Boo, Humbug

Wearing green for Halloween

By Deborah Salomon

October, glorious October! If only not marred by Halloween. Or, rather, Halloween frenzy.

Late in life I’ve become analytical, training my untrained eye on likes and dislikes, preferences and fears, most cemented during childhood when, in this case, I was Halloween-deprived. Back then, kids didn’t dress up and go trick-or-treating in an apartment building occupied by cranky grown-ups. Nothing at school, either. The all-girls school I attended K-5 was for learning, not exchanging Valentines or dressing up as witches. (More about that later.) The only activity I remember was bobbing for apples at the risk of drowning in the wide galvanized metal tub.

Even after moving to a house in a family neighborhood Halloween wasn’t big, probably because my parents, I’m ashamed to admit, refused to buy candy, turned off the porch lights and ignored the few brave kids who didn’t get the message.

A costume for me, by then 12? No way. (More about that later, too.)

Of course back then Halloween wasn’t a mega-holiday that started five minutes after July 4th, saturating stores with made-in-China paraphernalia. What must those Chinese factory workers think, given they don’t celebrate this spin-off of a Christian event?  Sure, stores carried paper napkins, jack-o’-lanterns and spooky masks, but no toilet paper, socks and orange crème-themed Oreos.

Remember, also, that Halloween launches the pumpkin-flavored everything season, which lasts until Christmas. Read the small print; many labels read “pumpkin spice” and contain no pumpkin whatsoever.

Scariest of all, my father’s birthday was Nov. 1. He joked that his mother had a terrible fright on Halloween and he was the result.

Every action provokes a reaction. Once I was in charge our pumpkin had to be jumbo with a fat candle inside.  My kids went nuts for trick-or-treating, in a neighborhood bursting with children.  We divided duties: Daddy chaperoned them house to house (those known for “good” candy had line-ups) while I and a very excitable Airedale manned the front door. Besides loot, we handed out coins for UNICEF. Afterwards each princess and Superman emptied his/her bag into a box which fit under the beds. Easier to protect, I guess, although insider trading flourished for desirable candies — meaning the stickiest, messiest, most cavity-provoking.

For a while, I attempted a Halloween theme dinner. But how can “ghost” mashed potatoes, bat wings and a chocolate pudding graveyard with vanilla wafer tombstones compete with Charleston Chews? 

Inevitably, grown-ups inched into the act. Beginning in 1993 with Coors’ buxom witch Elvira, brewers outdid themselves with cute names and labels. Bars hosted costume bashes. Bank tellers and school teachers dressed up. Politics influenced adult costumes — remember the Nixon fright mask and, more recently, Hillary and Trump?

Halloween never fully recovered after sickos hid dangerous objects in treats. Parents began bussing little Halloweenies into happier hunting grounds. Door-to-door became trunk-or-treat and parties in a school gym even after, in 2005, legislation extended daylight saving time to include Halloween, for safety. I still carve a small pumpkin and buy a few bags of “good” candy, which means Hershey Miniatures and Reese’s bite-sized peanut butter cups. But where are the hordes of ghosts and goblins, with parents hovering on the sidewalk? Replaced by teenagers dolled up as zombies. Bah, humbug. Go away. Do your homework.

As for porch decorations, I have created only one — simple but edgy, for folks who remember the wicked witch’s demise in Wizard of Oz, with a nod to Macbeth. I drape a black cape and witch’s hat over a broom, with lace-up granny boots beside it, along with a sign that says “Stirring the brew. Back in a few minutes . . . ”

Conclusion: Halloween is — like riding a bike and speaking French — best learned in childhood. Otherwise, color me green and call me the Grinch who stole the Tootsie Pops.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at

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