The Telltale Evolution of an American Holiday … (The Politics of Halloween)

Trick ir TreatHalloween annoys the Left with its religious origin and it is doubly annoying since it is so pleasing to so many children. Candy makers however, are ecstatic about it. And churchmen whose ancestors provided it, now just shake their heads in resignation.

Halloween – All Hallows Eve – began as some older folk know, as All Hallows Eve, or the eve of All Saints’ Day, a religious holy day. As have various others, the holiday accrued encrustations of earlier pagan festivals that people did not wish to lose. In America, it has long passed its contemplation of Christian saints and by the beginning of last century, had degraded to an occasion for adults to party while male teens went out to wreak mischief upon the community.

Pushing over outhouses was standard entertainment on Halloween; so was catching a (metal) window screen with a bent pin tied to a black thread. You would unroll the thread to allow hiding behind a tree and rub the tightly pulled thread with a damp rag. The vibrations transmitted to the screen would cause it to moan and sing loud enough to catch the attention of those within, who opening the window, would likely not see the black thread in the dark. This was thought very amusing by young males. An even higher level of entertainment was available from carefully collecting dog poop for a few days before the holiday. This was spooned onto a front porch, kerosene was poured over it and it was lighted with a wooden match. The perpetrators would ring the doorbell or knock loudly and flee to hidden observation points. The homeowner would open the door and stamp out the fire. Hilarity ensued, if one does not include the homeowner. Girls did not do this; they attended parties where they filled a tub of water with apples, which were to be recovered blindfolded with one’s teeth only. That was though fun. And such was Halloween in those days.

Thus Halloween in the first half of last century in America. Little of reverence for saints in that. Perhaps the tricks were traceable to pagan spirits, if so, no one thought of it as an outhouse went over. Some hid under an old sheet with eyeholes cut to appear ghostly, some wore masks but that was the extent of it. Little thought was applied to much but the tricks to be accomplished. Without, of course, being caught.

Somewhere before mid century if you lived in Los Angeles, it all suddenly changed. No one said anything, no orders were issued, but all at once, boys and then girls were trick or treating from door to door. Younger ones, too. And notably, this socially approved extortion was based on very dead history; the ‘tricks’ threatened if treats were withheld, never occurred. The elderly’s memory of supine outhouses was evidently considered to be enough. Halloween had morphed into a children’s entitlement, though older kids still held parties. And there were no saints in sight at all.

We note today that most of the children are very young, but for those shepherded by teens rather than parents. We note that some parents walk with their kids, lingering at the sidewalk while the kids brave the front door to collect their dues. We note recently, that parents are increasingly driving slowly along the street while their kids walk house to house as mob enforcers used to collect protection money from small businesses. But non-payers then did not doubt that failure to pay would result in mob tricks that they could not afford; today’s little kids in their princess or pirate costumes all politely say “thank you” and have no repertoire of tricks should any house disappoint. Apparently, none do.

We also note that what was at say, 1942 likely to produce homemade cookies, apples or fudge for the young gangsters is now a commercial Anschluss; an annual sales event for big business. A lot has changed.

Standing farther back, it seems that the Left’s objection to the religious origin is way late; that is now ancient history and likely entirely unknown to most of the folk involved today. The Lefties are just looking for an excuse to take over the holiday for their own purposes.

We further note that the evolution from piratical mischief-makers on their own aggressive shtick into polite, pretty, highly dependent candy beggars with a sense of entitlement strongly parallels the socio-political evolution of American society during the period within which it occurred. And we further note that the increasing control of the event displayed by those commercial producers who benefit from it most strongly, fits the pattern too.

So we recall from it all that, while our ‘leaders’ tell us where to go and use our money to move us there, we are their ultimate source of authority. It is a partnership. Neither side can honestly assign responsibility entirely to the other. Halloween has now evolved all the way from tricks to treats in the U.S. because that’s how most people have wanted it. That and all that has gone with it, has proven to be quite a trick … whether it will end as a treat, is up for grabs.

About Jack Curtis

Suspicious of government, doubtful of economics, fond of figure skating (but the off-ice part, not so much) Couple of degrees in government, a few medals in figure skating; just reading and suspicion for economics ...
This entry was posted in Edonomics, Government, Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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