« 50 Halloween Stories #1 | Main | 50 Halloween Stories: #2 »

This is Halloween (2005): An Old Fashioned Halloween

[I know, it's barely mid September and the weather still says summer, but I am in full Halloween mode.]

Halloween has changed.

Back in the day (and by that, I mean over 30 years ago), political correctness was still a thing of the future. So we dressed up for Halloween as gypsies and bums and hobos (the latter two later known as The Homeless or The Housing Deprived) and other stereotypical costumes. No one really paid attention to the fact that we might have been insulting someone because no one cared. Halloween was about candy and dressing up and being scared. End of story.

Most of the boys at the time did the usual horror costumes: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and the proverbial white-sheeted ghost. They would jump out from behind the bushes and scare the girls and we would scream in exaggerated fright and run to the doorstep of the next house on the block.

We had parades at school and some of the kids would march around with fake, dripping blood and rubber masks with mutilated eyeballs. The goriness was all part of the fun. That's what Halloween was for: shrieking and screaming through the neighborhood and finishing it off with a family viewing of Chiller Theater, munching on the candy loot while hanging onto Mom in fright.

But times have changed and we'll have none of that gory, scary stuff anymore. Kids are vulnerable and impressionable, don't you know? The blood might scare them. The costumes might offend someone. I mean, what if some kid in your school had his whole family murdered by a crazed ax-weilding monster? Don't you think that costume would make him feel sad, Johnny?

Even in the junior high school, where the kids are old enough to go see scary movies on their own and wise enough to know that Freddy Krueger doesn't exist, notices come home about appropriate Halloween wear. No blood. No gore. Nothing scary. Nothing that might be deemed offensive to anyone, anyhwere. Please wear only costumes of famous literary characters or great people like scientists and inventors.

orange10Right. Like a 14 year old wants to dress up like Huck Finn. No, a 14 year old - if he was even going to dress up at all on Halloween - would most likely don one of those rubber masks that turn your face into something out of a Stephen King movie. Even the girls want to dress as Freddy or Jason. No Madam Curies here.

Schools have scaled back their Halloween festivities, anyhow. Some people are offended by the Halloween itself, calling it an invitation to the devil, a terrible day that shows children that evil exists in the world. Some think you worship Satan if you celebrate Halloween.

It's about the candy, stupid. Yes, I know Halloween has a long history behind it, I know the origins of the day are lost on almost everyone now. But this is what we grew up with: a day to get scared and get candy. Nothing to do with religion, nothing to do with historical figures. Schools are changing their Halloween parties into Fall Festivals, complete with cutesy songs and plays about Johnny Appleseed and cookies shaped like squirrels. No costumes, kids, unless you want to dress up like your favorite leaf!

I got your PC Halloween right here. I refuse to teach my children that Halloween is anything other than a day to scare and be scared; each year I vow to show my kids what this holiday used to be like, before it became sanitized in the school system just like everything else.

I arm them with frightening costumes and socks filled with shaving cream and let them loose on the neighborhood - along with several dozen other kids whose parents remember what Halloween is supposed to be like. And when they get home, their bags filled with goodies, smelling like they went swimming in a pool of Barbasol, we pop in some good old scary movies. The black and white kind, with outrageous monsters and thin plots and lots of screaming. We dump all their candy on the floor, sort out the healthy stuff and the pennies, and stuff ourselves on chocolate and sour gummie worms.

Long live the ghosts of Halloween past.

[Ok, so my kids don't really trick or treat anymore, but we still manage to have some excellent Halloweens together]


amen, sister.

I was always taught that Hallowe'en was a day to laugh at what scares us. So you could argue that gory/scary costumes are totally appropriate.

I remember when I was in grade school, one year it was decreed that each homeroom was to have a "theme" and everyone had to dress according to that "theme" (the "themes" were voted on by students but teachers had veto power).

that was the stupidest Hallowe'en ever. I think the next year they abandoned the "theme" idea.

I must be out of it. Well, I don't have kids so I wouldn't be privy to what goes on in most schools. The objection to "traditional" Halloween seems way-over-the-top to me.

Thanks, Michele. Brought back lots of good memories.

We would leave the house right after dinner with pillow cases for the candy, and soap and shaving cream for, errrrr, OTHER ACTIVITIES.

We would stay out a late as we could getting candy, often having to make a few return trips home to dump the loot. (Hey, we lived in a city of row houses, so there was lots of loot).

