David Bouchier: Trick Or Treat?
Only 5-year olds and witches really enjoy Halloween. The build-up is long and tedious, and the event itself is no fun at all unless you happen to be a five year old, or a witch. The first bite-sized candy and spooky decorations appeared in our local supermarket right after Labor Day. Since the beginning of October the quiet highways of Long Island’s North Fork have been jammed with cars heading east, where thousands of great orange pumpkins appeared in the fields, apparently overnight. Pumpkins take about three months to grow so, I assume that they are flown in fully grown from someplace else like Guatemala, and arranged in the fields under cover of darkness.
I don’t care for the look of Halloween. Normally staid suburban homes break out in an ugly rash of skeletons, skulls, vampires, artificial cobwebs floating ghosts, and hanging corpses. Plastic gravestones sprout in front yards, as if whole families had settled their differences once and for all. Every old barn and warehouse becomes a “haunted house” full of dime store costumes and cheap sound effects.
However you look at it Halloween is a very strange event. The encyclopedia says that it is an old Druidic ritual, but I don’t know any Druids around here – they must be hiding behind those masks. Two thousand years ago, back in the old country, before they all migrated to Long Island, the Druids used to celebrate Halloween as the day of Saman, Lord of Death.
This may have been all very well back in the Celtic twilight of the late Iron Age, before the Plastic Age. But it seems hardly appropriate in the twenty-first century, when we are all so rational and sophisticated. There’s enough material in Halloween for a thousand conferences and a million PhDs in psychology. What dark, repressed Freudian secrets do we see here, suddenly displayed outside ordinary suburban homes – literally skeletons out of the closet?
This is a permissive age, and children as well as adults are allowed to do or say just about anything. The only remaining taboos are those that come under the general heading of political incorrectness. The modern version of Halloween is an exuberant festival of political incorrectness, the one day in the year when no cows are sacred. American witches have often complained about the bad image they get at this time of year. But every minority suffers at Halloween: short people, ugly people, crazy people, aliens, transvestites, people of color (any color – green, orange, purple), and above all dead people. They all become victims of this wild effusion of political incorrectness on All Hallow’s Eve.
In fact, politics are the key to the whole Halloween mystery. The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, arranged for Election Day to fall right after this bizarre festival. Halloween is a mental preparation for the choices we have to make next week: the superstitious faith, the wearing of masks, and the belief in magic. On November 6, surrounded by rotting pumpkins, discarded plastic costumes, and chocolate-gorged kids, we will be in exactly the right frame of mind to choose our political leaders – choices which, let's face it, are all tricks, and no treats.
Copyright: David Bouchier