Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloweeniness 2010

(News-Herald, October 28) It seems as if Halloween is another holiday that has somehow lost its way.
It’s not that it has a clear and strong tradition. The holiday itself is most likely a left-over from a Celtic holiday that honored the end of the harvest season, a time when the barrier between this world and the spirit world was a little more porous than usual.
Trick or treating seems older. There was the Christmas wassailing of the middle ages which involved going door to door trading song for food. And there was also souling, in which poor people would go door to door on November 1st, offering to pray for the dead.
Jack O’ Lantern comes from an Irish folk tale that appears in many versions. In most a trickster named Jack manages to trap the devil and will only release him if he promises never to take Jack’s soul. When Jack eventually dies, he’s too wicked for heaven, but can’t go to hell, and so must wander eternally looking for a resting place. The devil gives him an undying ember to light his way, which Jack carries in a hollowed-out turnip. Yes, I know—turnips seem to lack a certain something, but they were apparently the Jack O’Lantern vegetable of choice for some time.
Keene, NH, where my mother went to college, for many years held the record for most pumpkins carved and lit. It was also the place with the lowest automobile accident rate in the US. I’m unaware of any connection between those two factors.
Trick or treating seems to have first really caught on in the US in the 1930’s. This sort of tricky extortion seems in tune with the general spirit of the holiday, though many modern practitioners don’t appear to have their hearts in the game. I don’t need to have every costumed child, pre-child or eternal child threaten me, but simply stumping up to my porch and extending a demanding hand seems lazy. Particularly if the applicant for sugary goodness is dressed in the costume of “The Way I Dress Pretty Much Every Afternoon.”
Not that I need to see every kind of costume available. I am not sure when Halloween became a Celebration of Sluttiness, but the Halloween store at the mall has a section of apparel that puts Fredericks of Hollywood to shame. These are costumes that a stripper would be embarrassed to go out in. It’s as if the fairly clear Halloween costume standard of “things that would scare children” has been broadened to “things children should not see.”
That said, I apparently also missed the point at which Halloween graduated from teen mischief night to another excuse for underage partying and drinking. But many of my students have informed me that they expect many classmates to be absent on November 1st after having stayed up all night drinking. Just like last year. When they were all in eighth grade.
Whatever happened to those carefree golden days when young people were content to simply vandalize private property. I assume that the egg-flinging adventures in Franklin Heights are simply the local version of a universal pastime. I don’t know where Oil City teens go to fling eggs at each other, neighborhood homes, and vehicles, but I assume such a place exists.
I’ve never been able to imagine what familial advice accompanies these outings. I can’t believe that any parents are so cluelessly unaware of what Junior is up to when he heads out the door carrying four dozen eggs. So what do they say as parting advice? “Remember, don’t vandalize the homes of people we like”? “Be sure to keep that ski mask on so you can’t be identified”? “Keep an eye out for the Man, and remember, Junior, always Fight the Power”?
But yikes! A quick google search of Halloween egg throwing turns up many scary tales. Turns out that in New York City, about one person per year is killed in Halloween egg throwing related violence. And medical authorities warn that an egg in the face can, and periodically does, result in eye injuries or even blindness. I thought egging qualified as god clean fun.
But evidently egg throwing on Halloween is a bad idea, and both I and the News-Derrick legal department want to be clear that this column in no way advocates such behavior. It’s a danger to cars and homes, not to mention all those poor women in their half-naked slut costumes.

1 comment:

{lizzythebotanist} said...

weird, i don't remember any egg throwing in my FHS days...but i was hit with an egg while out running at 2 am in my college days. i thought i'd been shot and dropped to the ground. it actually bled and left a bruise. stop the egging!!!

From my Flickr