Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween, a Time of Garden Hose Baptism

Well, they're at it again.  This happens every single year and I'm tired of it.  The Good People of the First Self-Righteous Church decry Halloween as a Pagan celebration that is seeking to corrupt the morals of our young people, especially young men, by exposing them to the worldliness of the world, which is all they'll allude to.  I suspect it's all they can allude to without giving themselves a collective apoplexy, which is what generally happens when you can't see the freight train because of your blind spot.

I'll spare everyone the righteous rant from the pulpit of Pastor Pissfire Pallbox.  If you're really all that curious, you can tune in to any television ministry on Sunday and get treated to a first class version.  I actually listened to about twenty minutes from one of these ministers and I thought I was watching a re-run of Saturday Night Live.  I couldn't believe anyone would take this guy seriously - I think it might have been Jerry Falwell, but I'm a long way from surety here.  Anyway, at some point after WWII and before yesterday, the Good Christian People of the U.S. of A. discovered that Halloween gave them something safe to hate and that they could criticize the people who celebrate Halloween without fear of reprisal.

Then, in spite of the separation of Church and State, they took their silly prejudice to the Bored of Education.  Now another holiday is being eliminated.

Halloween Parties Vanishing in Some Toledo-Area Schools
Halloween alternatives are being heralded as education-based, time-on-task events with hands-on activities such as candle making and squash-seed counting. But when compared to Halloween parties, autumn-themed events might be viewed, at least by some children, as a way to masquerade the usual school day.
First of all, just what the hell is a 'time-on-task' event?  This sounds a lot like the crap that the average programmer/analyst has to listen to from a spineless geek wanna-be who is a living, breathing example of the Peter Principle (or Principal as it applies to the public school system) as suffered through during the weekly project status update meeting.  I suspect that grade school children are being prepared by The Capitalistic System for a life in Cube Hell West, where men are mentally castrated so completely that they will refuse to notice the hottie with the big torpedoes in the cube next to them.  I'd seriously suspect a conspiracy if the Bored of Education weren't staffed by bureaucrats who can't even come close to mediocrity, even when standing on a bar stool.  As things stand today, the concept of a huge "them versus us" plot shatters my willing suspension of disbelief - and I am very imaginative.  And the public school has the kids making candles and counting the seeds in a squash?  Fall back to a day of fun for the kids.

When I was a child in elementary school and wasn't sitting in the principal's office for ignoring some inane, trivial school rule - okay, scratch that.  Back when I was in elementary school, the kids had fun on Halloween.  We played games, we dressed in costume, we got all kinds of stuff that was bad for us and at the end of the day we had a big parade where all the kids got to see each other in costume.  It was fun.  As you can see from my various essays, I was horribly scarred for life by all the pagan ceremony I was forced to participate in.  Don't tell Main Lady though - she's a licensed clinical psychologist with a PhD and she hasn't spotted the damage yet.

Now admittedly every mother would like to get a hand made candle from her son or daughter, but let's be reasonable here.  This is a girl's assignment.  The girls in my class would have come up with pretty, colorful candles that were shaped like flowers, pumpkins and candles.  Left to their own devices, the boys would have produced guns, rockets, bombs, skulls, snakes, daggers... well, they would have tried, anyway.  Mostly I suspect you'd see a collection of misshapen lumps of paraffin with wicks sticking out of them somewhere.  Well, the moms would all be happy anyway.

As far as the children not noticing that they are having a thinly camouflaged normal school day, what else would they think?  Even the kids on the short bus are going to get that message, which is as subtle as an evangelist with a bullhorn in the middle of a Beltane festival.  I suppose the good part about this is that by the time the little worker bees are old enough to vote, they won't be surprised when the politicos fail to keep the promises made during the campaign.

When I was a child I asked my old pater, the Whiskey Man, what it was he did on Halloween.  Before Mom could make him keep quiet, he told me.

The Whiskey Man grew up in a small town in Southern Ohio, and went to a one room school house.  He used to ride his horse to school.  Upon learning of my interest in the family history, he uncovered a device that was common back in the old days.  This was a noise maker.  What the kids did back then was to find a long, thin nut and bolt (about six inches long), an empty thread spool and a piece of string (about two feet or so was good).  You put the bolt through the spool and secured it with the nut, then took your jack knife and made notches all along the edges of the spool at both ends.  Then you tied one end of your string to the spool and wound the rest of the string up, sort of like a yo-yo.  Then you gave your good old noise maker to little Mad Jack to play with, who waited with all the patience of a hungry dog within olfactory range of bacon on the stove for night to fall, which it finally did, and who then sneaked up on poor old Grandpa Parsimonious and Grandma Bourbon who were peacefully watching the Ed Sullivan Show in their own living room... and pressed the thread spool against the living room window and pulled the string.  I didn't know the old boy was so spry, or would be so upset by a little harmless fun.

I went home directly and told the Whiskey Man what happened, and he laughed and laughed, then made me tell it all over again several times.  I note that while he thought my antics amusing, he didn't volunteer many more stories about the bad old days.  I did gather that the Halloween celebration was about a week long and involved various theme nights.  There was corn cob night, cabbage night and finally there was beggar's night which is when the kids actually knocked on the doors and yelled 'trick or treat'.  I think the deal was that the kids spent five or six nights raising hell and showing the homeowners just what they were in for should they fail to cough up a suitable treat on beggar's night.

This kind of behavior was not without peril.  One homeowner decided he'd had enough of the Dead End Kid's shenanigans and waited up for them with a revolver.  When the little miscreants began vandalizing his home, he turned on the lights and boiled out onto his front lawn where he hurled invective as well as lead.  The boys all hit the deck until the shooting stopped, then took to their heels before he could reload and correct his errors in ballistics.  Another time they broke into the school house (someone had the audacity to lock the door, so they had to sneak in through the window) and started ringing the bell.  This was a traditional school house, complete with bell tower, belfry and a large bell that was used several times a day.  The bell was heavy enough to lift one or two children right off their feet as they swung on the bell rope, but the merriment was cut short when the bell got loose and fell out of the belfry, rolled down the roof and landed on the sidewalk right outside the door to the school house.  The bell weighed several hundred pounds... but it didn't land on anyone.  The Whiskey Man never said just how the bell was reinstalled, but it was and the guilty parties were never found.

The Christians back then are clearly not as good as the ones we have today.  No one suggested that the kids not be allowed to go out on beggar's night, or any of the other nights.  No one protested the celebration of Halloween in school, or Easter, or Thanksgiving, or Christmas.  None of the parents objected to the kids starting the day off by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer.  Participation in these two events was mandatory, and by that I really do mean mandatory - they didn't waste a lot of time talking.

Halloween is for the kids.  If the good Christian parents of today don't like it, they don't have to participate.  Just let the rest of us the hell alone.

Disclaimer: I'm a Christian, but I'm not a good Christian.  On my best days I'm pretty good, meaning fair, but that isn't so bad.  I celebrate Halloween by giving out candy and apples to the kids who are brave enough to come to Main Lady's front door.  Last year I had a kid show up in a red devil costume, complete with pitchfork.

"Look Honey!" I called loudly to Main Lady.  "It's the devil himself!"  I walked up to the front door and stuck out my mitt.

"Well shake hands," I said.  "I've married your sister."

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