As I have recently been informing my ever-attentive friends and family members, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve — what I like to call “Meteorologically Icy and Nippy Time of Year in Which Everything Smells Pleasant,” or MINTYWESP — is a source of great emotionally charged delight, for me, at least.
From the instant a beaming Al Roker severs the ribbon at the Macy’s parade to the televised ignition of the celebratory fireworks ushering in the New Year, I’m in full-out, no-questions-asked holiday season mode. (Think the “Crazy Target Lady” from that store’s ad campaign, sans gift-wrapping skills.) The frenzy of Black Friday, the palpable approach of winter, the welcome celebration of my birth, the exquisiteness of the seven fishes at our annual family gatherings! See, now I’m getting choked up.
But first there’s Halloween. Now, I don’t dislike Halloween at all; I can safely say that I’m not looking forward to any impending ecological disaster that will result in the “cancellation” and “rescheduling” of the holiday this year. (For the past two years, I’ve always imagined this scenario as some 1970s Rankin/Bass holiday stop-motion special in which a tightly buttoned, overbearing oligarchy crushes the poor children’s dreams by stealing their jack-o’-lanterns and banning all things fun and spooky; panic in the streets!)
How can Halloween be “canceled,” anyway? Wouldn’t that require canceling All Saints’ Day? Wouldn’t we have to confer with the pope in order to do that?!
No, I don’t dislike Halloween. In fact, as of this writing, I plan on dressing up as Breaking Bad’s hit man extraordinaire, Mike Ehrmantraut — unless plans to recreate the ensemble cast of that TV drama with my friends fall through. Speaking as a performer, there’s no greater thrill than to embody a completely different personality — if only for a day.
I just feel as though Halloween is a serious hindrance to my personal cheer-preparation process as I advance closer to my MINTYWESP festivities. I also don’t enjoy the consumption of any candy that isn’t called Twix. I also don’t enjoy having to remind the neighborhood tykes to say “Trick or Treat!” with gusto and clear articulation, because otherwise my mom won’t give them any sweets, only coins for UNICEF. (I’m not joking.)
On a somewhat deeper level, I find it intriguing that our society has an entire holiday devoted to scaring people and celebrating the grotesque. Although the day’s traditions are based on a deeply rooted, trans-societal veneration of and communication with the dead, Halloween has certainly become more commercial, if not more laughable.
October marketing campaigns and television ads for clothing and confectionery that once featured fear-inducing imagery are now preposterous spots in which juvenile princesses, Draculas, and Kung Fu Pandas dance to pop song parodies.
As Halloween is becoming an increasingly kid-centered affair — or perhaps as I’m becoming more aware of its saccharine artificiality that could rival that of Fun Dip — candy and costume marketing has been tempered into half-baked demonstrations of blatant corporate greed, with haphazard splashes of orange and black thrown in to remind the audience of the real “reason for the season” … which is …?
Perhaps the ultimate fright of Halloween for me is that I can’t easily define its true purpose outside of an economic context or historical tradition. I may as well just enjoy it as a last hurrah before my final high school MINTYWESP.
I need to get my Mike Ehrmantraut on, anyway.
Nicholas Dehn is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with five classmates.