Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween '10

Halloween has arrived at last. Merchants and broadcasters and advertisers are doing their best to stretch the damn thing out deep into October, something like the way Christmas has consumed December, and I say resist. One day is enough for Halloween. If we want more holiday, we North Americans should add Día de los Muertos to the festivities. It would be a fine cultural import. Early November seems like a good time to visit relatives in graveyards and feasting back home to their memory, complete with sugar skulls.

Japan has a multiday holiday to honor the departed: O-bon (お盆). The Kansai area celebrates O-bon in August. There were festivities and visits to grave sites. But mainly it meant that nearly everything shut down and that everybody had a week's vacation at the same time. Long-distance travel at the time was difficult at best, so each year I spend my mandatory week off poking around places I could reach on local trains. One year, I went to see the lighting of the Gozan-no-okuribi Daimonji in the hills outside Kyoto, which was a cool thing to see, but that's as far as I ventured during O-bon.

A Wall Street Journal blog posting (which may or may not be available now) includes this assertion regarding Halloween creep: "Many families started with parties last weekend, and will continue celebrating through Sunday night, extending what used to be a one-day holiday over more than a week. Moreover, some parents are taking time off of work [Friday] for school parties and parades, or on Monday to recover."

Oh, really? The blog is about how stressful it can be to raise a family while working in the money economy, too. (That isn't quite how the writer phrases it.) Oddly, there's no suggestion in this particular posting about how much less stressful it is let Halloween be a one-day holiday; or better, a two- or three-hour holiday. To paraphrase my eldest daughter, "The candy's the thing."

That and fond memories of one's own Halloweens. Some of my earliest memories of Halloween involve hearing stories, already current in the late 1960s, about poisoned candy or razor blades (or pins) in apples that were dispensed to unlucky children. My own favorite was, and is, the tale of kids who received chocolate Ex-Lax while trick-or-treating. As literal fact, the poison-candy stories are almost all nonsense. But since we moderns generally disbelieve stories of evil spirits roaming the land on All Hallow's Eve, we need some other kind of menace out there on October 31.

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