Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Day After


The day after Halloween is a mixed bag. I can tell you one thing: preschool teachers everywhere are exhausted and can’t believe that it isn’t the weekend yet. 

Each year I see more and more people sad that there are few, if any, trick or treaters. The tide away from neighborhood Halloween celebrations began long ago, when I was at the end of my trick or treating years. Rumors of razor blades in candy. Fears of strangers. Little by little alternative events, like trick or treating at the Mall - - or trick or treating on Main Street in Ellicott City - - began to take the place of going from door to door in one’s own neighborhood. Now many schools or community groups host Trunk or Treat events.

The move away from what I would think of as old school suburban Halloween has been very, very gradual, beginning in the early 1970’s. It has changed as our culture as changed. If you put sentiment aside and really think about it, that makes sense.

But not to the angry folks on a local Facebook group who fired up a thread with over 150 comments complaining that their kids can’t celebrate Halloween in school they way they did as children. They blame it on evil school leadership, politicians they don’t like, even poor people. Blame, blame, blame. Somebody must be wrong if I am not getting what I want.

Like it or not, life is not the same as when we were children. Even if our neighborhoods still get lots of trick or treaters. Even if our school still has a Halloween parade. Our culture has changed. More mothers work and don’t have time to make costumes. More school communities serve families from a wider variety of backgrounds. Not all celebrate Halloween. Not all have the money or time to create costumes for their children. Few can take time off from their jobs to come to Halloween parades during the school day.

The day after Halloween some people are awaking to discover that their beautiful yard decorations were stolen or destroyed by pranksters. That’s a terrible feeling to wake up to. But teens have been wreaking havoc around Halloween for a long time. When I lived in Connecticut egging houses and TP’ing trees was all the rage. One year we heard reports of rogue teens spraying people with Nair hair remover. 

Is it worse now? I don’t know. Do we buy more expensive yard decorations these days? Yes. It makes losing them to Halloween vandalism worse, somehow. We put more into them. We want people to appreciate them, enjoy them - - not steal or destroy them.

The biggest difference now? Many of us have doorbell cameras that can capture the vandals in real time and present us with the footage like so much crime scene evidence. Does that make us feel better or worse?

The day after Halloween we must sit with all our cognitive dissonance. We didn’t buy enough candy. We bought too much. Halloween isn’t like it used to be. Our neighborhoods aren’t like the neighborhoods we remember. Maybe kids aren’t even like they used to be.

Who is the happiest on the day after Halloween, do you think? Kids, probably. They are better at living in the moment than we are. As for adults, I think that having the capacity for enjoyment of things as they are now is key. That can be hard if we are yearning for worlds that don’t exist anymore.

Are there things worth celebrating in the here and now? Let me know.

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