Halloween is wonderful because it is the holiday that asks the least of its participants, while providing the most reward.
Easter and Christmas have those heavy religious overtones. If you’re a kid and you’re not careful, you might just get bundled into those fancy clothes you hate and dragged to church, where you will sit for what seems like days, not-listening to words that mean nothing to you anyway.
Thanksgiving can be a bear if you don’t like turkey, heavy starches, or family. I always enjoyed my family visits, because my family felt a pretty deep connection and got along well. But for millions of people in dysfunctional families, Thanksgiving must be torture.
(Oh, and did I mention that the ever-increasing attention paid to Thanksgiving weekend shopping has corrupted that holiday with the same foul greed-poison that curdled Christmas? Ring-a-ding-ding.)
New Year’s Day brings with it the nagging subliminal reminder that you’re supposed to magically Do Better next year, even though it’s all you can do to make the rent and keep breathing. Yeah, that’s gonna happen.
Washington’s Birthday and Columbus Day don’t really ask much of us; but then again, they don’t give us much, either. One is a day to spend knocking the icicles off your gutters, and the other is a day to spend cleaning leaves out of your yard — or traveling interstate to appease some family member you won’t be seeing at Thanksgiving.
Halloween, on the other hand, is a day to put on a flammable plastic Ace Frehley costume and go collect all the Three Musketeers bars you can carry, with no obligation in return except to mumble an occasional “thank you” through the confines of your mask. And if you don’t say “thank you,” it doesn’t matter: The person at the door has two more bags of candy bars, wants desperately to get rid of them, and isn’t going to go chasing you for the purpose of getting their candy back.
Beat that with a stick.
I have no idea how, or even if, people celebrated Halloween when my grandfather was a kid. By the time I knew him, he was where I am now — on the other side of the big door, handing out the candy to the ghosts and goblins.
And of course, he was celebrating the holiday on his calendar:
Unfortunately, my grandpa did not keep consistent year-to-year count of how many visitors he got. It would have been interesting to see whether the flow of children to his door ebbed and flowed in keeping with national youth demographic trends.
(That said, I only have his calendars for the years 1961 to 1975 — years thick with the youth of the Baby Boom generation. So I imagine the demand was probably pretty consistent.)
Eighteen trick-or-treaters doesn’t seem like all that much. That might have been because Hope Street was a comparatively large and busy street, not a quiet suburban tract. My guess is that most kids did their trick-or-treating someplace else — not that they wouldn’t have found a friendly reception at 1107 Hope, had they stopped in.
Finally, I will note with quiet approval that Stamford did it right.
Here in eastern Pennsylvania, most townships (with the eager agreement of those white-knuckled prigs who run school districts) have decided that tricks-or-treats must happen on the Friday prior to Halloween. That’s like decreeing that gifts must be opened on the Thursday prior to Christmas, or that resolutions must be made on the last business day before New Year’s Day. Complete bushwah, in other words.
But you’ll notice that my grandpa marks Halloween on Oct. 31 every year. (Other calendar entries not included here also mention “spook” visitors coming on Oct. 31.)
No school boards deciding to reset the calendar in their own image. Just candy n’ costumes, and maybe the occasional bit of toilet paper. And if it’s a Tuesday night, well, funny how life still goes on on Wednesday.
Yeah, they know how to roll in New England; and I’ll get back there someday, some way. Right now, though, I’m going to go make sure I’ve got enough Three Musketeers bars laid on.
You think three bags are enough?
(P.S.: Come back tomorrow for a bonus pop-culture post with vague relevance to my grandfather. No Ace Frehley content.)