Then we'd commence to soaping cars, scaring girls, and other random acts of nonpermanent destruction. The adults seemed to delight in trying to catch us, (but not trying too hard).

I don't seem to recall that any of us grew up to be satanists, though some of us ARE in insurance. Somehow we managed to separate fiction from reality.

Why is it we now seem to think that kids are too naive and delicate to handle something as simple as Halloween???

In my (safe) neighborhood, we now get a few trick or treater, always accompanied by a wary parent with a 1,000,000 candlepower flashlight. To go to houses they pass every day, where THEY KNOW US, but still they act as if everyone is a potential ax-murderer.

"Fer chrissakes, Bob, you bring the family over for steaks, but now you want to X-ray the candy we hand out?"

The world is going to hell in a handbasket.

I hear ya. Paul and I are both really into Halloween, and we were psyched last year to finally have a house where we would get trick-or-treaters. We set up a graveyard scene in the yard, replaced our porch light bulb with a spooky red bulb, and put a fog machine in the entryway, which we set off every time a kid came to the door. Paul was dressed as a zombie with bleeding brains coming out of his head, and would emerge through the fog with candy and cry for "BRAINS!" It was awesome--too bad only FOUR KIDS showed up to see it.

I went trick-or-treating until I was a senior in high school. My friends and I would hit up each others' neighborhoods if the trick-or-treat took place on different nights. Sometimes we'd even come up with different costumes. Now, no one goes trick-or-treating. It's damn shame.

Your children will be better people for this, michele - I applaud you.

Our elementary school held a Halloween Carnival every year. It was the biggest fundraiser we had...each classroom sponsored a game, and the 6th graders always got to decorate and work in the Haunted House. Families from all over town (we've got something like 15 elementary schools here) brought their kids to our school, because it was so much fun; Dracula's Diner served food and there were raffles and cakewalks. Both of my sons loved their turns designing and working at the Haunted House.

By the time Anna was in 4th grade, PC had contaminated the school and the name of the carnival was changed to the Harvest Festival. Guess what? Attendance dropped, and the Haunted House was scaled back to something that wouldn't even scare a three year old. I asked Anna if anyone even bothered going to the 6th grade classroom the year she worked it and she said, "No, hardly anybody showed up."

The other change in Halloween that I've abhorred is the local mall's Trick or Treat, designed as an alternative to walking in the dark, door to door...remember the anticipation when you rang the doorbell? Would they answer? Maybe they'd be dressed up in something cool - you could always count on the college kids down the street to have great costumes....maybe they'd say "Trick" and you'd have to do something silly - and knowing which houses gave out the 'good' stuff - the BIG candy bars instead of Christmas peppermints.

But going to the mall...the brightly-lit mall where all the sounds were echoey and shoppers looked at you, and when you walked up to the stores, holding out your bag, saying "Trick or Treat", and some bored clerk hands you a couple of Jolly Ranchers. That's not Halloween.

Peanut allergies in my oldest's school... should be a pretty boring Halloween for him... in school anyway.

my kids' school still has a halloween party with scary music and a haunted house! there is also a house in town that is completely done over as a haunted house every year. the man is a fireman and he swears it will be the last year he does it (his wife is less than thrilled with the home redecorating!) but he is always there.
i have friends who don't let their kids see any of this because it might frighten them. good! get scared! have some fun. it's halloween!
thanks for this post. halloween is one of our favorite holidays here and we are looking forward to some scary costumes and scary movies and a lot of good candy.

There are two styles of Halloween decoration: scary and cute. Martha Stewart, of all people, has some great ideas for the "scary" end, such as black garbage bags cut open, sliced into streamers, and gently and unevenly stretched until they look like some deranged black moss.

I like scary. I'd still looking for someplace that will sell little LEDs attached to a chip so they fade in and outó I've seen it on store displays and just imagine how cool it would be to have something with little red eyes that are there... then not...

Well they don't fade/blink, but you can easily make your own creepy little red eyes (you can either put them inside a mask, or just place them somewhere so they peek out.) Here's some instructions: http://wolfstone.halloweenhost.com/HalloweenTech/anemak_MakingLEDEyes.html#SimpleLEDEyes

(personally I just used LEDs and a battery pack from Radio Shack when I did this, the instructions are slightly more complicated but still fairly easy.