A mouse, Spiderman, a vampire and a clown. These are four of the five Halloween costumes that I can remember wearing as a kid. The fifth, my favorite, was Darth Vadar. Like most of my costumes, my mother had sewn this one from scratch. It was amazing. Long black cape, the collar of which stood well over my head, black top and bottoms, black gloves, and belt, and, of course, a chest plate with red and yellow lights. The only things that weren’t homemade were the boots and mask. I remember trick-or-treating that year. (Actually, I think I wore the costume for two consecutive Halloweens.) As I stood outside the doorway of each house asking for candy, I pretended that I was the evil Sith Lord ‘willing’ the occupants to give me extra treats. It was a brilliant feeling.
Of course I had been many other creatures and characters throughout my years as a trick-or-treater (I was out there almost every year until grade twelve. What can I say? I loved the holiday!) Unfortunately, I am unable to recollect what all of my costumes were. What I can recall, however, was the excitement and warm feeling of anticipation that filled my mind throughout the month of October as I awaited Halloween’s arrival. There is something magical about a night when you can dress up as your favorite character and walk around the neighborhood after your curfew begging for candy and treats from your neighbors.
Another plus for me was seeing my father, and for a few years, my mother, dressed up as Donald and Daisy Duck to hand candy out to the other kids. My dad has the voice to match the costume and a personality that leaves people gasping for breath in glorious fits of laughter. Many kids came back to the house for a second round, not so much for the candies but for the fun and jokes. I am sure there were a more than a few disappointed children when my parents finally closed their doors to trick-or-treaters. The neighborhood lost a good house that year!
Despite my fond memories of All Hallows’ Eve, I wonder if Halloween means the same thing to kids today as it once did. I have been out the North American Halloween scene for fifteen years but from what I have seen and read, it is not the same ‘fun’ holiday that remains in the cobwebbed recesses of my mind.
From first to last, costumes to candies, parents seem to be a little more on edge for the safety of their little ones. They look more carefully at where costumes and makeup were made for fear that they might be toxic to the skin or extremely flammable. Kids are also told to trick-or-treat during the waning hours of dusk to avoid potential predators, the true monsters that come out when darkness covers the skies. Parents must also be even more vigilant about inspecting the sugary bounty that their kids bring home. Baked goods and apples were tossed even when I was a kid; however, now candy must be closely inspected for loose wrappers and small holes. Who knows what poisons could have been added to the treats. All of this hype and fear diminishes the fun that should be surrounding this great day and night.
There is also a social stigma that seems to have attached itself to Halloween making it incompatible with school standards. I can understand prohibiting outrageous costumes that are being worn for nothing more than shock value; however, when I hear that kindergarten children are being dissuaded from wearing superhero costumes because they might promote violence my head is left shaking in confusion. I also find it difficult to comprehend how some schools avoid Halloween altogether for fear that its pagan origins might offend religious minorities. For kids, the holiday is about as religious as a birthday party. (A non-denominational birthday party that is.) Pop culture is the only thing that brings religion into the holiday. School costume parties, bobbing for apples, and haunted houses are not religious in the least. As far as I am concerned, let the kids have some fun!
This is what I try to do with my daughter and the children at our school, anyways. Nevertheless, Halloween is somewhat foreign to the Taiwanese culture and it is not always an easy thing to do. Halloween is only really promoted in kindergartens and English learning centers. I am sad to say that very few children in Taiwan have ever had the experience of trick-or-treating. My daughter, having been born here, is no different. I often wonder, however, if she would love the holiday as much as I did if we were living in Canada today.
Thriller, by Michael Jackson, is the quintessential Halloween song. Ever since I was in grade six, it has been a part of every Halloween party to which I have had the pleasure of attending (or DJing.) From the opening creak to the final cackle, the song exudes what Halloween is all about – thrills, chills and a hella good time.
As I watched the video to Thriller again this evening, I came to the conclusion that ‘yes’ my daughter would love Halloween in Canada as much as I did. Rachel, Siaya and I met my brother and his family at a Hsinchu burger joint this afternoon. We all went dressed up in our costumes and enjoyed a nice lunch together. We then ventured forth to a flower market (very similar to a flea market but with much more food and a lot of games) and then to a mall for dinner and a bit more shopping. Despite being the only people dressed up, (On an aside I am pleased to say that I managed to frighten about four children and shame some guy by making him scream in front of his girlfriend.) we were are completely comfortable and had an amazing time. I can only imagine the delight that Siaya would get if she had been able to wear her costume with a street full of other children and gotten candy for doing so. I look forward to the time when I can finally open my daughter’s eyes up to what Halloween is all about. I just hope the dang holiday stays around that long!
Happy Halloween, all!
Thriller youtube link