Sunday, October 17, 2010

Factual Facts About Halloween

A good costume idea

Halloween is that special time of year when parents dress their children as classic representations of evil and send them out to demand sugary taxes from their neighbors on threat of violence. But what a lot of kids don�t realize is that there is more to Halloween than just eating so much candy that you throw up and lie huddled in bed all night twitching and cursing God. Halloween is also an important cultural holiday for zombies, vampires, Spidermans, and other manifestations of our collective consciousness� darkest dreams.

Although witches and demons have been part of our culture for centuries, and skeletons have been around since the early Paleozoic Era, Halloween is a relatively modern invention. After observing the successful creation of the African-American holiday Kwanzaa in 1966, an unnamed zombie proposed a similar celebration for his own people as a way to promote species awareness and acceptance, and also to make hunting easier by flooding the streets with costumed decoys. No one expected the holiday to catch on outside the undead community, but the �60s were a time of profound social upheaval, and since the youth culture had already begun to embrace monsters�who possessed an undeniable charisma and sinister cool that humans couldn�t help but envy and want to imitate�Halloween quickly exploded into one of the world�s most popular holidays.

Another good costume idea
Halloween is celebrated in all English-speaking countries and most Pashtu-speaking tribal lands, but the traditions associated with it vary from place to place. In my own city, Seattle, Halloween looks very different than it does in, say, London. The basic spirit is the same; our kids still go Trick-or-Treating and dress up as aborted goat fetuses and schizophrenic hallucinations, but because of Seattle�s frequent, heavy rainfall, we must make some adjustments. Since October is our wet season, the streets are usually not navigable by land, so on the morning of the 31st every family has a �Creepy Craft Party� where we help the kids build canoes out of paper and popsicle sticks. We then load the little rascals into their boats and set them adrift in the floodwaters, where the violent currents whip them through the streets until they eventually run aground on a random neighbor�s porch. From there, the Trick-or-Treating resumes more or less traditionally. The neighbors take the waterlogged tykes inside, dry them off, and perform any necessary CPR. The eager kids are then treated to an extravagant feast of generic bulk candy and put to bed in the garage if the neighbors have one, or under the sink if they don�t. The next morning, the neighbors look up their little guests� barcode tattoos on, find the parents� addresses, and return the children home only slightly worse for wear. That is, of course, if they weren�t drowned or eaten by river vampires the night before.
A good couple's costume

All this may sound like an anxious night for the kids� parents, but playing the odds�even with such morbidly high stakes!�is just part of the Halloween experience in Seattle. With over eight hundred casinos�more per square mile than libraries, schools, and coffee shops combined!�Seattle is known around the world as a gambling city, and the question of whether or not the children will make it home from Trick-or-Treating is the subject of much extravagant wagering. In 2009, an estimated forty million dollars changed hands via Halloween betting. Traditionally, parents will always bet against their own kid, so that if he or she does end up being eaten by river vampires, the parents will at least have their winnings as consolation.

Losing a child is always a hard thing, but the thrill of the risk�along with the fun of friendly competition between neighbors�is what that keeps Halloween interesting for Seattle�s adults, most of whom can no longer enjoy candy due to suppurating stomach ulcers. Some may call our holiday traditions inappropriate or even irresponsible, but after all, it�s Halloween. If you want warmth, good times, and your children to be alive, you can go celebrate Christmas.

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