Or, "Karen hates to be scared."
I read with interest two columns in this week's Chicago Tribune. One was written by sensible Barbara Brotman, the other by funny man Steve Dahl, but both carried the same premise: "I don't like Halloween." However, my colleague Joel Sawyer wrote a "Positively Ellinwood Street" post today sharing his hankering for a good scare.
There is much I don't like about Halloween myself. I honestly don't think I could sit through a "Saw" or "Hostel" movie for a million dollars. I wasn't scared, but merely bored by WDRV's "Scary" 10 at 10 today - "Thriller" isn't all that scary unless you're watching the video and "Spooky" by the Atlanta Rhythm Section doesn't begin to spook me. I don't find rubbery ghoul masks at the drug store all that scary, either, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy them more if they gave me the creeps. Driving through my neighborhood, the houses smothered with fake cobwebs, lawns dotted with cardboard tombstones, it all leads me to one giant...shrug. Perhaps I spoke too strongly in saying I don't like Halloween - I just don't "get" all the hubbub.
I do like the costumey part - it's an excuse to buy new clothes, accessories, jewelry. If shoes are involved, double-bonus. I cannot comprehend, however, that annual Halloween sales in the United States add up to more than $4-5 billion. It' s not like you can wear the costumes year 'round, keep the tombstones in the yard...Maybe it's the do-gooder in me, but imagine how many people could be fed with that kind of cash.
I also enjoy the more mystical, spiritual side of Halloween. Halloween arose from a Celtic (Scotland, Ireland, France.) celebration of Samhain, the god of the dead. The Celtic New Year began on November 1, and it was believed that spirits of the dead, along with all kinds of ghosts and goblins, roamed the earth on what was essentially New Year's Eve. Many traditions followed: dressing up as scary beings to ward the spirits off, carving a turnip (!) which became a pumpkin many centuries later in America, leaving out treats for the spirits which then developed into going door-to-door begging for treats. In England, people went "souling," asking for treats named "soul cakes" in return for prayers. On Sting's latest album, there's a rollicking tune called "Soul Cake" to honor the tradition. In the same way that I like a Christmas that focuses more on the deeper spiritual meaning of the season, I like a Halloween with some soul. :) I won't turn down some candy, however. If you'd like to read more about the origins of Halloween, peruse our online encyclopedias or look for books like these in our collection. (We have lots for children, too - see today's Kidding Around featuring Pat Horn's Halloween suggestions.)
I love graveyards, the more overgrown and misty the better. I love rainy, grey days just like today. I just read Mary Roach's Spook, in which she attempts to debunk the idea of an afterlife by interviewing those who research what happens to our souls after we die. I know several people who were seriously creeped by the book - I read it at bedtime and couldn't put it down. I'm unusually comfortable around dying people, dead people, funeral homes, churches full of incense - this may be from 25+ years of singing for peoples' funerals, but those things don't scare me. Violent movies and graphically evil books - not for me. I know they are works of fiction but the daily news is full of the same kinds of terror. In either venue, it does not amuse or entertain me. Life's too short to spend my spare time watching someone suffer, even if the blood is sprayed on and the beheadings are computer-generated.
Now -- this Halloween is unusual for me. I am looking forward to the holiday more than ever, as many of us from DPPL will be gathering to celebrate the joyful wedding of our Head of Youth Services, Veronica Schwartz. The wedding is a costume party, and as our treat to you, we'll share some photographs of our costumes within the next few days. "Bon mariage," Veronica and Joe, and may there be many more happy Halloweens in your long life together - and very few scares.