Friday, October 30, 2009

All Hallows' E'en

Tomorrow is Halloween, just about the most fun and interesting holiday of the year. Halloween is sheer craziness, with people dropping their usual self-absorption and letting their inner child run free.

Derived from an ancient Celtic/pagan holiday, Halloween doesn't seem to have as much baggage as other holidays. It doesn't quite have the uncontrollable, crass commercialism and vulgar greediness of Christmas (although the trick-or-treat candy marketing does get to be a bit much), nor the food-and-football obsession of Thanksgiving. There is not the overwhelming guilt that seems to strangle Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, nor the obligatory, knee-jerk patriotism of Independence Day, nor the schizophrenic, multiple-personality vibe of Easter. Halloween is all about letting go and having fun, and if you're willing to ignore the hordes of grubby children parading up your driveway and demanding protection money in the form of stale candy corn, rock-hard popcorn balls and little tiny Snickers bars, it can be a very liberating experience.

I have some great childhood memories of Halloween, but one in particular stands out. I don't remember how old I was, but I'm thinking maybe 5 or 6 years old, and it might not have been on the actual Halloween night, but very close to it. One evening just at sunset my mother and I left the house to go on some errand. The wind was swirling all around making the fallen leaves spin and twirl in a fanciful little danse macabre. The orange light of sunset flooded everything and made the autumn leaves on the trees glow with a fiery light that seemed to come from within. But there was some kind of major electricity in the atmosphere, some kind of palpable spirit in the air that I picked up on and just made me run and dance and jump around like I was possessed. I have never figured out exactly what was going on, but I will never forget the irresistible, breath-taking feeling that evening, of the wind and the golden-orange light of sunset gilding everything with fire, and the unmistakable impression that for this one night, spirits of the dead were truly walking the earth.

So even though Halloween is all about letting go and releasing your inhibitions, there are still plenty of priggish old wet blankets who will try to put a damper on everybody's party. A couple of days ago at lunch I was looking through the local newspaper, the Arizona Republic (yeah, I know, just work with me on this), and someone had written a letter to the editor decrying the pagan, anti-Christian tenor of Halloween. They recommended to parents instead of dressing their little hooligans up as ghouls, ghosts and goblins and letting them run amok in the neighborhood shaking down senior citizens for overpriced treats, they should just throw a party at home and have the kids dress up as biblical characters. I kid you not, this was actually in the newspaper, and the only thing more blatantly idiotic than someone writing such tripe is the AZ Republic printing it. Hoo boy, what a fun party THAT would be! I mean, could that writer BE any more prudish or more of a stick-in-the-mud? They sound like the pathetic twit in Catholic school who would remind the nun just before dismissal on Friday afternoon that she forgot to give the homework assignments for the weekend. I guess that's the kind of adult you become after getting beat up every single school day for twelve years. Jeez, get a freaking grip already, it's only Halloween.

If I wasn't so lazy and boring, I would get dressed up as Sarah Palin or Sister Mary Flatulence the Nun From Hell or Spock from Star Trek and go out and have some fun. But since every day to me is a costume drama filled with freaks, scary people and creepy, mentally-ill Republicans, it tends to dull the unique aspect of Halloween. But I will be celebrating the night in my own way, looking up at the nearly-full moon in the sky and in the back of my mind will be feeling the electric wind swirl around me and sense the spirits of the dead visiting our world again.

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