… and, it’s almost Hallowe’en


Wow. October 29th. Two more nights until the ghosts and goblins are out and about.

Oh, wait. I think they’re generally about all the time, these days.

Everywhere you look people have decorated their front entrances, lawns and porches with pumpkins, skeletons, witches and all manner of ghoulish creatures. Not me.

Call me the Scrooge of Hallowe’en. I just don’t see the need for all the fuss it gets. Once upon a time I didn’t mind it, but as the years have progressed I’ve actually come to hate it.

Like all occasions — I can’t call it a holiday, because it’s just not — it’s been over-commercialized to the point of ridiculousness.

We can send Happy Hallowe’en cards to loved ones, for Pete’s sake. Honestly! Why?

The proliferation of pop-up retailers in the two months before Hallowe’en is testament to the fact that there is big money to be made for this one night of fright. I absolutely refuse to give them one red cent of my hard-earned money.

When I was a kid we looked forward to Hallowe’en for about a week — not months. Costumes were cobbled together from our parent’s old clothes, worn out bed sheets and pillow cases, and our makeup was shoe polish, some of Mom’s lipstick and flour dusted in our hair. And it was all we needed. We used the same stuff from year to year and it got passed down from brother to sister with no problems.

Now? You’re looking at about 50 bucks for a store-bought costume that will see one year’s wear, and, because they’re so cheaply and shoddily made they’ll be garbage by the end of the night. And why? To go out and collect candy that kids don’t even really care about anymore.

Candy was a big deal for my brothers and sisters and I when we were little. There wasn’t a lot of extra money in our household and it sure wasn’t spent on buying us treats. It was that way for most families. A treat was exactly that — an occasional chocolate bar, bottle of pop or bag of penny candy. We treasured it, we fantasized about our favourites, we suffered agonizing anticipation on those occasions that we knew would bring us our hearts’ desires.

Today kids get ‘treats’ on an almost daily basis. I honestly don’t think they give a hoot about the goodies they get trick or treating.

Meanwhile, retailers are laughing all the way to the bank.

And, sadly, our poor environment pays the price. Candy wrappers, chip bags and juice boxes are littered up and down streets, in school yards and at bus stops for weeks afterwards.

Discarded costumes and all that plastic that makes up the bulk of Hallowe’en decorations gets dumped in the garbage where it will languish in a landfill for eternity — if it isn’t just allowed to blow away on the next big wind.

I know that this kind of waste isn’t specific to Hallowe’en — it’s the same for Easter, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Canada Day, Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Day, etc., etc. For some reason it just bugs me more.

I think it’s time we really examined how and why we celebrate things like Hallowe’en. Is it because it really has meaning for us, or is it simply because the retail industry has done such a great job on selling it to us, and convincing us that we’re cheap and ‘no fun’ if we don’t buy in?

You know what I did like about Hallowe’en? Watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown with my family. It was sweet and simple — and we loved it.

Halloween eve — wish I was going to be somewhere else

I survived my test.  It was worse than I could have imagined.But, I survived.

Starting to feel a little bit normal now.  Never made it to TH’s for that biscuit.  Couldn’t have eaten a thing.  When I got home I put on a pot of coffee and waited a little bit before scrambling some eggs and having a piece of toast.  Ate it only because I didn’t think 3 days of fasting would be a good thing.

Had a sleep this afternoon and I’m feeling considerably better.

Soon, the kids will be ringing the doorbell in the annual trick or treating extravaganza that Halloween is here in North America.

I am not a fan of Halloween.  Never was.  But, when my son was young I was a good sport and decorated the house and got made up (usually as a witch) to hand out candy or take him out to get his share.  Even as a kid myself, Halloween was not a time that I generally enjoyed.  Sure, getting the candy was okay, but really, I didn’t care that much.

Partly, I guess, because when we go home with it my father would rifle through it and take all the good stuff.  Well, maybe not all of it, but some for sure.  I hated that he got to lay claim to my booty before I did.  Now, I look back on that and shake my head at the snotty little brat I was.  I still would be left with this half-full pillowcase of candy, most of which I wouldn’t even eat.  My mother would eventually transfer our stash into jars or bowls up on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard and eventually, we’d forget it was there.  How much ended up in the garbage I wonder?

Years later, I would repeat this exercise with my own son.  He’d go on a binge for a few days, and then I’d tell him I was putting it up so it would be safe.  Out of sight, out of mind.  There were times when I’d catch him scaling the cupboards to get at his loot, but for the most part he just stopped thinking about it.  Especially once all the really ‘good’ stuff was gone.

My rambling point about this is that I’ve never been keen on this door to door begging of candy.  It goes against everything we try to teach our kids — about not trusting strangers, about eating sensibly, about being selfish and gluttonous.  And yet. . .

. . . once a year we think it’s totally acceptable to spend ungodly amounts on costumes, to paint their little faces or hide them behind masks, to allow them to wander the streets and curry favour from complete strangers for a handful of candy, to let them eat mitts full of candy before bedtime and then take more of it to school with them the next day.  We will put up with bad behaviour associated with too much sugar and a lack of sleep all so they can have fun.

