Halloween Is the Best Holiday but I’ve Kinda Given Up

Halloween: Trick or Treat?It’s Halloween, and that means that by the Frankly Curious Terms of Service, I am required to say: Halloween is my favorite holiday. But the truth is that I am being let down by our society. Halloween could be so much better!

When I was a kid, it was so much better. I remember being on the street with my parents and there being kids everywhere. And then, starting in the late 1960s, every year the local news reported on how dangerous the holiday supposedly was. People gave out candy with poison and razor blades! Most of this was folklore.

What’s more, in as much as it was true, it was based on the folklore. For example, most of the razor blade stories seem to be children putting razor blades in apples and then showing what they “found” in their apples to their parents. And the cases of poisonings have been people murdering children and trying to make it look like some random act. Sick, but hardly the fault of Halloween or, more to the point, society.

Social Decay and the End of Halloween

And that’s the problem with the holiday: we’ve lost the necessary social cohesion to make the holiday great.

For the last several years, the only trick-or-treat child I get is the little boy who lives across the street. And I have been giving out regular-sized bars for a couple of decades. Kids really should want to come to my house!

I understand the fear of parents. Just the same, so much is lost. What’s more, those parents could protect their children by getting to know their neighbors. That’s part of the same thing. It’s all about fear of these unknown people.

Now, I understand that this is hard to do. And our economic situation is a big part of it. We now live in a nation that requires both parents to work. A large fraction of the nation is far too busy just getting by to spend time getting to know the neighbors. And income inequality puts barriers between people. So my disappointment is not focused on how individuals act but on how our society forces them to act.

Still, it sucks. Some of my best memories of my second marriage are our Halloween events. We loved decorating the place. I was always big on creating ghosts — probably because they are the most friendly of scary things. And now, I find I can’t even bother. It was easier with a partner. Even if no kids showed up, at least we had fun with it.

There’s a price to pay for our lack of trust in each other. It’s about more than a holiday — even one as gloriously silly as Halloween.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

19 thoughts on “Halloween Is the Best Holiday but I’ve Kinda Given Up

  1. Halloween is my partner’s favorite holiday, too. (I like Thanksgiving, because of the cooking.) And 10 days ago, the partner came up with an idea: “let’s get married on Halloween!” I thought it was brilliant. But not enough time to do it in Minnesota. There’s waiting periods and such. You can do it in one day in South Dakota if you get all your shit scheduled just right.

    OMG it was a struggle! But we had help every step of the way. The records office people in Sioux Falls were wonderful, patient, and highly efficient. The officiant had his time to meet us changed twice and didn’t bat an eyelid. (We got married in a quiet spot at the county government building, because we’re liberals! We believe in this stuff!)

    Here’s the best part. We developed a flat about 150 miles away from Sioux Falls, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. We pulled into a closed gas station to inspect the damage (bad) and look for a spare (also flat). I was about to give up. We’d jumped through so many hoops to make it happen on Halloween! To get defeated now?

    Suddenly the door next to the garage opens. The owner, this old codger, was inside stacking wood for winter and noticed we looked dismayed. HE FIXED THE TIRE. Sprayed some goop in it that plugged the hole, filled it up for us.

    In the middle of Trump country (his was about the only business without a Trump sign). For four confused-looking city folk far from home, two white, two black. Didn’t ask for a dime, just a handshake. This story is so great it sounds made up. It ain’t. We made it to the office on time.

    There’s still good in America. I don’t know that it’s ever been the majority. But it’s out there.

    • What?! You got married?! Congratulations! It’s about time. And on Halloween? That’s totally great. And the story is too.

      This was my parents’ song. So I’m sending it out to you two:

      • Gracias, my good man! More appropriate than you know. On the last leg into Sioux Falls, stressed about time and doing 85 in a minivan (minivans are not made for this; they have the aerodynamics of a stick of butter) we got mired in some kind of Spooky Halloween Death Fog, where it seemed ghost pirates would arise from the gloom and eat us. The random music hit Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun” and it lifted everybody’s spirits. Too bad we didn’t think of Wonder!

        • That is a very uplifting song. Harrison at his best. I hope you weren’t going 85 in the fog, though!

          • We were. That’s some serious white-knuckle driving. As mentioned, the whole adventure was adrenaline city. I need to sleep for about five straight days.

            • I’m glad you survived. But if you hadn’t, it would be a story told to teens for generations: They were rushing to get married — but the fog!

      • Thanks, Elizabeth! Actually, I think it was more like “your good qualities outweigh your bullshit.” Which is still meaningful enough it made me tear up a little.

        The best part was we needed two witnesses. And we had two adults, and then one of them couldn’t come. So we checked with the South Dakota records office about how old the witnesses had to be, and as it turns out, they had to be “old enough to understand what they’re signing.” So we got to have Peggy’s nieces, whom I’ve known since they were basically toddlers, be our official witnesses at ages 15 and 17. It was beautiful.

        And we all wore costumes! Halloween!

