some 39 years ago I was a foreign exchange student to Whitelands College (photo to right) which was then part of the University of London. Whitelands College, now luxury apartments, had 14 female students to every male student and took All Saints Day quite seriously along with St. Ursula’s Day. Saint Ursula is the controversial patron saint of virgins. One can understand why no one hears of St. Ursula any more.

Regardless of why Halloween exists it is not going to disappear anytime soon. More money is made by retailers during Halloween than any other “holiday” of the year far eclipsing even Christmas. All those candy sales add up. Sugar is profit. More so Halloween has changed since even my college days.

Many years ago I worked as a writer for a national television network based on the Universal Studios lot in Orlando. Several large sound stages were in a row on each side of a road, independent buildings. However, the road between them was covered by a huge canopy stretching from building to building, in effect keeping the road between the buildings out of the rain and sun. It was here parades parked during bad weather or between shows. Indeed, every day during the fall season this is where the Halloween Parade floats could be found. You could walk past all the floats, eight to a dozen, all protected from the weather. It was here I noticed how Halloween had changed.

We all know the traditional fare of Halloween: Jack O’Lanterns, witches, cauldrons, goblins, ghosts, black cats, bats and skeletons. They evoke unseen forces and the spectra of the unknown, at one time very real concerns since nearly everyone once believed in witches. Folks lived much closer to death then than they do now. The mortality rate was high, families handled their own funerals, burial was local and many people had rituals over buried loved ones. The Greeks actually dug the deceased a year after burial to look at the bones and sooth the spiritual state of affairs. Skeletons were part of remembrance. And indeed in that Halloween Parade the traditional trappings of Halloween could be seen on one float. It was that which caught my attention, the traditional trappings.

Of all the floats in the Halloween Parade every year only one had the traditional elements of Halloween, and it was also always the most sedate of the floats. The rest of the floats were about psychological horror and blood. The rest of the floats were not about images of the past but of the present: murders, killers, torture, razor fingers and chainsaw dismemberment. The difference in the floats were stark and chilling. The past was about human fears whereas the present was about fictional horrors and the products of the dark side of our creativity. Halloween has moved from some very human concerns to some very twisted displays.

Six weeks before Halloween the local Interstate billboards go up advertising the “holiday.” It’s a disgusting offensive onslaught every year and some people have tried to get it changed. Jack O’Lanterns, skeletons and ghosts are far too tame for these ads that you cannot avoid. The roadside billboards drip with blood, scream horror and glorify dismemberment. They are offensive, sick perversions under the guise of advertising, free speech and entertainment. How did Halloween manage to sink into the social sewer like that?

Pugnacious

Gone is the holiday of my youth, a bit of fun and a simple costume out in the neighborhood collecting candy. Now the candy should be X-rayed and every child accompanied to every door. I can’t remember the last time a little witch has said “trick or treat” upon the opening of my door on Halloween. I see garish costumes from movies I most certainly wouldn’t want to see now ….even when I was a sprout.

 

 

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Billy McCann October 26, 2011 at 21:10

This is the second article I’ve read that evokes fond memories of my childhood. My costumes were always homemade by Mom, usually a hobo cause it was super cheap, and all the good homemade treats we used to get from the neighbors. The word quickly got around to where the candied apples were, popcorn balls, etc., and never even heard of x-raying our stuff. Thanks Deane

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2 Scott Baso October 31, 2011 at 10:52

The real shame is kids these days will never experience the innocence that once was. How can values of public decency ever come back against an apathetic public?

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3 Tracy Pike October 9, 2012 at 02:01

I have tried to continue the traditional Halloween that I remember from my childhood. I live in rural eastern Texas. At one time, it was okay to Trick-or-Treat in & around our small town. But then all the horror stories about razor blades & pins in candy & fruit started scaring people. A lot of the churches started frowning upon any celebration of the holiday. The school carnivals shut down, the local haunted house closed up & was sold & moved. A few of the churches have poor excuses for harvest/fall carnivals now. The once popular hayrides were deemed unsafe by the community & rarely occur now. There has been a few attempts at having a Trunk-or-Treat on the courthouse square, with individuals & businesses giving candy out of the back of vehicles parked around the square & at participating businesses. But they’re all poor excuses for the traditional Halloweens of olden days.
I’ve kept the tradition alive on my farm-to-market road, just outside of the city limits. I spend several weeks decorating the long narrow porch of our small ranch home, as well as the front yard, the island in the middle of our tree-covered circle drive, all the way down our winding driveway to the farm market road, about 300 feet away from our house. From an ever-changing collection of masks, costumes, garlands, strings of lights, Halloween decorations & other bits of odds & ends, I produce floating ghosts, flying witches, lighted pumpkins. creatures of varying types, glowing lights & a myriad of other Halloweenish things for little ones to marvel at without being too scared. My decorations are never gory or bloody or fiendish. Then tend to stimulate the imagination of the children…and a few adults, as well…ha! I have sound effect playing throughout the day & evening. I prepare home-baked cupcakes & cookies with the holiday theme to give away along with traditional candy treats. In the last few years, I’ve added a traditional Irish Halloween meal to the holiday, usually consisting of a dish of Colcannon & Barmbrack. While waiting for the usually few trick-or-treaters to show up, I try to watch some favorite Halloween-themed TV shows & movies. Anyone passing by our home on Halloween night can easily tell that we do celebrate the holiday in style. You can see the lighted house from some distance, hues of purple, green, & orange abound. At one time, we would have 30-60 children & adults come by on Halloween in our rural area. These days, we’re lucky if close to 10 people show up. Is it worth doing? Yes, it is. I’ve been able to pass the tradition down to my nieces & nephews so that they all enjoy celebrating the holiday in their own homes now. I intend to keep my Halloween traditions going as long as I can still enjoy it all. And if I ever do stop, I’ll just pass my decorations along to my nieces & nephews & let them continue to celebrate Halloween in their own way.

