Happy Halloween

I don’t really get Halloween.  I mean I get into it for the kids sake.  They love the costumes and, of course, the promise of metric butt loads of candy.  But I don’t really get it.  We celebrated when I was a kid.  We went trick or treating.  Always treating.  Never tricking.  That wouldn’t have been popular with my Dad, who was maybe the one person who got Halloween less than me.  Maybe I would be more down with it if I had tricked a few times.  Maybe not.

I remember Halloween as the weak-sister of holidays.  Not in the same league as Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter.  It couldn’t even compete with Columbus Day or President’s Day because we didn’t get a day off from school.  As I got older I recognized the significance of Halloween parties, but even then it didn’t really rate with me, since I didn’t need an excuse to go drinking.

But my boys love Halloween.  All of my boys.  My oldest loved it as a child and has since moved on to the Halloween party phase of enjoyment.  My two youngest are just living the dream wearing cool costumes and raking in candy.

About a month ago my wife started asking Charlie what he wanted to be for Halloween.  He wanted to be a rhinoceros.  He loves rhinos.  Try finding a rhino costume.  We searched the web and the local shops and found nothing.  Next choice was  a knight.  Not a bad choice so we purchased a plastic shield, sword and helmet.  Close, but less knight and more Russell Crowe in Gladiator.  Plus he looked a little sad in just the armor.  Next choice was a Ninja.  Ninja we can do.  We purchased a cool looking Ninja costume complete with swords and we were in business.  The problem here, as with any costume the kid has ever owned, is he can’t seem to let go of the thought that the costume is a toy to played with every day.  These costumes don’t stand up well to daily wear, so keeping him happy and the costume in one piece has been tricky.

Eli was easy.  He is a monkey.  For the first few years of life kids are at their mother’s mercy as far as costumes go.  Last year he was a giraffe.  Maybe next year he will have some input, but I doubt it.

Costumes evolve as the child ages.  My oldest started out at his mom’s mercy.  I remember a Winnie-the-Pooh costume early.  Then Power Rangers and then Ninjas.  What is it about boy children and Ninjas?  It amazes me.  The Ninja lobby must have a great publicist.  Read up on them.  They were not nice people.  They would not have appreciated the adoration heaped on them by our children.

The Ninja phase evolved into a series of non-specific dark entities with weapons and hoods.  They all looked like different takes on the Grim Reaper with different masks and varying weaponry.  Parker’s costumes became more dark, more sinister and better armed.  This coincided with his early teen years, so maybe it was angst.  Or maybe I just don’t get Halloween.

My wife has suggested family costumes.  I, in response, have suggested therapy.  Really, I can’t think of anything more horrifying as going out dressed up in a costume and letting people look at me.  OK, I get it, this is a me thing.  I mean maybe if I was completely certain that EVERYBODY was going to be in costume I could do it.  Like at a Halloween party or something.  Alcohol would help.  I could do it if everybody else was embarrassing themselves.  But not for just taking the kids trick or treating.  I embarrass myself without trying, thanks.

Unfortunately for trick-or-treaters,  the weather here in Fairbanks usually makes costumes irrelevant.  Historically Halloween coincides with the first really cold days of winter.  It seems to me that the temperatures for most Halloweens have been well below zero.  In that weather, kids stop being cowboys, princesses, vampires, witches and of course, Ninjas and start looking like advertisements for Lands End and The North Face.  All of the little spooks and ghouls are wearing snow suits and bunny boots.  The Red Power Ranger becomes the Red Power Ranger trying to avoid hypothermia.  The Ninja becomes a Ninja crying because he can’t feel his feet.

There have been some innovations in costume engineering and science.  Last year Charlie had a shark costume that was designed to fit over clothes.  We put his snow suit on him and we were off.  He looked like a shark that had eaten a mountain climber, but he was warm.  Eli’s monkey costume is thick and bulky enough to keep him warm if worn over a couple of layers.  If you look hard enough, you can find a costume that will keep your trick-or-treater warm.  Costume designers are meeting the need.

The part of Halloween I do get is the candy.  I am down with the candy.  We all have our favorites.  I am a serious chocolate guy.  I love dark chocolate but I don’t think it is appropriate for Halloween treats.  Dark chocolate is over thinking the Halloween candy experience.  I suggest staying with the classics.

What treats you give and portion size are crucial.  Again, stay with the classics.  This is not a time to go cheap.  When I was a kid there was a peanut butter chew candy that tasted like butt smells.  It was gross, but it was inexpensive.  So inexpensive that you got an entire handful of peanut butter chews.  I guess the thought was that if you give people a lot of gross candy then it will somehow become less gross.  Same goes for the candy pumpkins that seem to be made of recycled candy corn material.  Gross.  No peppermints for two reasons.  1.  It is not Christmas.  2.  Peppermint tastes like sugar and disappointment.

Bit O’ Honey?  Please, don’t get me started,

When in doubt you can’t go wrong with the classic candy bars; Snickers, Milky Way, Kit Kat, Butterfingers, Hershey Bars, you get the idea.  There are some pleasant Halloween surprises.  I usually find a couple of Charleston Chews in my boys’ buckets.  That is old school and it pleases me.

As far as portions go, two or three small candies of the variety mentioned above is adequate.  More than that and you are showboating . . . you’re trying too hard.  However it is better to showboat than to carefully place a single piece of candy in the bag.  That just seems wrong.

In my opinion, you should stay away from the homemade treats and fruit.  First, no parent will ever let their kids eat them.  We just won’t.  We are conditioned to believe that the popcorn balls and apples are laced with poison and razor blades.  Plus does anybody really ever eat a popcorn ball?  In all seriousness, however, in our old neighborhood a lady made brownies and put them in ziplock bags with a slip of paper that had her name, address and phone number on it so people would know where they came from.  I thought that was classy, but we still didn’t let the kids eat them.

In the neighborhood that Charlie used to work there were two families that passed out tiny religious pamphlets instead of candy.  The pamphlets were small comic books that explained how evil and anti-Christian Halloween is.  I completely respect anybody’s religious beliefs and seriously hope to avoid insulting anybody.  But lighten up.  I understand the origins of Halloween and the original meaning of giving gifts to placate evil spirits, but those meanings are completely lost to my Ninja and monkey.  They are trick or treating not sacrificing goats.  I don’t personally feel that trick or treating is sinful as practiced.  I am not an expert on the matter, but I seriously doubt there are any souls in Hades doing eternity on Halloween rap.

My Halloween pet peeve is adult trick or treaters.  I mean a guy in a costume with his kids is cool.  Unaccompanied adults in costume is a little creepy.  Unaccompanied adults in street clothes is akin to stalking.  Last year we had two different couples come to our door in street clothes and trick-or-treat.  Charlie had finished his trick-or-treating early and was working the door.  He opened the door and looked at the first couple.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“Trick or Treat!”

“No really, what do you want?”

“Trick or Treat?”

“You should have kids with you, it’s not as creepy that way,” he explained as he gave them each a Kit Kat.

The next couple showed up and again Charlie answered.  He gave them each a piece of candy said, “Your friends were just here.  They went that way.”

I don’t get Halloween, but then I don’t really have to get it.  My monkey and Ninja will get it for me.  They are what it is about.  Whatever your kids dress up as, keep them safe and try to avoid stomach aches.  You can also save me the Charleston Chews.

By the way.  You can “like” us on Facebook.  Just look for the page This Side of the Diaper.  There’s not much there now, but I will be working on it.

See you next time on This Side of the Diaper.

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