I saw purple candy corn the other day at the store. Purple candy corn. For me that is wrong on so many levels, but I should confess that I am not, nor have I ever been a lover of candy corn. It is, after all, just sugar, corn syrup, and marshmallow. Yeah, I didn’t know about the marshmallow either. And really, that’s mostly just more sugar and corn syrup (I love it when they have both). At any rate, I didn’t mean to go on specifically about the candy corn, but the purple stuff got me to wondering. How did we get here? How did Halloween come to be a night to go gather an enormous bag of candy? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know my kids usually come home when their load is too heavy to carry any more.
What is Halloween about? That’s the funny bit. It seems that the march of time, cultural domination, and social realities have made Halloween about everything and nothing at all, all at the same time – a characteristic I would argue many of our holidays share at times. Halloween WAS about the fading of the sun, the rise of the dark. Then it was about honoring the dead. Then it was about pranks, and then, family fun (and CANDY).
As with all of our holidays, I sense that we sometimes forget what they CAN mean, and get caught up in a bit of what they seem to mean – thus the multiple aisles devoted to candy (as opposed to just the usual two) and the rush on costumes that have nothing to do with any of the original purposes of Halloween (lest you think I am throwing too many stones, I confess that I will be sending Elsa the Snow Queen out in a largely purchased costume because I couldn’t stand to say no to something else). I am taking this minute, right here in front of you like a intellectual and philosophical exhibitionist, to remind myself that I get to do Halloween my way, too.
This day of madness and mayhem gets to be whatever my family and I decide it should be. When I think back to Halloweens in my past, I remember with the greatest fondness being paraded around the neighborhood by Big Sis, coached about how best to approach the doorbell, and defended from the couple of neighborhood punks who sought to lighten my load. I remember costumes that were put together, fashioned as a project with my Mom; they were never perfect, but they were fun, and I remember feeling great about them. I remember crunching in the leaves, turning on the flashlight when the dark became too much, and moping on the occasions when I was forced to wear a coat over my beloved costume. I remember my Mom making salty roasted pumpkin seeds. And finally, I remember my neighbor’s popcorn balls. I would have given up everything else in that bag for another of those popcorn balls.
So where does that leave me in my own celebrations? What traditions do I wish to highlight, to start, to pass on? How is this night of candy hoarding about me and my family (cause I really do need everything to be about me ;-))?
Our costumes will be hybrid. I bought big parts. We will use face paint and other special bits to make them extra awesome. We will work together and talk about the costumes to get them just so, to eke every bit of pleasure out of the dressing up that we can. We will decorate with creepy things to remind ourselves that death is a part of this great life as we stomp through the leaves that have indeed begun to fall. We will celebrate the abundance of the late harvest by picking pumpkins and roasting their seeds, maybe even making some pesto with them. And I am going to attempt to make popcorn balls without corn syrup (I’m looking at these, but have not settled for sure), in honor of the woman who I suspect kept my mother sane during my early years. I will hand out popcorn balls in a small bag with our name and address on it so people won’t be afraid to eat them and if we run out, there will be plenty of spider rings, glow sticks, and maybe a little dark chocolate for the truly worthy.
And when it’s all over, I’ll break the news to my kids that they can’t keep ALL the candy. They will not be surprised as I’ve been working up to it, and they still have some from last year. This year, we will take advantage of the candy buy back at a local dentist, and they will send it to our troops. Sounds like a good plan to me. Happy almost Halloween!