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4 Dawn October 16, 2012 at 11:10

Our neighborhood still has trick or treat,have been doing it since my teens were little & we never x-ray or inspect the candy.Our church has trunk or treat so we attend that too.

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5 Dawn October 16, 2012 at 11:30

That was my test e-mail to make sure it would go through before I wrote a bunch.Anyway,every year we joke that we must reach our goal of obtaining 1000 pieces of candy & we always succeed (with four kids trick or treating for 2 hours,it adds up.)They use pillowcases to collect. I ride my bike around with lighted up horns or something & exchange the bags when too full. Our neighbors use a golf cart with lights & another a John Deere tractor with a trailer. Indiana has different hours (that’s one thing I don’t like too much,the restriction on trick or treat times,though I guess it would be annoying to have kids coming to one’s door indefinitely.
Being 45,Halloween has changed,however,I suppose I’ve become inured to the change & hadn’t really thought about it til you described this. My sons are gentle folks but do love gore & pumkpins equally. They seem to be fascinated by discussing decapitations,skeletons,blood,monsters,fierce animals,superheroes etc.the & of course,being young boys-gross topics like vomit & such..The current spook du jour is “The Slenderman”,an online game where one navigates thru a terrible,dark forest being cautious not to stray from the path & have the towering,lanky,impossibly long-limbed SLENDERMAN JUMP AT YOU!!! AHH!!!!!
I have a daughter too,she gets “creeped out” more easily.

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6 Dawn October 16, 2012 at 11:37

Lastly,I forgot to add,that my kids are aware of razors & other dangers,we don’t live in Mayberry. I do discuss & discuss some more about pedophiles & bad things people can do who look like normal people etc. I just don’t sweat about it..Surprised some communities ban so much-ours have hayrides everywhere & fall festivals. Legend of the headless horseman story(Legend of Sleepy Hallow) at parks complete with a headless rider coming out at the end….I do sometimes see the nod to over political correctness rearing it’s ugly head ,but not to extremes (yet)

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7 Denise October 16, 2012 at 12:45

Tracy, your note just made a decision for me: whether to just donate old decor, or stash and save for a future grand-niece or nephew. Keep on doing what you are doing. YOU may be setting into play a fun memory of childhood for your younger family members, just as yours and mine did…who may meet others along the way who had someone in their family like you who held this holiday in the same fashion..they could decide it’s actually time to resurrect a more soulful side of Hallowe’en…*sigh*… and that the sicko/depraved/truly evil gross gore crap is antiquated and “passe”, and just not cool anymore . Ah, well- I can hope!

Deane, I TOTALLY agree with you. Recently saw a “Halloween Haunts” show which highlighted the country’s top attractions-places which include ridiculously graphic scenes of dismemberment, sawing, desperate women screaming on a table in the faces of the visitors-which includes small children-as they are cut in half, etc. etc. It also showed a scene where a 5-6 year old child is saying to his parents in hushed, but total trembling terror, “I wanna get out of here” while his siblings cowered around their parents’ legs…and the parents laughed.

WHAT the hell makes #1: a parent think it’s OKAY to subject a child into this, and #2: an establishment think it’s OK to allow a parent to knowingly subject children to displays of extreme sickness and violence?

The “what the hell” is US. WE, people, the boomers, LET this happen. We made this “OK” by letting a level of dignity escape the society, and I hate to say it y’all, but it happened in the late 70s and 80’s when life in America shifted into the mindset of “me-me-me”. Politics began to reflect something in our souls, and what we see now, decades later, is the REAL “trickle-down” effect.

On the far left, we wanted no one to tell us what to do…we wanted it all given to us free somehow (which was STUPID…what actually paid for what we sucked up in our daily existence, from food to free health care? It was either mommy and daddy’s money via college expenses or inheritances, or more likely taxes, whether state, federal, or local, paid by people who chose to WORK for a living, and not be “given” things). And on the far right, we said we wanted “less governent control”, and wanted no restrictions on what we did in our business activities, since profits were being used for, oh…decent building codes…environmental safety restrictions, banking regulations, etc. So, THAT, too, was stupid-what good is a broken body from a fallen down house or crappy food and no health care if it can’t work and help contribute to the upkeep of the society as a whole that your BUSINESS should have been paying for to begin with? Either way, both views ended up in the same result: we allowed the truly selfish side of ourselves to rule, and we made excuses for it. We “de-regulated” ourselves.

