November 17, 2018

Remember When Halloween Was For Kids?

“Recently I read the average American spends about $88 on Halloween. In 2018 the U.S.A. is expected to spend a total of nearly $9 billion on the holiday; that total includes costumes, candy, decorations, cards, parties and attendance at holiday attractions. Statistics such as these cause my husband annually to shake his head and remark in disbelief with a twinge of nostalgia, “Remember when Halloween was a holiday only for kids?”

When I do my part to celebrate the autumn holidays by adorning our front porch with a few chrysanthemums in hues of amber and vermilion enhanced by a pumpkin or two, my husband will nod and smile, but that’s about as far as we take it with harvest-themed decorating. Around the corner, there are homes with elaborate twinkling lights of crimson and gold along with artificial cobwebs, witches’ cauldrons and a plastic ghost or two. To this my husband begins to describe his mother’s 1950s sensibility and belief that displays of Indian corn near one’s front door were better left to people in the suburbs. With roots in old Baltimore, my mother-in-law’s childhood was spent growing up near downtown’s elegant 1920’s Mount Vernon Place. Both she and my own mother believed that “less is more,” therefore, an artfully carved jack o’ lantern was about the extent of their Halloween décor.

As a baby boomer, I remember fondly the Halloweens of my childhood, and yes, the holiday was indeed for kids. In addition to my father’s annual carving of a pumpkin in our kitchen there were traditions that would most likely send today’s parents into states of panic. I have absolutely no recollection of a single friend with a peanut allergy; candy was tossed into random grocery store bags or pillowcases that served as trick-or-treat bags, and no doubt plenty of that candy contained peanuts. Handfuls of unwrapped candy corn, unwashed apples, even spare change were thrown in also. It was a kinder, gentler time, and no one would have dreamed of x-raying the contents of those bags.”

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