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The Evisceration of Halloween

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The witches were the first to go. Then the ghosts. Then the skeletons. Now even jack-o-lanterns are having their leering faces scrubbed clean to pass as plain old pumpkins. The funkillers have been looking for another holiday to go after now that they've sucked most of the life out of Christmas, and their new target is Halloween. They're sucking the guts out like you clean out a pumpkin to make room for a candle and leaving us all poorer for their efforts.

The name "Halloween" itself has been under attack for a long time, and this year the results were hard to ignore. On the shelves at local craft stores you no longer see spooky signs reading "Happy Halloween" or even "Trick or Treat." Instead you find signs with generic slogans like "Happy Harvest," or even worse, "Autumn Blessings" or "Harvest Blessings," whatever that means. Halloween carnivals are now "Harvest Festivals" or "Fall Frolics" and becoming as bland as the names. They've even got kids trick-or-treating in the malls instead of the neighborhoods where they live. The new mascot of the season seems to be a cheery scarecrow whose head is decidedly not made from a pumpkin and who isn't hiding a human skeleton under his cast-off clothes.

Although they are the obvious suspects, this is not just an assault by Christians on a perceived pagan holiday. The real culprits seem to be soulless corporate funkillers whose marketing plan lacks any vision except a desire not to offend even the smallest group of potential customers. Their goal is to make everything as bland and as vague as possible so no one can ever possibly complain, or have any fun. And while this evisceration of the holiday may make it harmless and free from fun, it did manage to at least offend me.

This is hardly the beginning of this war on the imagination and it won't be the end. This year I'm spotting the trend in craft stores, but it's hardly new. I think it started when mass-produced costumes of cartoon characters began to replace homemade costumes which came from kids' imaginations, and that was 30 years ago. There's nothing more disheartening than answering the door to find a cheerless squad of identical Power Rangers staring at you and demanding candy.

Bit by bit the mystery and wonder is being sucked out of Halloween until it's as soulless and meaningless as a manufactured holiday like Valentine's Day. It used to be scary but wonderful, a glimpse of the unknown which awakened young imaginations. Now the kids count their candy while the merchants of blandness count the dollars.

I don't know how to reverse the trend all by myself, but I'm going to start at home, by making sure that my seven-year-old gets a bit of a scare on Halloween night. It may be will-o-the-wisps in the woods behind our house or goblins in the bushes by the front gate or just creaks and moans in the night — something unexpected and spooky to give the imagination a jolt. If it opens her mind just a little bit, who knows where that might lead down the road.

About Dave Nalle

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    Funny, isn’t it? The PC brigade is taking its sledgehammer to the one “holiday” they should be promoting. After all, paganism and Wiccan are faiths that are not only acceptable in the liberal-Left world, but encouraged. Indeed, we should fight back!

    Hallowe’en was always my favourite event of the year, and still is. During the past decade I’ve spent in England, it’s grown more popular each year. Some Brits complain about — it’s just a reflex with them, any “Americanization” has got to be bad news — but I couldn’t be happier.

  • Jordan Richardson

    They’ve even got kids trick-or-treating in the malls instead of the neighborhoods where they live.

    Who are “they?” Also, kids do the same thing up here but they also hit up the local neighbourhoods afterwards. Trick-or-treating in the mall is a safer option for those with young kids, too, and has little if anything to do with some sort of “evisceration” of the holiday.

    Other than that, you cite as evidence of this “evisceration” your local craft shops not saying “Happy Halloween” anymore. Really?

    And now it’s come full circle via Marks’s comment: another political weapon taking away liberty (or something).

    Halloween isn’t being eviscerated in any way, shape or form. Television networks still show scary movies on that day and night, shopping centres are obviously getting into it, and craft stores still offer all manner of Halloween decor and opportunities to frighten.

    Mark, just who (specifically) is the PC brigade?

  • Mark

    Dave, simply show your child the picture you use in your bio just before her bedtime. That should do the trick.

    xxoo

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I like that Manning’s ideology blinds him to the fact that most people pushing back against Halloween are the religious types. Take off the blinders or pull your head out, which ever is more appropriate in your case.

  • http://joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    Halloween started out as a quasi-religious observance (All Saint’s Eve) and morphed into something else. Over the last few decades it’s been gentrified and watered down. But for political correctness? I don’t think so. My city does the pre-trick or treat thing for the kids (in broad daylight and mostly for little kids), but we still get the marauding big kids bussed in from other cities. My beef is when a teenager with a beer in one hand and his booty bag in the other is sitting on my doorstep. I’ve told plenty of them that they are way past their Halloween expiration date.

  • Mark

    (Take care, Joanne. They’ll be obligated to burn down your outhouse.)

