Halloween should be the most fun holiday of the year. The formula is easy: kids ask for candy, kids get candy. Adults go to parties, wear amusing or enchanting costumes. You slice up some squash, leave it on your porch with a candle in it, and it’s a cool, spooky effect.
So why is it so easy to hijack Halloween? Why do so many just use it to push their personal agendas and ruin it for their peers?
Thankfully, for all the lameness, there are several awesome ways to be a Halloween Hero, and help counteract the zeros.
ZERO: The “I give out toothbrushes” guy.
Listen, pal. For kids that are allowed to Trick-or-Treat, this is their one change go a little hog-wild every year. You aren’t promoting health; you’re promoting disappointment. Reminding the kiddies what waits for them in a real world, once they’ve stripped off their ghostly masks and pirate accoutrement. Sugarless-gum is barely a shade better . . . perhaps worse if you believe non-natural sweeteners are carcinogenic.
HERO!: Full-size candy bar-giving household.
Standing against toothbrush givers everywhere, households donating full-sized, name-brand candy bars are bestowing a luxurious delight on their visitors. We salute ye, and, post recession, hope to join your number.
ZERO: “I give out apples/raisins/loose nuts” guy.
More points than “toothbrush guy” for being edible, these are also the most likely to be tampered with. All those razor blades, whether you trust your neighbors or not, give a new meaning to “empty calories.” Because even if you like raisins and apples, you aren’t going to eat these things.
In a recent New York Times article profiling the candy-fueled Paul Rudnick, Suzanne Havala, a clinical associate professor and dietitian at UNC-Chapel Hill, commented that Halloween should be fun and sugar-packed, expressing regret over the one year she “tried to be good and hand out boxes of raisins.”
Lameness also mitigated slightly because of use as thrown projectiles.
HERO!: Cool alternative Halloween item giver.
We get it that not everyone feels good about spreading blood-sugar spikes. So we’d like to recognize those who think outside the box, giving non-edible things kids can enjoy — like stickers, small toys, superballs, whistles, or those weird red Chinese fortune-telling fish. Sugar-free doesn’t have to mean edible, after all.
ZERO: Too cool to dress up, but asks for candy anyway.
As odd as it may be when a costumed older teen or adult shows up asking for candy, at least they’ve put in some effort. But when they show up in jeans and a t-shirt, asking for the good stuff, well, trick’s on them. It’s as American as Mom and apple pie: only hard work and/or navigating the system should result in reward. At least a funny t-shirt, man. Or some Groucho glasses. Pu-leeze.
HEROES!: Little kids that make their own costumes.
You can always tell — the kid doesn’t quite look like what he or she says he is. But they put it together themselves, with no help from mom or dad, making use of what they found in their rooms, the garage, or what they could salvage from friends. Halloween spirit personified — and extra kudos to those talented tots that actually pull off a fantastic costume by their lonesome.
ZERO: Weird Guy at party with full mask who never reveals identity
Okay, people — at some point the jig is up. It’s no fun to have dude in gorilla suit scratching his armpit, making noises, and anonymously groping your friends all night. Half an hour is kinda funny; an hour is irritating, any longer than that borders on creepy or even stalkerish. Share the joke! It’s not all about you! Quit overdoing it!
HEROES!: Haunted house family!
Okay, these guys often overdo it too, but they are doing it for us, their adoring public. From creaky doors to creepy things in jiggly jars, awesome Jack O’Lanterns, complex lighting, and more, these heroes help kids get into the spirit of the holiday through an immersive, interactive experience. Happy Halloween, indeed.
The list, of course, goes on and on, particularly of the zeros. But if you keep your eyes (or your one-eye, pirate-costume guy) open and your ears alert, you may well come across the Halloween heroes that can make your October 31 an experience you’ll treasure.
(originally published Oct. 29, 2009)