Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Nightmare Before Halloween

Halloween has not only become a big business but apparently part of the American "tradition," to read this article on a Connecticut school district that has decided to ban all Halloween activities this year.  Parents are pushing back, demanding that the unofficial holiday remain in place, feeling strongly that it is a vital part of American life.  The school district has chosen to opt for a fall harvest theme instead, which is amusing since this is historically what Halloween celebrated.

Over the years, Halloween has come to be the second biggest "cash cow," or should I say pumpkin, behind Christmas.  We're talking billions each year, on everything from pumpkins to costumes to make-up to all those candied treats.  It has become indelibly ingrained in our consciousness with such television and film movies as It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to The Nightmare Before Christmas, not to mention all the Halloween horror stories that are meant to scare us out of our seats.  Stores feed off this holiday, seguing into the Christmas season.

There was also anxiety expressed that there wouldn't be enough canned pump filling to go around this year.  It seems few persons know how to bake a pumpkin pie from scratch.  Something I learned in Lithuania, as there is no canned pumpkin filling.

The sky is the limit when it comes to some of these costumes.  Others really make you wonder.  Parties become ever more elaborate, as do parades.  Key West, Florida, has turned it into a Fantasy Fest.  Many towns celebrate Halloween to one extent or another, as did Milford, Connecticut, with a Halloween Parade before the school district decided to ban it.  Of course, this doesn't mean kids can't go out trick-or-treating, just not on school time.

The Milford School District felt the holiday puts too much stress on kids, competing with other traditions, particularly among Catholics who see this time not as one of reverie but of revering the dead on All Saints and All Souls Days.  Halloween, or Samhain, used to be part of this celebration at the end of the ancient Celtic calendar, but was cut because of its overtly pagan symbolism when Ireland became Catholic.  These days, the holiday is mostly commercial-oriented with costumes more and more representing pop culture than traditional Halloween characters.

I remember reading Pat Conroy's The Water is Wide, in which he got very upset when the parents of the small South Carolina coastal town he taught at refused to let him celebrate Halloween with the kids.  This was not part of the local tradition and the "nasty headmaster" put her foot down, sending a young Pat Conroy into a temper tantrum, marring what was otherwise a good book.

Halloween isn't for everyone.  It's original meaning has been lost over time.  Best to celebrate it with family and friends.  However, I imagine we will see Fox News jump all over this story as they have the demise of Christmas, condemning our "politically correct" society.  Whoops, here is Bill and friends "debating" a similar school ban back in 2012.  The horror of it all!

1 comment:

  1. Happy Halloween!

    I'm listening to a re-broadcast of Orson Welles' "War of the World" - earlier I listened to the 1971 version by WKBW (Buffalo, NY) which was actually a better presentation.