Are We Witnessing the Death of Trick-or-Treating?
Halloween is Saturday night, which means my inbox is chock-full of holiday-related emails. There’s the one from U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who apparently loves him some caps lock; his press release leads off with the following bit of autumn cheer in 24-point type:
SCHUMER REVEALS: HALLOWEEN MAKEUP ON STORE SHELVES COULD POSE SERIOUS DANGER TO CHILDREN; HALLOWEEN PRODUCTS FROM CHINA OFTEN CONTAIN HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS LIKE NICKEL & LEAD THAT ARE LEFT OFF OF INGREDIENTS BUT CAN MAKE KIDS VERY SICK; SENATOR URGES PARENTS TO BE WARY, NOT USE HALLOWEEN MAKEUP MADE IN CHINA; PUSHES FDA TO INVESTIGATE DANGEROUS INGREDIENTS OFTEN HIDDEN TO CONSUMERS.
Whew! I mean, God forbid that on one day out of the year, Jayden and Mason and Veronica rub a bit of rouge on their chubby little cheeks; as Schumer says (in lower-case, at least), according to the CDC, “no safe blood lead level in children has been identified.” My baby’s going to die from unregulated Chinese face paint! Hey, Chuck? Don’t you have anything better to do than scare kids and their parents about — oh, wait, I get it. Excellent troll! Best Halloween prank ever!
And oh, look here; it’s a story from CBS News about social media warnings that nefarious drug addicts are planning to give away Ecstasy tablets to little trick-or-treaters this year. There’s even a photo of cute Ecstasy tablets shaped like skulls and toys and Superman’s shield, and a warning from a police captain in Ohio that Ecstasy “causes you to grind your teeth and you hallucinate.” Mind you, the article also mentions that myth-debunking website Snopes.com says Ecstasy has been around (in fun shapes!) for years and that there’s no proof whatsoever that any of it has ever been distributed to trick-or-treaters. Snopes also mentions that the street value of the handful of drugs in the photo would be hundreds of dollars, making Ecstasy a dubious freebie giveaway for drug addicts, who are usually focused on how to attain more drugs and not on handing them for free to other people, but who’s listening to reason when THE FATE OF OUR CHILDREN IS AT STAKE?!?!
That explains the sign on the New Life Assembly of God church up the block from me, which is offering kids candy and hot chocolate and games inside on Halloween night, to forestall them from wandering the streets garbed in devil-worshipping outfits and munching down on apples laced with razor blades, which, mind you, according to Snopes has almost never happened in a way that wasn’t probably a hoax. Ditto for stories about crazed Halloween poisonings. But that won’t stop local hospitals from wasting time and resources x-raying your kid’s Halloween candy, if you have nothing better to do than stand in line there. The same goes for my local Y, which sponsors a Halloween “safe house,” which sounds like costumed toddlers and their parents need to be ushered into witness protection lest they be snatched off the blocks where they live.
I sound cynical and bitter, don’t I? I am. Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. It isn’t cluttered up with religious baggage. It doesn’t demand the gathering of far-flung-for-a-reason families from the ends of the earth, so they can sit together at table and bicker about the same damn things they’ve been bickering about forever. Decorating is voluntary, and can be minimal, though there’s always some yahoo putting giant inflatable jack-o’-lanterns and faux gravestones bearing horrible puns in his front yard. Wiccans may mourn the desecration of what is for them a solemn day of reckoning, but there aren’t enough Wiccans to raise much ruckus. Far more troublesome are everyday Christians who see devil-worshiping behind every glow-in-the-dark skeleton and have fought to have the time-honored Halloween parade, not to mention Halloween parties, banned from schools. Pooh on them.
When I was a kid, we took our UNICEF boxes and empty pillowcases out at nightfall, roamed the mean streets of Glenside, and didn’t come home until our pillowcases were crammed full of candy, our sneakered feet were aching, and we were thisclose to vomiting. When my kids were kids, they did the same thing. In our small town, I regularly buy 200 Kit Kat bars or bags of M&Ms to hand out, and get rid of them all. Some of the trick-or-treaters are so young they’re still being breast-fed, and definitely aren’t going to be able to suck down a Kit Kat. So what? Some are so old they have drivers’ licenses. So what again? People today complain that their neighborhoods aren’t close and homey like in the old days. Then they turn out their porch lights on Halloween and cower behind locked doors, terrified that children in Princess Elsa outfits will surge into their homes, rob them, and slit their throats. Do you know why we behave this way? Because idiots like Chuck Schumer are scaring us all the freaking time.
This saddens me. It also, somehow, makes me more sanguine about the news that a massive asteroid the size of a football stadium is scheduled for a fly-by of Earth on the afternoon of October 31st. It will come within 310,000 miles of our planet — and hey, who knows? Should it be thrown off course by a bit of cosmic dust, it could slam into us, set off another Ice Age, and wipe out the last vestige of intelligent life. As far as I can tell, it won’t be pushing matters very far ahead if it does.
Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.