I am not sure what Halloween means to most people. Or better said, I have never been able to figure out the fascination with Halloween.
I am not a big fan of dressing up, but I always enjoy giving out candy. It means being able to see tons of cute kids -- and big kids. I love the different looks and attitudes (fear, excitement, enthusiasm, etc.).
But I am not a big decorator in general, so the season doesn't move me in that way.
When I lived on the east coast, I was always astonished by the lengths that people went to in their decorating. Seriously, I believe that Halloween was more celebrated and decorated than Christmas.
It seemed incongruous with the kind of holiday Halloween is. I mean, do people realize as they put up their decos that this is a pagan holiday? Do they think about the way the early Christians co-opted a holiday about dead people in order to make it more holy? Do people even know anything about Halloween at all? What is the attraction?
In the past I have wondered if it was all about the dressing up, the ability to become something completely opposite of who you are. Don't get me wrong, I love to attend my friends' party in Oakland, in part, because it is their favorite holiday. They collect decorations, adding something marvelous every year; they have an entire room of costume parts for those who show up at the party without a costume. They are serious Halloween celebrators. In fact, I missed the party, again, this year because I am here and they are there... but I am sure that they were having a good time since I got some midnight emails with pictures (thank you iPhone technology).
This year, as I observed those in pre-celebration, I noted a completely different angle than I had ever considered. A few days before Halloween, every where I went, someone was offering me candy. There was a cauldron of candies at the financial aid office; a little bowl of lollipops at the library; someone else suggested I take a lollipop somewhere else ... I declined, as I don't eat lollipops. But I thought how out of place this crazy generosity was in all of these places. Usually, the only signs of non-verbal communication at the library checkout desk is "please don't talk on the cell phone." It is a decidedly defensive not welcoming or generous tone.
As I stood there taking in the scene, overly decorated circulation desk (imagine the spiderwebs and other Halloween themed decos oozing from every surface), I remembered how the two professors I see on a regular basis had also brought "fun-sized" candy to class. Surely they were not in the minority in terms of bringing candy to share with students.
Finally, there at the library, I asked the young woman checking out my books, if she thought that maybe Halloween was the holiday that inspired the most generosity.
She looked at me like I was crazy. And, believe me, I am inclined to agree with her on this point, more and more each day. She said she thought Christmas was a more generous season. Theoretically, I agreed with her in the sense of what each holiday "stands for." But, I said, think about it, how often do you see this kind of display (pointing to the makeshift candy dish) at Christmas? She thought for a moment and shook her head.
Strange, but maybe Halloween does inspire a spirit of generosity.
At Christmas time we are forced to buy gifts, and, in that way, be generous. If we are very honest about it, we will admit that it feels oppressive and like a burden to be generous at Christmas (or whatever other winter religious holiday that you celebrate that requires you to buy gifts). We get grouchy and impatient. It doesn't help that we get bombarded with the same 50 Christmas songs (in stranger and stranger variation every year) starting on November 1st... oh, how I am dreading tomorrow for that reason. By the end of it, the last thing we feel is generous.
It is an odd comment on the commercialization of holidays: Halloween is not the poster child for generosity and Christmas for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.
Pictures swiped from the internet; these are my favorite Halloween scenes.
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