Friday, October 28, 2011

Still Life With Robin: Halloween Creep

by Peggy Robin

Yes, Halloween is a time for creepiness. But that’s not what I mean by Halloween Creep. I’m talking about the tendency of Halloween to creep over to other days on the calendar -- like the closest weekend afternoon and evening. This is plain wrong, and it needs to stop, before we end up with trick-or-treaters knocking at the door on some day other than October 31st.

Here’s how it starts: Some worthy organization wants to throw a Halloween party for kids, give out candy, and provide a place for the kids to parade around in costume. Great idea! But it happens to be easier to organize this sort of event if it doesn’t compete with Halloween itself, especially if Halloween falls on a school day. So we have our local police stations putting on Halloween parties two, three, four days in advance. In some neighborhoods the merchants’ associations offer store-to-store trick-or-treating for costumed kids, but generally not on Halloween itself. And of course, there’s the National Zoo, which has now established itself as the premier Halloween party-thrower of the DC Metro area, with its annual tradition of Boo at the Zoo, a three-day monster extravaganza that draws sell-out crowds on dates more than a week in advance of the real Halloween. (At least that was the case this year.)

Our local public elementary school, John Eaton, gets it right. The parents organize the neighborhood Halloween parade on Halloween itself, unless Halloween falls on a non-school-day. There's no way I could object to a school-organized event being moved to the nearest school day.

And of course, any event that includes Halloween preparations, such as pumpkin-carving, Halloween decorating, and costume-making, logically belongs on the calendar prior to Halloween. But that’s it for exceptions!. Everyone else should plan their Halloween festivities on Halloween. 

Here are seven (count’em, seven) good reasons why:

1. Parental overload. Every year the pressure is on to have the kids’ costumes done by the 31st, but with Halloween Creep, you may have to have everything done by the 28th, the 27th, or in the case of Boo at the Zoo, a whole week ahead of time!

2. Costume breakdown. Most Halloween outfits are fragile, esepcially anything made out of a cardboard box, tin foil, or crepe paper. It's tough to get something to hold up to more than one day’s use. (Well, it is, the way I make them!)

3. Closing time. Though some argue that trick-or-tricking should move to the nearest weekend night, so that the kids can stay out late, that’s exactly the reason why it should stay on its actual date. School night or not, trick-or-treating should be an early evening activity for little kids. Everybody – even older kids—should be done by 9pm! Most of us are ready to stop answering the door after three full hours of trick-or-treaters clamoring for candy. How many times can you say, "Oh, what a cute witch!" And kids, I'm sure you can collect a sufficient load of Halloween loot to last for weeks and still be home by 9. 

4. The true meaning of Halloween. Keeping the date the actual date keeps the Halloween’s connection to its history, tradition and word origins. "Halloween" is a contraction of All Hallow’s Evening -- that is, the evening before All Hallows (All Saints) Day on November 1st. All the demons, ghoulies and goblins come out the night before, being banished on the following day. But even before Halloween was fixed on the Christian calendar, it was celebrated as the Druidic harvest festival of Samhain, and was set on the night before November 1st. For hundreds and hundreds of years that date has worked well, so why mess with it now?

5. Calendar consistency. It’s hard enough keeping track of all those holidays that do move around the calendar: like the second Sunday in May (Mother’s Day) or the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving), not to mention the various religious holidays that depend on the timing of the full moon, or some event thereafter. The 31st is an easy date to remember, so let’s leave it at that.

6. Spillover effect. If we don’t hold the line on Halloween Creep, what’s next? Valentine’s Day creep? Will the 4th of July move to the nearest Monday? Could April Fool's Day be pushed back to the end of March? I ask you, where will it stop?

7. The Real Reason. With more than one Halloween, you diffuse the spirit. And Halloween is about spirits! And ghosts, and all things that go bump in the night. And that night is October 31st. So keep it real, people, by keeping it on the real date!

1 comment:

  1. I saw the WAshington Post reported that the White House gave out its trick or treat candy at a Halloween party for kids yesterday. I guess they're not going to do it on real Halloween...unless they're planning to do it twice.