Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Hallow's Evening

The world is a confusing place, but one of the nice things about being a little kid is the way things just sort of make sense. Of course, it's not as though kids know something we don't. Rather, they assign great importance to mundane facts in a way that reaffirms their faith in an ordered world. For example, when I was small, I believed it to be highly significant that the last three months of the year each had a high-profile holiday in their final days. December gives us Christmas, the mother of all childhood memory-makers. November gives us Thanksgiving, the most consistently awesome meal of the year. And October gives us Halloween, which is primarily about wearing scary clothes and eating many, many candies. It sure seemed obvious to me that the close connection of those three days was no accident, but a sure sign that the final quarter of the year was one great big celebration of childhood. When you're a kid, that's a very appealing idea.

Skip a bit to adulthood, though, and I have to admit that the day has lost some of its old luster. Mostly, it's because there seems to be a disconnect between the time-honored thematic tradition of Halloween and the way people actually celebrate it. It's really difficult to sell Halloween as a "horror" holiday when people wear costumes that tend toward the goofy. As awesome as it is to see someone walk down the street wearing a very convincing costume of Coach McGuirk, it's just not "scary." It's as though the traditional holiday got thrown into a blender with as many elements of pop culture as could fit in said blender. The result? Halloween is virtually indistinguishable from a cos-play convention, with the notable exception that people at conventions usually stick to the themes of the event. The fact that many school districts these days are explicitly discouraging trick-or-treaters from wearing 'scary' clothes is not helping matters.

So Halloween doesn't really light my fire anymore. This year, in particular, it was mostly overshadowed by the big football game in town (Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans), so the evening's festivities were at least as much about the Duck's triumph as the holiday itself. In an ironic way, though, the drunken street-revelry of elated college students gave the holiday a bit of its mojo back, by adding an element of mild danger. The cops were out in force tonight to prevent riots, and they more than had their hands full in doing so. Among the more egregious offenses I witnessed: a minivan full of girls being pulled over for driving the wrong way down a one-way street; a gang of hooligans absconding with a stop sign; and on several occasions, the deafening crack of illegal firecrackers in the streets. By far the most surprising event of the evening, however, was the strange girl who bumped into me on a street corner, and immediately started dancing and grinding with a passion. Scary? Not exactly, but I'm certainly not objecting.

Halloween may not make a lot of sense anymore (especially for someone my age), but it's clearly alive and well as a mixture of goofiness, criminality, and pumpkin pulp splattered on front porches. You just can't keep a good holiday down.

Happy Halloween, Everybody!

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