When I was in the second grade I wore my older brother’s football uniform for Halloween. Sweaty helmet and all. I think there was a cheerleader costume one year and I know my mother kept pushing this terrible clown outfit she made for my older sister on me. There was no way I was getting in that thing.
In the fourth or fifth grade I was obsessed with Duran Duran and I was determined to dress like my favorite member, Nick Rhodes, and wore a suit. I desperately wanted a skinny tie to go with my outfit. Unfortunately, I had to settle for a normal width one, which was a little lame but I did spray-dye my hair red. I probably looked more like a clown than I would have in that costume my mother made.
Halloween, of course, was probably the third most awesome “holiday” of the year. It came after Christmas and my birthday. Since it was the 1980’s there was the mixture of innocence and fear wound up in Halloween activities. Because these were the days of Wayne Williams and devil worshipping, we were instructed to check your candy for razor blades and poison, because people are jerks.
On the innocence side at least no one was dressed up like a cat/schoolgirl/devil/cupcake that could be mistaken for a hooker. We planned our costumes a year in advance, because at that time, when else would you wear a costume? There was no Party City or Walmart with dress up sections. My 7 year-old just spent the entire day last weekend dressed like Luigi from Mario Brothers for no reason. There was also a brief moment where she walked around in a banana costume. For real, this happens on a daily basis around here. But back then no one was dressing up like fairy princesses, mostly because there were no fairy princess stores and unless your mother sewed you were out of luck.
Even though costumes were exciting, the big deal though back then wasn’t really your outfit. We were all about the candy. Once my friends and I were allowed to go trick-or-treating without a parent (4th grade?) we would hit up the Breckenridge neighborhood starting around 4pm, armed with pillow cases to carry our booty and comb the streets until we were forced home around 9pm. What kids today don’t realize (did that make me sound old enough?) is that we rarely had candy on a regular basis. It was definitely a treat reserved for holidays. Or at least it was in my house. If you were smart, and not especially greedy, you could make that Halloween candy last until Christmas. (Please note: I was neither smart or not-greedy)
We also didn’t spend a lot of time out of the house in general. Sure we had sports and activities but no one went out to eat much and there weren’t five million events at school or church. In my home we got to pick a restaurant for our birthday. That meant we ate out five times a year (until my brother moved out when I was in the 3rd grade, cutting it down by one-jerk) and once during vacation. Seriously, my family ate out less in one year than I managed last week.
Halloween was this unique time when we got to stay up late, troll the neighborhood for candy and hang out with our friends after dark dressed in ridiculous costumes. I know that this isn’t that much different from today yet at the same time…it is.
I’m sure everyone has noticed this “thing” about Halloween now. I’m not knocking it, I’ve just kind of come up with a theory about all the yard decorations and parties and the fact it’s become this EVENT and not just A DAY. We go to pumpkin patches and take photos and decorate our yards (today I saw a HUGE spider web decoration outside a house). People make up elaborate haunted houses and bake cakes and cookies and spend hours on Pinterest learning how to make glitter-covered-pumpkin-witch-broom-ghost-monster-centerpieces and spend A LOT of money on costumes for their kids and themselves.
Halloween, as much as we like to think it’s about the kids, has become for the adults.
My childhood memories of Halloween are pretty great. We had so much fun. There was nothing like coming home and dumping out my pillow case of candy and methodically organizing candy by superiority (chocolate) to the crap my dad would happily eat (those gross black and orange peanut butter candies-barf). It was this one-day extravaganza that you looked forward to all year and then bam, it was over but no one cared. It just was what it was. Now it goes on and on for weeks and when it’s over everyone has gained ten pounds and needs to take a nap but we can’t because Thanksgiving is coming and SOMEONE GO CHECK PINTERST FOR CORNUCOPIA CRAFTS!
I think the reason Halloween has become a really big deal for adults is because we all loved it so much when we were kids. It was a very special day. So we’ve tried to make it into something even more special which has kind of made it not all that special at all. My kids are kind of funny about it. They like it but honestly they spend more time thinking about what they are going to wear to Dragon*Con than what they are going to wear on Halloween. They trick-or-treat for about three blocks and they are happy to come back home, because by the time the 31st is here we’ve already have gone to at least five other Halloween related events and they’re kind of over it.
I suppose it’s just another one of those things that has lost its simplicity. In our over-hyped world, where we are constantly on the go, Halloween has become something that tends to exhaust us more than exhilarate. Or maybe our kids are luckier than we were. They can dress up any time, feast on chocolate and experience things that we never were able to in our closed off homes.
Frankly, as long as no one makes me dress-up like a clown-hooker I’m okay.