I’m as guilty as the next guy for taking part in this ‘tradition.’  And I continue to perpetuate it with my grandkids.  Just this afternoon I called them and wished them a Happy Halloween and told them I hoped they got lots of candy.  To not do so would make me be the weird Gramma.  Besides, their parents are sensible and won’t allow them to stay out to long (they’ll be with them, of course) and they’ll monitor closely how much candy they’re getting.

But in a couple of more years, the kids will be old enough to go out on their own and then?

There are kids I know, who are 13, 14 and 15 years of age who still go out trick or treating.  God, my own son was still doing it at 14.  Against my wishes, I might add.

So, what’s the point of this rambling diatribe?  I don’t really know, other than Halloween disturbs me.  Other than jack o’ lanterns.  They’re pretty cool.  Oh, and scary movies.  Kind of enjoy those, too.

Happy haunting.

Good Morning — October 25th

It’s a snowy morning here in Bon Accord today.  The first snow happened on Sunday while I was away in Calgary at an Education Employees Conference, so I missed it.  Can’t say that I’m heart-broken.

Despite having grown up in the land known in other parts of the world as The Great White North I have never had a love of winter.  It is something to be endured as best as possible, always with the thought in mind that it won’t last forever.  The Great White North name tag was I think originally intended only for the North West Territories where it is pretty much covered in snow year round, but somehow it came to define all of Canada — rather unfairly, I think.  Winter is a large part of life in Canada — for us here in Alberta approximately half our year — but in other parts of the country it’s not as long, as cold or as depressing.   Alberta and the prairies are the hardest hit, most other areas experience the joy of winter for only about 4 months.  And the temps are usually not as severe as they can be here.  But, regardless of where you live, winter pretty much sucks.

So, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. . .

We’ve got a week left in October.  Sigh.  The time has gone by so quickly.  Again.  Before I know it it’s going to be Christmas!  I am looking forward to seeing my grandkids in their costumes and going out trick or treating with them on Sunday night.  Yes, the shameless solicitation for candy — such a questionable, but fun activity.  I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween — I’m not into dressing up, not into kids getting stomach aches from overeating cheap candy, not into the temper tantrums that result from sugar overdoses, not into the senseless, petty rivalries that can develop over costumes, not into the sometimes mean-spirited pranks perpetrated on All Hallow’s Eve.  But, it is a tradition in our culture and to not participate singles you out as somewhat of a loon — so I’ve always participated, half-heartedly, and tried to keep my loonieness hidden.

Halloween has become a huge industry in our country.  In North America.  Next to Christmas and Valentine’s Day, it’s the next big retail sales event of the year.  Cards, costumes and candy.  Billions of dollars in sales.  There are industries devoted to Halloween decorations — the lights, decorations and music to go along with it.  And many people get right into it.  Much more than they get into Christmas.  In fact, I know of several people who like Halloween much more than they do Christmas.  It’s more fun they say.

I’m a Christmas girl myself.  I like the soft sentiments of Christmas, the giving and the spirit of generosity it evokes.  Christmas has its problems, I know.  It’s the holiday besmirched  with the highest rates of suicide and domestic violence, substance abuse and financial hardship, but. . .

. . .it’s also a holiday of hope.  Hope that all those negative things can be purged from our lives and that we can be reborn, that our lives can be everything we ever imagined them to be.  Halloween doesn’t offer that.  It offers only a brief escape from reality and encourages us to be selfish and over-indulgent.  Is that really all that terrible?  Given our lifestyles that are for the most part daily  exercises in self-indulgence and self-satisfaction.  I suppose not.  But that’s why I prefer Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas  makes me focus on others more than myself, makes me take stock of how I’m living my life, makes me take stock of what is important in my life and forces me to make important decisions and make changes that encourage putting the needs of others a little higher up on my list than they might otherwise be.   That all sounds very altruistic, and makes it sound like I’m a bit of a prude, and that is simply not the case.  I can be every bit as self-centered as everyone else.

I am not Sister Theresa, or Gandhi, or even the woman who runs the Food Bank in our small community.  I spend a lot of time complaining because I don’t have this or that, that I can’t afford to go on a tropical holiday every winter, that it’s going to be a while yet before I can replace the aged lino in my home with new hardwood flooring.  I get a bit annoyed every Friday when I don’t win the ‘big one’ — because I’m convinced that if I could only win all my wishes would come true and all my problems would be solved.

So. although I began this with a lament that time is skimming by too quickly and that the snow has arrived meaning winter is truly here, I am going to end on a positive note.  We’re well into what is considered the ‘holiday season’.  It began with Thanksgiving and will end with New Year.  Three months of over-indulgence in all aspects of our lives.  But, it can be good this over-indulgence as long as we keep it in perspective and try to ensure that others — especially those we love — are the beneficiaries of our spirit of giving and fun.  And that we don’t make ourselves crazy with trying keep up with the sometimes unrealistic expectations that all that over-indulgence can create.

Oops — guess that wasn’t as positive an ending as I’d planned.