        • Brilliant. Did Frank email you about our doing a podcast yet? I am going to nag him to death over this.

          • The nagging is on course. The death is just slower in coming than expected. :-)

            The problem is that you don’t even know what Penguin 4 is and so have no idea what my work life is like right now!

            • Since this is the first you have mentioned penguins and I watched two of them battle to the death over a lady penguin…what?

              Also, this is to make you not be working 14 hour days…AGAIN.

  2. Just four groups of trick or treaters so far. I live right on a busy street and there’s not many families with young children nearby on this side. Monica took Olivia over to my sister’s neighborhood a few miles away that is much better. The subdivision is kind of built around a grade school and a middle school. Olivia is dressed as Jyn Erso, the part Felicity Jones plays in Rouge One. The costume mostly looks like normal clothes, and only nerds who watch YouTube trailers know the character. She’s happy with it. I did a not terrible job fabricating a holster and gunslinger belt for the Star Wars Nerf ™ blaster. The real gun holster I have didn’t quite fit the toy one, and Olivia is a lefty so I made the effort. From the trailers I think Jyn Erso is supposed to be like a young, female Han Solo. Possibly. I was the one who started the home made costume tradition with her. In 2011 she really wanted to be Rapunzel. Tangled is very good, if you haven’t seen it. And by the time we went shopping there weren’t any to be had. She was very upset. So I promised her I would make her costume. And I decided I didn’t want Monica’s help because she said a couple of things that I took the wrong way, or maybe the right way and should have just let pass, but whatever. This is where I disclose that I can’t run a sewing machine, and my wife can. Oh, I have built a small block Chevy V8, I can disassemble a pistol by touch, but the spools and the bobbits and all that is beyond my ken. But I can use a needle and thread. It just takes so damn long. And so many stabbing my fingers in the doing. And if you think a stitch is weak, hot glue is your friend. I did research what it was supposed to look like (Etsy) and made a pattern off of Olivia’s measurements. It wasn’t bad. I didn’t get a picture that night because overtired five year olds are just done and that’s it. She wore it for play until outgrowing it a couple of years later. And Monica volunteered to make the Merida dress, which turned out great, the year Brave was the ‘It’ Pixar film. The best Halloween memories I have are from the three years we lived in Tarrytown, NY, which is where Washington Irving lived when he wrote The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. Much of that because New York, unlike Phoenix, has Autumn. But that’s not my best Halloween story.

    The best one happened back here in the desert, over on 63rd avenue, the neighborhood my wife and I both lived in as children, but just a couple of years apart. And it involves my older sister Tracy. Tracy and I were Halloween frenemies. My sister is bossy. This is not something she would contest. Her husband of more than 25 years often refers to her as ‘The General’. She has, by far, the more strident personality of the two. My parents, in those years, threw Halloween parties for their adult friends. They had met at a Halloween party. There was bite the apple on a string, egg toss, three legged race. Wholesome middle America stuff. In no other context could I have nailed my father in the head with a raw egg. I would not have dared to do it on purpose, nor could I have intentionally. I never learned to throw a baseball. But the kids went out trick or treating and the adults got down to cocktails. In 1976 I was Captain Kirk for Halloween. Mom had found an iron on patch of a Starfleet command insignia, a gold shirt, and some piping for the rank striped on the sleeve. And, I had The Phaser. A toy phaser that had lights and sound. Of course in 1976 a toy such as this weighs about as much as a real .45 automatic pistol. So it was a particularly unfortunate decision on my part to respond to my sister Tracy’s button pushing by using The Phaser as a club. I gave her a bloody nose. And hoo boy was I in trouble. I think the fact that her nosebleed was gone in the morning and my parents had an otherwise good time at their party helped obscure what would have otherwise been a serious incident. Tracy’s nose appears none the worse for wear despite a few traumatic incidents. One, self inflicted, came from tapping at an icicle. We mostly grew up in the desert, so who knew? For the record, every Halloween included the post trick or treat gambling, where she would get all the good candy by cheating at cards. And another year, having learned from The Phaser incident, I took a swing at her with my candy bag. It split open, causing her to cackle like a hyena. I should also note she could pretty reliably kick my ass up until I hit middle school, at which point my older brother, put a stop to us fighting like that. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see her tonight. Everyone’s so busy. She and Tim and I live a few miles apart and we only see each other on holidays. Well, Happy Halloween to you, Frank, and Paul Bibbeau, and the rest of the regulars if you’re around.

    • Ha! You kids were serious gamblers. We didn’t gamble; we tried to use insider trading to cheat each other. Like, if there was a cool-looking candy wrapper you knew from experience tasted like ass, you’d cheat a kid by trading that cool-looking candy for two of his chocolates. It was The Art Of The Deal.

    • Great stories! Your sister sounds a lot like a character I wrote. Although in her case, she had to take care of her younger brother after their magician parents were killed in a freak flash paper accident. I’ll bet you could make a really good book by collecting people’s favorite Halloween memories. Thanks for sharing!

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