  • Deano

    Actually Joanne, Halloween predates Christianity…It derives from the Celtic festival of Samhain, marking the end of harvest and the beginning of the “dark” season (“death” or winter), a night of balefires and feasting, the one night of the year the dead could cross into the world of the living. The ghosts would be provided offerings of food and drink, both to honor dead relatives and to placate restless and dangerous spirits that might loose evil upon the world. The Christian church did what it did with all pagen holidays (and religious locations) – they co-opted it.

    Aside from the usual fundamentalist blather about Halloween being the “devil’s holiday”, I haven’t seen any indication that Halloween is in the grips of any PC correctiveness or “attack”. If anything, it is more popular (and more and more an adult, not just a kid’s holiday).

    Pumpkins and the like are also symbolic of harvest and Thanksgiving holidays, not exclusively Halloween so I suspect this is the usual storm in a teacup approach of people trying to whip up a non-event into a frenzy…

  • Doug Hunter

    Nice article. This is a well picked symbol of what is happening in larger society. Even without official Halloween talking points, everyone knows what position to take and what side they’re on (correlating very well with their larger political stance). That fact alone tells me you may be onto something.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    You mean you guys aren’t going to bash Christmas anymore? You’re gonna fight over Halloween instead? What a bore!! If you guys actually clean up that pagan holiday, Jewish merchandisers in Israel are actually going to have to make stuff up for Purim instead of using the Halloween overstock like they do now.

    It was much more fun watching you all bash Christmas.

  • http://aardvarksplumbline.blogspot.com/ TheAardvark

    As a former resident of (Ned) Flandersville, I am all too aware of the gutting of the Hallowe’en festivities. Having matured somewhat, I am seeing and enjoying the classic holidays all the more. Good call. I must dig out Bradbury’s “The October Country”, now.

    I do not see you as the vanguard of more teapot-tempest brewers. Thanks for your commentary, Dave, on the attempts to make our culture more flavorless than it already is. Just one thing…people, buy the GOOD stuff for the trick-or-treaters, not the remaindered Dollar-store leavings from last year. Nothing can wreck a Happy Hallowe’en like a stale Tootsie Roll.

  • http://nitpickingnightdragon.blogspot.com Mark Edward Manning

    El Bicho, there certainly is PC on the Right as well — the “Freedom Fries” nonsense was a good example of that — but the taking ever such care not to offend anyone, to protect our dear sweet children from anything that could possibly harm them, is hardly a trademark of the Right. No, that is the work of the Left.

    Sure, religious types are hitting out at Hallowe’en too, but from what I gather from Dave’s entry, the Left is active in it too. “Autumn Blessings” and “Happy Harvest” are right in line with the soulless, generic, bland and vapid “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings,” because we can’t say Merry Christmas without offending some athiest nutcase.

  • http://wp.blogcritics.org/writers/elvira-black Elvira Black

    Unfortunately, Halloween has always brought out some share of sickos…and nowadays it’s probably more likely to do so.

    Yes, I think that most parents would exercise a great deal of caution re: old fashioned trick or treating, because nowadays it wouldn’t just be an urban myth re: putting razor blades inside candy, or worse…

    But Halloween is an incredibly lucrative commercial endeavor, so I doubt that the intent is to eliminate the holiday. But I hadn’t noticed that shift.

    However, Halloween and other “pagan” holidays do have to do with the changing of the seasons, harvest festivals, etc.

    The thing that really gets me is that the holiday season merges into one big blob:

    Halloween is marketed way before Oct 31. Then of course Thanksgiving is right around the corner (hence, perhaps, the more generic approach which covers both). The day after Thanksgiving, and you get the ubiquitious Christmas carols.

    In any case, it certainly gets one “primed” for the “holiday” (shopping and spending) season.

    But nice article, Dave. Unfortunately, defanging Halloween is just another reaction to a culture full of sickos, which is why I always get upset when I have to spend a half an hour trying to break the “safety seals” off everything I buy.

    And of course, like everything else in our culture, Halloween can be politicized as a “touchstone” for heated debate. What else is new?

  • http://wp.blogcritics.org/writers/elvira-black Elvira Black

    PS: the fact that you’re writing this in August says something as well, methinks (lol).

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Elvira, I’m writing it in August because the damned HalloweenHarvest stuff has already shown up in the stores. I figure the ChristmasWinter Holiday stuff will be there in September.

    But I really don’t blame it all on the “sickos” — that’s another pet peeve. Statistically there are no more child molestors or serial killers or other “sickos” today than there were 50 years ago as a percentage of the population and in fact, there’s considerably LESS crime overall in the nation. But because of the media every nasty little crime, especially against kids, gets played up now so that we all think our kids are in imminent peril when it couldn’t be less true.

    Dave

  • http://www.sbutki.newsvine.com Scott Butki

    Good piece, Dave. Drop me an email sometime.

  • Jorgenshpier

    Halloween’s in full swing if you’re not going to a fucking craft store. Fishnets and huge tits every year : )