This included decency codes. We either wanted to reduce, or block entirely, existing decency codes because we said we wanted “less government intrusion” (meaning we could sell more stuff that was filthy and not have to restrict its sales , even though we KNEW we’d be selling to those who shouldn’t be watching or listening to that crap. Then, we’d make sure to attend church on Sunday, and nod as the pastor preached on selfishness being a sin) or, we wanted the codes to be eliminated because we wanted to “be freeee! Let it all hang out! Speak our miiiinds!!” and not be held responsible for being self-centered jerks with a refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of our own actions-or rather, IN-actions (so sorry, old boomer friends- if you buy drugs, you buy the evils of the business behind its supply….and that is another rant altogether).

Whether religious, or pagan, people: we have allowed OUR sense of decency to die.

My folks let me get the ” Famous Monsters” magazine when I was a kid in the 60’s. One editorial, written by a Jewish mom, impacted my 10 year-old mind for life: she talked about how her friends couldn’t understand why she’d let her kid read that “trash” with those awful pictures of monsters. She said her reply to them was: “I would rather my child first learn of evil and horror in a controlled way, from the stories depicted on screen of old monsters and demons, than from the photos of the horror of what our family endured at the hands of real monsters at Auschwitz. They will see those concentration camp photos one day. And when that happens, they will at least have had a small grasp of what evil and horror is like to help buffer their souls and psyches, so that they can then be able to deal with the horror of what we CAN do to each other if we are left unchecked.”

So, when we can ALL look into the face of that terrorized child seen on TV, being allowed to observe true horror, cruelty, and sadism in a graphic splattered-on-your-face form, while adults not only brought them there, but participated in the event…and got paid for it…when we can realize what part in the chain of events WE have played in true filth like that being allowed to be called “entertainment”…when we can see that is has become US who are the mutated Frankenstein monsters, the one-sighted Cyclops, and the life-sucking, selfish “I don’t care who it hurts in the long run just as long as I can get what I want right NOW” vampires , then maybe we can shift forward into a better way. It really is up to us.

So, here’s my choice: I, this life-long moderate Democrat, ex-Catholic/now pagan, mid-fifties child of Florida Crackers and central Europeans (man, talk about ghost stories…), continue to choose for Hallowe’en the pumpkins, the ghosts, etc.,and along with the slightly spooky fun, I also choose to celebrate the harvest time as all our ancestors did in some form or another, which includes saying prayer for those who’ve crossed to the other side…and asking for their help and guidance here. I will still put out an old faded plastic cheesy orange pumpkin on the fencepost , and hang a couple of decorative bats off the trees, and put a ribboned broom on the door. I want to explain the why behind the existence of a Dracula character, or the why behind a Cyclops, a Frankenstein monster, etc. in literature and history to a child as stories of the past-and wish I did not have to explain the versions of their existence now. I wish I did not have to speak out about protecting the children of the future-and the child that still lives inside everyone else- from the very real versions of each of those monsters of today, but I will, and I won’t stop.

I am ashamed that we have allowed the 21st-century versions of these monsters to exist. But: if we created them, we can re-create them into a better form…can’t we? It’d be better to be proud than ashamed. Good things come in moderation-from both sides of the political spectrum, and from all good sides of religions and spirituality. We cannot eliminate evil…but we sure can restrict it. We just have to decide that we are worth it. We have to decide that we, and our kids, and all that affects us and the planet, are worth “regulating”. We may never completely meet in our perceptions, but there is always a middle ground. It’s up to us.

May you all have a truly happy and fun Hallowe’en :) Bless you all!

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8 Green Deane October 16, 2012 at 15:51

The horrors of life are difficult enough without amplifying them via calculated fiction.

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9 Keith October 17, 2012 at 01:43

Yes but modern formulas are playing on modern fears. I like the article and think there is soooo much truth to it. But witches are not necessarily any more real than a guy who kills someone with a chainsaw. Obviously our culture is out of control with all the violence, perhaps someone should be producing drones costumes and his buddies could dress dismembered justifiably. Mechanical death is more scary these days to people than witches. Witches have actually been glorified of recent. Again your premise is spot on. Easy to place the blame, tv, media, video games. Add to that a culture constantly at war and it takes us a lot to get scared because many are in a constant state of fear that more often manifests as cancer than anything else.

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10 Green Deane October 17, 2012 at 06:11

Hmmmm… interesting premise but then in the past the images of Halloween should have been of swords and knifes and arrows as they were the mechanical means of death. No doubt what happened is the gory movies were made and in searching around for more way to make money off them the studio came up with “gorifying” them on Halloween.

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11 charles November 5, 2012 at 12:20

Love your articles Deane!
Question: When’s the worst time to cross paths with a black cat?
Answer : If your a mouse.

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