Perhaps it’s the fault of the Me Generation. Perhaps responsibility lies with our culture of excess. Perhaps Emeril is to blame for teaching us all to “BAM! Kick it up a notch.”
Whatever the cause, modern American society has an insatiable desire for more, More, MORE; and nowhere is that more evident than during holidays like Halloween.
Back in the ’70s, when I was a kid — yes, you should brace yourself for an “up hill to school both ways” rant — our parents were too busy sipping vodka gimlets and tapping their Tareyton 100s into pedestal ashtrays while watching “Laugh In” from the comfort of their gabardine slacks. They didn’t have time to spend countless hours and dollars to provide my brother and me, much less the rest of the kids in the neighborhood, with a better-than-ever Halloween.
But we weren’t complaining.
We were beyond excited to carve one pumpkin for the whole family, using seriously sharp knives because cutesy little kid-safe pumpkin carving kits hadn’t been invented yet. We were ecstatic about dressing up in our $4.99 Woolworth’s highly flammable nylon tie in the back Casper the Friendly Ghost costume with the brittle plastic face mask secured with the hair tangling elastic band. We were beside ourselves with anticipation about the fact that ABC was airing “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” one night during prime time on our console TV. We were over the moon about going door to door with our pillow cases, gladly accepting whatever we were given because it was free — popcorn balls, apples, coins, and candy.
Sure, we secretly hoped some neighbor would be giving out humongous candy bars, but for the most part, we appreciated getting anything at all, and did not expect our parents to up the ante every year.
Then why is it that, nowadays, kids’ baseline expectations for Halloween include corn mazes, pet parades, school parties, hay rides, pumpkin carving contests requiring a graduate degree in fine arts, yard decorating contests requiring professional special effects and 23 hired extras, week-long horror movie marathons, venti no-whip pumpkin spice lattes, mountains of brand-name only candy in tamper-proof packaging, intricate costumes that cost at least $49.95, little kid non-scary haunted houses, regular kid kinda-scary haunted houses, and big kid Horrifically Haunting Mega Mansions of Traumatizing Terror (post-traumatic stress therapy not included)?
And now, as if all that wasn’t enough, someone had the bright idea to add something called “Boo Bags” to the list of annual Halloween must haves. Just when you think your wallet and energy have been sucked out like pumpkin guts, a well-intentioned neighbor goes and drops a Halloween themed bag of thoughtfully assembled items on your doorstep with a sweet little note instructing you to do the same thing for another neighbor.
Sure, votive candles and candy corn are great and all, but is all this really necessary? Isn’t Halloween fun enough already? And how much of this stuff will be re-gifted anyway?
Now that my point has been made, I must confess, after initially grumbling at my neighbor’s suggestion that we give Boo Bags on our street this year, I quite enjoyed picking out little gifts and goodies for another military family here on base. My kids were happy to go on a night-time reconnaissance mission to secretly deliver the bag to our neighbor’s porch, and I’ve been downright cocky knowing that, upon finding my masterpiece, they must’ve commented, “Whoever put this fabulous Boo Bag together is a creative genius!”
Despite feeling tricked into the excesses of Halloween, I must admit, giving a neighbor a Boo Bag can be quite a treat.