lHalloween is Katie’s favorite holiday. Well, technically, her favorite holiday is Dia de los Muertos, but most people outside of Mexico and the American Southwest don’t know what that is. What she really loves are the arts and crafts, and the kids in costumes. She dislikes bloody horror movies and haunted houses and the blood and the unbridled gore. Connecting with and honoring the spirits of your ancestors she gets; how being terrified to the point of soiling yourself is fun, she can’t comprehend.
I’m not a huge Halloween fan. I do like old fashioned horror movies, Universal monsters. Hammer Studios flicks with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and the American International output of Vincent Price thrillers (with or without the influence of Edgar Allen Poe). I like seeing cute kids in costumes. All of that stuff is creative, allows people to express themselves, and it’s generally harmless fun.
Where I become a buzzkill is with the violent and morbid imagery (and some of Katie’s beloved Day of the Dead artwork crosses into that territory). I don’t like “shock” for its own sake. The horror I like (The Walking Dead, the original Swedish version of Let The Right One In, the writings of Lovecraft and Poe) is less about the gore and more a vehicle to do character studies. Here’s a bunch of disparate characters; drop them into a bad situation and see what happens. Throwing on another bucket of blood and guts doesn’t drive me to reflect on the human condition or learn something about myself, at least not in any positive, meaningful way.
I think what I like least, though, is the concept of trick or treat. I know that I’m a party pooper, but don’t think extortion is ever a positive value. “Give me candy, or I will commit an act of vandalism”. Yes, when I was a kid it was a lot of fun walking around the neighborhood in a group, running into friends and admiring (or, let’s be honest, making fun of) their costumes, guessing who was who. Yes, I did participate in soaping windows and “tic-tacking” (throwing dried corn kernels, like unpopped popcorn, at house windows to startle the residents), but that was harmless, not hurtful, and didn’t leave a huge mess for someone else to clean up. Somewhere along the line, based on accounts I read every year, things have gotten downright mean and destructive. It’s not a great reflection of our society.
Perhaps the mean-spiritedness stems from the increased danger, or at least the perception of danger. Even when I was a kid (back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) we were on the lookout for the legendary apple with the razor blade in it, and the poisoned candy. We still played outside without adult supervision, rode our bikes without helmets, and climbed on steel monkey bars set in asphalt. We’re so paranoid today about the roving bands of child molesters and serial killers that I’m surprised that trick or treat is even still legal anywhere in America.
The original concept of Halloween seems to have been a ritualized assertion that we will not allow the darkness to have power over us. I can get behind that sentiment, given the amount of darkness that exists in the modern world. I guess where I break with the modern practice of Halloween is when the emphasis shifts toward embracing or even celebrating the darkness. I don’t know how that uplifts us, emotionally or intellectually, as individuals or as a culture. And like Katie, I just don’t get how that’s fun.