07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween ... Meh! -- Michelle Monkou

I have a string of holidays and celebrations that I don't like. Halloween ranks up there on the list.

You see as a kid who didn't grow up in the U.S., born in England and grew up in Guyana, I didn't know anything about Halloween. It didn't exist. But if it had, it would have been a glorious time because, in the smaller geographic space of Guyana, the idea of going door-to-door for candy wouldn't have been strange. There's probably six three degrees of separation when it comes to knowing anyone in Guyana.

But in the U.S. (late 70s/early 80s) where I was brand new to the country and to the culture, I couldn't mentally grasp why on this day I should trust a stranger to offer up candy to another stranger. You see, my mother didn't really trust anyone beyond a tight circle when she moved us into our new apartment either. We all came to make better lives in a world that was so different from our own. And we needed time to assimilate and figure out so much mind-overloading things.

Navigating people's open hostilities and easy suspicions didn't really leave the door open to suddenly trust them on one particular day. And then wearing costumes to get said candy, well that just seemed like crazy pants.

Eventually, by late high school, I got into the swing of things of dressing up for that day at school. Still didn't go to door-to-door. My neighborhood friends were from the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America. Their parents were equally adamant that we weren't going anywhere to "beg" for candy. Going to a Halloween party was more likely my option.

Fast forward and eventually I had my own family with two young children. Would we go door-to-door? My American husband didn't care if we did or didn't. His childhood memory was not even bothering with a costume, but going for the candy raids.

So, I did introduce the kids to Halloween, but I think they went through the neighborhood maybe twice in their lives. By then, shopping malls were participating in the event and my mother would take them to the malls and to the string of small businesses on Main Street in my city. And a neighborhood church started "harvest celebration parties" instead of Halloween. They'd have religious-themed games and candy. It was a safe space and the kids would end their candy hoarding at this annual event.

Halloween still isn't my favorite celebration. Maybe there is something deeply unsettling about the practice that still is a turn-off. Maybe it's that annual acknowledgment that I've lived in my community for two decades but won't pretend that I know the people beyond those directly in front or next to my house.

It has become that time of the year to usher in the smell of assorted candy in the shopping aisles from now through Christmas.

Michelle Monkou


Pippa Jay said...

Halloween is only just becoming a thing in the UK, mostly due to the US influence, but I've always steadfastly refused to take or let my kids go trick or treating. We spend all year telling them not to take sweets from or talk to strangers for safety's sake, then one day a year we encourage it? Nope. Our local zoo used to do a Fright Night with a haunted house, and we'd dress up and go to that instead. I let my eldest go out with her friends for Halloween now she's a teenager, but they mostly just dress up and go to each other's house and eat cake, which I'm okay with.

Sarah Raplee said...

Halloween is a strange holiday, isn't it? Trick or Treating began as a way to keep kids from vandalizing gardens on All Hallows Eve by giving them something else to do.It evolved into an international phenomenon. Go figure.

I enjoyed your perspective, Michell. Thanks for sharing.

Judith Ashley said...

It isn't the safety issue so much for me but the candy hording part of it all. No kid or family needs all that candy. When I decided I could no longer hand out the sweet stuff, I gave pennies. Little kids (pre-school) thought that was neat. Older ones, not so much. Now I keep the lights off, park my car next to the house and either go upstairs or downstairs and (away from the main floor) and read unless I have a Samhain Ceremony to attend.

The roots of Halloween goes back beyond All Hallow's Eve to Samhain when, in the pagan tradition, the new year begins. The veil between this world and the next is thin so connecting with ancestors is easiest here and at Beltane (May 1).

Michelle Monkou said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies. I know that Halloween is also making its mark in S. Korea. They don't do the door to door, but do have Halloween parties.