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Halloween ruminations

October 28, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
I am becoming more and more convinced that well-thought-out, logical and lovely sounding theories are about as useful in real life as an umbrella in a hurricane.

Take my previous stance on Halloween. Of course, I loved Halloween as a kid — who doesn't love scoring pillow cases full of candy? In my idealistic 20s, though, I decided Halloween was an evil holiday, an unnecessary and unsavory celebration of evildoers and their dark deeds. I couldn't understand why we celebrated unsightly creatures of the undead and made murderous horror movie villains into holiday icons. Murder and Mayhem, Creepy and Crawly, Doomed and Dastardly are not my kind of people. Warm and Fuzzy are more my type.

But then we started dressing up for Halloween at work every year. I admit, I have always loved playing dress-up! If we were like the British, we would find excuses to host "fancy dress" parties throughout the year, not just at Halloween. But since Halloween is the only time I can get away with dressing like the ghost of a Scottish bride, I decided to take it. My theory took a hit.

My oh-so-conscientious conclusions about Halloween also suffered when I wrote an article a few years ago about the Day of the Dead, Dia de las Muertas, celebrated in many Latino cultures on Nov. 1, which is All Saints Day in the Roman Catholic Church. I learned that Latinos hold all-day vigils on the graves of their ancestors — more or less picnicking and partying in the cemeteries. A symbol of the day is the festive, dancing skeleton.

Halloween took on a different meaning for me after that, as I came to consider it a celebration of the lives of those who have died, rather than a morbid and perverse glorification of all things gory.

And let's face it, so much evil goes on around us every day — people who want to wreak havoc don't need an excuse like Halloween anymore.

So, instead of shunning the holiday and forbidding my daughter from trick-or-treating or attending Halloween parties, we are participating in all the fun aspects of the season, while avoiding anything downright frightening.

A few weeks ago, we bought a hay bale and Indian corn, picked out pumpkins, made a scarecrow and decorated the house for fall. A few days ago, she was beside herself with joy when I put up some orange lights that I bought on clearance after last Halloween. Last night, she bounced around the dining room as I scooped out the pumpkin and Daddy carved it (she wouldn't touch the "goop" though!). Then we toasted pumpkin seeds (which she refused to eat), drank apple cider and watched Charlie Brown's "Great Pumpkin" cartoon.

Tomorrow, it's a party at preschool and trick-or-treat. Emma can barely contain her excitement. When she first tried on her Cinderella costume last week and looked at herself in the mirror, I swear she blushed. She was so tickled! When we drive through town, she loves to "ooh" and "aah" over the decorations on everyone's porches.

Of course, some of the displays could be nightmare inducing, so we drive by them quickly!

And then I wonder what in the world we are going to do with all that candy that none of us should be eating.

And to my chagrin, she keeps singing: "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat. If you don't, I don't care, I'll pull down your underwear!"

Oh well, even my "Halloween is fun not evil" theory has its holes!


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