Standard Deviations: The war on… Halloween?
You thought the War on Christmas was bad? It’s got nothing on the skirmishes going on over this next holiday coming up.
The attacks on All Hallows’ Eve may not get the same kind of attention in the press, but the relentless debates going on about the Oct. 31 celebration are enough to make the silly “Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas” question look like child’s play.
This Halloween in-fighting is occurring on several fronts, including when and how best to celebrate what many of us would argue is the second-most-popular holiday, behind the juggernaut of Christmas. The lion’s share of the conflict can be separated into four basic disagreements:
No. 1 — The fight over whether or not Halloween, or at least the trick-or-treating portion, ought to be permanently moved to the last Friday or Saturday in October.
One of the things that’s kept Halloween from really taking off as one of our premier holidays is the inconsistency in the day of the week that it falls on. Since Halloween isn’t an actual get-a-day-off-work kind of holiday, most years it just feels like yet another boring workday. (Except for the fact that the creepy guy in the next cubicle over is dressed like Pirate Elvis. And the Fat Pirate Elvis, too.)
Where much of the trick-or-treating/partying takes place in the evening, knowing you’ve got work in the morning is always a bit of a downer. Moving Halloween to a weekend could help; knowing it’s not a “school night” might make it a bit more festive year-to-year.
Now, purists will argue that Halloween is and always has been on Oct. 31 — and if that was good enough for them as a child, it’s good enough for today’s children. But the fact is, as Einstein famously pointed out, time is relative. Our modern calendar with its dates, days of the week, months, holidays, etc. is little more than a human construct that means nothing outside of its arbitrary choices.
These purists will further wring their hands and ask, “What next? Moving Christmas to the last Sunday in December?
To which I reply: “Saaaaay, now that you mention it …”
No. 2 — The fight over whether or not the invention of the trunk-or-treat is some sort of communist plot to destroy America and sully her grandest traditions.
Wanna start a bar fight in polite company? Casually mention that you’re thinking about taking you kids to a trunk-or-treat event this year. At least half of the room will act like you just announced the marriage of your 9-year-old son to your 6-year-old daughter — and somebody’s bound to call Child Protective Services on you.
For some inexplicable reason, many Americans think these trunk-or-treat events — where community members pull their vehicles into a parking lot and costume-wearing children go trick-or-treating from one trunk or tailgate to another — are ruining Halloween. They think the practice is to blame for the declining numbers of trick-or-treaters running around the neighborhood and ringing their doorbells every Oct. 31.
But that can’t be the reason for the decline, because the majority of trunk-or-treat events don’t conflict with Halloween night.
Besides, when have you ever known children to pass up another chance to score free candy from virtual strangers?
No. 3 — The fight over whether or not we, as a God-fearing Christian nation, should even be celebrating Halloween.
I can’t believe we need to address this issue — so I’ll keep this brief — but there is a small, hyper-religious faction of society that thinks Halloween celebrates dark, evil forces, and we shouldn’t glamorize such a pagan holiday.
Of course, take that with a grain of salt, because these are the same crazy people who believe reading the “Twilight” book series will turn you into a cult-following satan-worshipper. (When everybody knows the only thing reading “Twilight” can do to you is maybe shave off a few IQ points.)
No. 4 — And while we’re on the subject of religion, don’t even get me started about that whole Halloween-on-Sunday thing.
This is perhaps the most heated — and ridiculous — holiday disagreement that takes place here in the state of Utah every half-dozen years or so. Each time Halloween falls on a Sunday (it happens next in 2021), members of the predominant religion hereabouts opt to go trick-or-treating the day before. Invariably, that decision brings the angry minority out of the woodwork, who see the move as an affront to their Constitutionally guaranteed right to free candy on the correct night — not the night before.
The last time Halloween fell on a Sunday, most of the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood came around on Saturday night. We turned on the front porch light, lit the jack-o’-lanterns and gave out candy. The next night, just to be safe, we again turned on the porch light and lit the jack-o’-lanterns. And sure enough, a small number of dedicated witches and ghosts dropped by for candy.
The really smart ones hit us both nights.
Now, what we have here are four problems, with one devastatingly simple solution: Simply change the night Halloween falls on. I mean, why not pull the trigger and designate Halloween as the final Saturday in October?
I’ll tell you why not. For the same reason that we, unlike most of the rest of the thinking world, never adopted the metric system. Because we’re the United Freakin’ States of America, people. And America doesn’t “do” metric.
This, despite the fact metric is a far superior system for measurements — easier to visualize, more intuitive. Given the choice between the simple “powers-of-10”-based metric system and the “who-the-heck-knows-what”-based Imperial system, only a fool would choose the latter.
And yet, we don’t convert over.
Halloween is a lot like that. Logically, changing to a floating holiday on the last Saturday of October makes so much more sense than the current set-in-stone date. But this is America, by golly, and in America we don’t do things because they’re logical or make more sense.
In America, we do things for one reason, and one reason alone:
Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.