Holidays are bigger than they were when I was a kid.
Christmas is bigger. It starts earlier, and the expectations get higher. I read one time that at every family Christmas celebration, a woman is sitting on the back steps of the house, overwhelmed, exhausted and crying. Halloween is bigger, too, but I have to say it seems singularly less fraught than Christmas. We don’t have any obligations to be happy on Halloween. No one says, “This was the best Halloween ever!”
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Your family gets together, eats, talks, maybe plays Uno. The guys fall asleep with the game on. My favorite part of the whole holiday is after the meal while the pie plates are still sitting there and a couple of people are drinking coffee and everyone is just talking. My mother would sometimes pick at leftovers, so we could all pick at leftovers. The whipped cream was homemade. My mom made pumpkin, my sister made pecan pie.
But Halloween is a close second. I love handing out candy. I love the teenagers who are really too old, still caging candy. I love the little little kids who take the front steps like mountain climbers, their M&M costumes flexing. I love the really little ones in tiger costumes with whiskers painted on their faces. I always get good candy. Decent sized chocolate bars and at least one good non-chocolate candy for the kids who don’t love chocolate as much.
I have a family member who was Evangelical Christian who didn’t allow her kids to trick or treat. It was the devil’s holiday, I suppose. Look close and they’re all the devil’s holidays. Easter bunnies, jolly old elves in red suits and flying reindeer. It’s all grafted on older holidays, and go deep enough and our holidays are all rooted in rhythms of seasons in Europe. It’s all about the length of the days, the crops coming in, our own sense of mortality and our fear and joy in seasonal change.
I read an article today asking if kid’s costumes aren’t too risque. Maybe they are. Lord knows, tweens dressing like Brittany Spears is a scary idea to me. But I remember micro-mini skirts from the sixties. We’re always afraid that our kids are too precocious. The waltz was deemed sexy and sinister, accused of whipping youth into a sexual frenzy. Halloween says something about who we are, and our fears about it also say something about who we are as a culture and a nation. We’ll x-ray candy (although no one can actually find any cases of tainted Halloween candy except for one boy who was poisoned by his father for the insurance claim.) We’ll have parties to keep them off the streets. But mostly, kids and dads will troop up and down the street with flashlights and glow bands and plastic bags.
This year I’ll be on a plane so I won’t get to see what Halloween in Texas is like. I know that the kids won’t have to wear winter coats over their costumes like they often had to in Ohio. But the leaves won’t have turned, either. Bob and I won’t be able to sit together on the front step, playing Brubeck on the boom box, handing out candy, while the leaves of the flowering pear tree burn brilliant yellow orange. I left candy for you to hand out, Bob. Tell me what the cute costumes were. Tell me if we had a lot of kids or a few. Tell me if Halloween is different in Texas.