Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween: Evil Paganism, Family Fun, or Election Distraction?

The Jewish holidays are finally over--which I say with a smidgen of guilt, as these are joyous, festive days that connect family, season, Torah and personal growth. But in the diaspora, we've just emerged from a series of two-day non-work holidays, which for me meant non-stop cooking, preparing, serving, dish-washing and clean-up. And, like the rest of my family, angst for missing so much work, and falling behind on assignments, class lectures, important deadlines.

Throughout, the election was a disturbing backdrop. The stakes are so high for the country, with no less than a major re-vamp in direction likely if Obama succeeds. I keep hearing that the election is so close that anything is possible. Obama tries to sound centrist, and McCain gets less press than Tina Fey.

Halloween is the national distraction. Even as my fave part of the Sunday New York Times ("Style") touts former designer-fashion addicts who have become "recessionistas," and the real-estate section laments a funk in prices for new homes, the Seattle Times Sunday magazine does a cover story on the excesses of Halloween.

And it's true: more houses in my community are ablaze with orange lights, smashed witches, cottony webs draped on bushes and Styrofoam-filled "ghosts" hung from trees. More front lawns sport "tombstones" and inflated jack-o-lanterns.

Is this an escape from reality, an ominous sign of an obsession with death, or a frivolous foray into unbridled consumerism? Are the children who don elaborate Cinderella, Batman and Hannah Montana costumes (the top three according to the Associated Press) materialistically justifying begging for deleterious sweets?

Every year, I get in the same argument with my husband about Halloween. He says it's pagan indoctrination with selfish undertones. I say it's a fun time to dress up and go meet the neighbors.

This year, it's time off. From the nerve-wracking contemplation of the ker-plunk of the stock market if Obama wins. From the fear of the impact of his tax policies on small business, and on the five percent of earners who carry the ball for the forty percent who don't pay a thing. From dejection when considering a nation saddled for a generation with Supreme Court judges who don't abide strictly by the constitution but support penumbras of emanations, and will take it outward from there. From worry about the irreversible innovations a Democratic congress and Executive Branch can entrench together in health care, welfare, foreign policy, governmental expansion.

I did something daring. I put a McCain-Palin bumper sticker on my minivan. In my Obama-obsessed neighborhood, some think that's an invitation to get your car keyed. I wonder as I drive--did that guy cut me off because of the sticker? If my learner's permit-wielding son makes a curb-scraping turn, will the driver behind make a political connection? But I had to do it--everywhere you look here, Obama signs call out for balance. Still, it's another source of stress.

I'd rather just go to Costco and buy that humongous bag of Hershey's snack-size treats, and think about the cute princesses and dragons and pirates who'll ring my bell this Friday night. Oh heck, might as well open the bag right now, chomp a few m-and-m peanuts (I like the brown ones) and fantasize about those glowing pumpkins, and the mottled leaves that will float down my street as gently as those Styrofoam ghosts.
For the record, even in a non-election year, I win the debate with my husband. I do see the negative in Halloween (like the subtle shift from a kid-centric fun time to an adult excuse to party in overly-sexual attire) but also eschew the nonsense that knocking at neighbor's doors who willingly offer candy corrupts kids' otherwise altruistic values. The question has become moot in our home as our youngsters move into adulthood--one daughter opposed to the holiday on Jewish religious grounds, another giddily embracing the festivities with her sorority sisters. Our son likes the candy, but now at 16 is past trick-or-treating, and this year, with the 31st falling on Shabbat, he'll be at home with me, handing out Hershey's to those little goblins and fairies at our door.

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