Halloween is too much
I miss Halloween. Not the monstrous holiday/adult-themed party. Not the “it’s all about the children” tropes of recent years. I just miss the crappy Halloweens of my long-lost childhood. Some time ago, Halloween was a time to load up on some extra candy, which my immigrant parents would never buy for me. It was a time to see movies before I knew they were formulaic and to never ever turn my back on the door, or anything, because the frightening thing was always going to be right behind me.
Being from India, my parents had no idea what Halloween was, so we were the family that gave the cheapest lollipops, Smarties or whatever cough drops my mom had at the bottom of her plastic, polyester, three-compartment, patchwork, suede handbag. Okay, so maybe we weren’t that bad. But we didn’t go out of our way to have chocolate or any branded candy. And we didn’t have bags and bowls of candy to hand out, just the one bag that my mom got on sale from the supermarket.
Decorations were non-existent. I might have brought a few pieces of construction paper home from school. We didn’t have Scotch tape, but our masking tape sufficed. We kept the light on for as long as we had candy, and I always prayed that we would run out quickly so no one would meet my dad, who I thought was very intimidating. I also hoped that our house would not get toilet-papered for handing out bad candy.
It should come as no surprise that I also didn’t have much in the way of costumes. One year, I got a box and pretended I was a robot or a TV. Another year, I found a white trash bag, and drew a pumpkin on it and called it “The Great Pumpkin.” Most years, I raided my mother’s suitcases for East Indian clothing and became some version of a backup Indian dancer.
When we went trick-or-treating, I only had a pillowcase for my haul. And it wasn't even much of a haul. Sometimes, we got pennies, dimes and quarters. Other houses gave us candied apples! I never went to the nice neighborhoods to get bars of chocolate. With my lack of costume creativity, I didn't want to. After coming home, my sister and I inventoried all the candy and we rationed it like children who grew up in the Great Depression. Each afternoon, we tasted and ate one delectable piece of candy until it was all gone. And we made dolls with the wrappers. Sometimes, our parents snapped a photo, and that was the end of our Halloween experience until the following year.
It wasn't a big deal like it is nowadays. In college, it was an excuse for another booze-filled and party-filled weekend, most of which I barely remember, and my costume was always a preppy uniform high school girl, since I had attended a prep school. After college, there were adult costume-filled parties, where people rented outfits, and there were contests for best costume. The neighborhood always had a house or two that were decorated well, if a bit over the top, but that was something to look forward to. My house just had lights, until the candy was gone, and then no lights. The fear of toilet paper and eggs stayed with me into young adulthood.
Then, Halloween somehow crept into the workplace. At, first it was kind of fun and interesting to see the outfits, or lack thereof, at work. It was nice to have a small after-work get together at a local eatery. Then, they started hosting costume contests, with parades and music. Suddenly, the holiday had turned into a company culture rah-rah moment, and the spirit of a low-key holiday was lost.
On top of that, folks started bringing their kids to work for trick-or-treating. Not only did I have to provide candy at home, I now had to do it at work as well, and I wasn't reimbursed for the expenses. It was just expected. At home, I started to feel judged if I didn't answer the door with some kind of costume. I usually went as a mad scientist, but I was far outdone by my neighbors and their kids. Whole families had themed costumes, and here I was, without even a pumpkin on my porch.
Even pets got into the game. Not only did I have to find myself a cool costume, but now I had to find them for all my cats? I doubt they even know what day it is. It didn’t matter, as I bowed to the societal pressures and bought a tiny t-shirt for each of my cats and attempted to line them up for Facebook and Instagram. Meanwhile, Petco and Petsmart, along with many other retailers, are laughing all the way to the bank with Halloween profits.
Once social media hit the scene, all restraints were lost. Suddenly, all costumes for women were “sexy” versions of normal outfits worn in normal professions. For others, they were clever, or so ornate that I got stressed just thinking about how long it would take to assemble it. Still others looked like they had just been pulled from a plastic bag. I could only imagine the cognitive dissonance in being environmentally conscious yet still being subjugated enough by social media to post oneself in a straight-from-fossil-fuels plastic Batman jumpsuit that just gets thrown out the next day.
Halloween used to be just for the kids, usually those under 16. It was our holiday before all the “family is fun” holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. In college, it was still for the kids who were on campus. Now, it’s for the parents who also dress up and take their baby, dressed up and in a stroller, trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. The baby can't even walk or talk, let alone chew. If I, as an adult, want candy — and I do love my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — I go to the store, and I buy it. I certainly don't take my cat door-to-door begging for treats. I don’t even want to think about what they must be posting on social media to commemorate a non-holiday. It just seems like there are too many holidays and things to superficially celebrate, and I’ve had it to the top of my black witch’s hat.