In America, Halloween marks the "fattening of the nation". It's both expected and liberating to know that elastic pants will become completely acceptable for the next 12 weeks. You start with copious amounts of candy and then it's all on, literally and figuratively, until New Year's. As a teen/young adult in the US "holiday season" begins tonight, marking a couple of fabulous months of gob-stuffing gloriousness.
Halloween gained popularity in the US when immigrants brought with them the tradition of celebrating All Hallows' Eve. I'm terribly unclear on the details but it involved saints, harvests and, for some weird reason, pumpkins. This imported celebration was challenged by puritans who strongly believed that rather than a Christian holiday it was wicked paganism and, at its worst, the sign of a heathen.
Even today a lot of conservative religions oppose celebrating anything Halloween related.
How it got so mixed up and contradictory is hard to understand but, then again, how did bunnies and chickens get caught up in the death of Christ? And, for that matter, how did Santa, his octo-reindeer and elves ever end up in with the nativity scene?
I have a slight problem with Halloween being celebrated here in New Zealand. Not because I'm opposed to the over-consumption of sugar, or because I'm a member of the Dental Association, but simply because it's a bullsh*t commercial rort. Up until a decade or two ago it wasn't even the tiniest of things here.
I guess with the homogenization of youth culture we bought in to the practices of buying candy in bulk, dressing up as witches and pirates, and annoying old neighbours who had no idea what was going on.
If we were serious about this, we would go the whole hog. We wouldn't just do the door-to-door bludge. We would carve pumpkins and decorate madly. It's like we've taken the easy parts of Halloween (candy and costumes), embraced them and said "to hell with the tough stuff!"
Celebrating Halloween in New Zealand really makes very little sense. And yes, I do buy loads of candy and put it in cute little homemade packets in a bowl by the front door, but only because I don't want to be the party pooper that doesn't open the door to hopeful little witches. I do, however, think it makes as much sense as celebrating bloody Thanksgiving here. I love Thanksgiving. I love the turkey and cranberry sauce, the candied yams and the pumpkin pie, but, while it's a little more nutritionally valuable, it makes about as much sense as Halloween. You see, celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving here is about as meaningful as celebrating Waitangi Day in San Francisco or Wyoming. It would be great for the good folk of America to have the day off and maybe have a bloody good barbie on the beach, but it's cultural significance to them? Zilch.
Tonight I shall sit by my front door with my little cellophane bags of candy. I may even dress in my Elvira costume (I look like Elvira after a festive season or two of constant eating from October till New Year's) and I will freak out small children. I'll also play creepy music, light candles, and use all my acting skills to scare the living sh*te out of poor wee blighters. But deep down I'll be thinking: Rort! Rort! Rort!
By the way, the likelihood of anyone showing up at my door is slim, so tomorrow morning I'll be eating 400 mini Moro bars for breakfast.