Chacos column: The costume is fine, but candy’s dandier
Ridicule and harsh commentary will haunt you if you keep your porch light off Halloween night, or worse, if you dish out crappy candy. Just ask any self-respecting kid what the cheapskates dole out.
Trust me, they’ll point to every house in the hood and tell you with the precision of a brain surgeon what was handed out at each home for the past three years. If your place remains dark year after year, just be thankful Mischief Night has fallen out of favor in most parts of the country.
I know there are legitimate reasons attesting that Halloween is the worst American holiday promoting excessive consumerism and a love affair with candy. On the other hand, if you’ve never dressed up as a large piñata secretly eating Twix bars stolen from your child’s tote bag while locked in the bathroom, you just may be considered an uptight grump who doesn’t know how to let loose for a night.
The rational self says that kids shouldn’t really care about the type of candy they receive because it’s a gift. But ask someone who’s left with too many Bit o’ Honeys when it’s time to wheel and deal and you may find that this is just another form of cruel and unusual punishment that adults like to inflict upon unsuspecting children.
You may further strengthen your argument by stating that kids just love dressing up in costume anyway. They enjoy bathing in compliments and like us celebrating their infinite creativity with oohs and ahhs. Some adults will go a step further, dressing up and crafting unique ways to parody horror, politics and poke fun at the suffering or social landscape.
Just remember, a great costume is a step in the right direction, but, hands down, what seals the deal is top-shelf candy.
Chances are the hypervigilant parent will toss out most of the poorly rolled, cheap candy before any reaches their child’s lips anyway. I remember my mother sorting through my loot tossing handmade popcorn balls, cubed caramels, Smarties and apples. She reasoned that a razor blade could be tucked inside or that the candy may have been poisoned and rewrapped. No one wants to waste time with a snotty-nosed youngster declaring the saltwater taffy from the granny across the street must get the heave ho. So do us all a favor and save your homemade goodies for the local craft fair and get the properly sealed stuff.
The very literal, religious person could also quibble with the outright paganism, occultism and vandalism that we inadvertently promote on Halloween. Mix that with reckless abandon, fantasy and an evening of nonexistent willpower, and you have yourself an unholy, highly processed mess. Some would argue that going out to dinner or heading out of town is just a simpler path to take on Oct. 31. Still, do yourself a solid and just leave a bowl on your stoop reminding little hands to “take only one,” but recognize this is just fool’s talk.
Come the beginning of October, you can find me pulling out my Halloween decorations and preparing for the most lighthearted, relaxing holiday ever celebrated. We roll out decorative dish towels, kitschy coffee mugs and even place a disturbing ghost who cracks terrible one-liners in the bathroom. We go pumpkin picking and have a contest seeing who could find the most ugly, warty orange orb crowning it with an equally horrid name. Dinner conversation turns to what costume the dog should wear and if we should try getting our cat dressed up this year, too.
The most stressful thing about Halloween is not about which side of the family to visit, what gifts to buy or even what meal we should serve. The only time conversation turns serious and the words take on a calculated cadence is when the kids begin to discuss what kind of candy we should peddle as a family. We believe it says a lot about the values and morals we hold high in our household.
The son with Type 1 diabetes clearly chooses the candy with the highest concentration of sugar in a confection favored by SpongeBob SquarePants. Another child argues that we should stock our serving bowls with my favorites, so I don’t go around stealing theirs when they’re off at school. The oldest ponders her vote and finally rests on Almond Joy. “That’s the candy for old people,” I quip, “because who in their right mind would marry chocolate with coconut and try to pass it off as a candy bar?”
So in a couple of weeks I’ll trek to the market and load up on obscene amounts of kid-approved, overpriced candy. I know well-meaning parents will toss much of it anyway. Some will convince their children to give pounds of the hard-earned stuff to the dentist for a cash return. Others will employ the Switch Witch for a night, leaving a present in exchange for all of their child’s candy. I even know of one mom testing her kids’ willpower by allowing them each a piece a day until the candy is eventually gone sometime the following spring.
And last year I tried my hand at another, less humane tactic. I gave my kids a lesson in good ol’ American gluttony allowing them to eat as much as their little bellies could muster on Halloween night. If I remember correctly, only one got sick. Win for me.
On behalf of American children everywhere, and the adults who secretly enjoy Halloween too, give into your inner-whimsy and just enjoy this day. As throngs of kids pound the pavement happy to ride the wave of silliness in the adults around them, remember they’re still discerning, little candy hoarders. And if you don’t dish out tasty morsels this Halloween, you’re sure to be heckled by a little ghoul or ghost for years to come.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.