Let the haunting season begin

Opinion

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Judy Baar Topinka

Although the autumn is a bit mixed up in its coming due to the drought, then the spurts of hot, unseasonable weather, then the basic moderation of temperatures in October, one knows that fall is here.

Oh, it is not by the colors of the trees, which are a bit faded this season. It is by the orange colors of Halloween already sprouting up in the township. I marvel at folks who have the time and stamina to put up external Christmas decorations.

I am totally awed by those who also go through such efforts for Halloween, then take them down and go right into the Christmas decorations. Having seen a few egg trees last Easter, this may be the next holiday to be commercialized. Poor Thanksgiving. It is the big loser as no one can seemingly figure out a way to make Ye Olde Pilgrims nor a turkey look inviting.

Halloween used to have religious connotations, but now it is one big spend-a-thon with outdoor decorations, lights, greeting cards, wrapping paper ... well, you name it. Where older generations avoided cemeteries on Halloween, we now put false tombstones on our lawns and bring the cemetery wannabes right into our neighborhoods. We like to get rid of spiders and their sticky webs from our homes and garages, but then we pay to get false spider webs and stuff that looks like the old fashioned "angel hair" to put on our bushes.

We try as best as possible to make our homes look haunted with ghosts, goblins, witches, skeletons and anything else which can be plastered against doors and walls or hung from trees. I often wonder if other countries go through this mania. I must admit that a few years ago in a fairly large city in France before Halloween, I noticed Halloween trappings in a store, so there must be some of this Americana catching on elsewhere.

Mexicans, for years, celebrated Halloween with unique religious overtones called the Day of the Dead. They would go to real cemeteries to honor their departed loved ones, and skeletons were created from cookies and cakes and otherwise decorated the gravesites, home and churches.

The custom has come to Illinois, as well, in Latino neighborhoods. It will be short order before Americans, in general, adopt these customs all or in part, as they are in keeping with the holiday flavor of today's Halloween.

I must admit that, even as a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays, probably because it meant dressing up in long-thought-out costumes and visiting with neighbors to get treats. I and my friends would be especially delighted to get homemade treats like popcorn balls and taffy apples. We knew there would be some of the latter because food stores would be highlighting bags of carmels with Kraft do-it-yourself kits.

Sadly, because there were those who would hurt children by mixing evil concoctions or by putting razor blades or pins into trick-or-treat fruit, homemade goodies are now banished.

Whereas we children would bring home our bulging bags to show off our take to our adoring parents, now today's parents almost feel compelled to go through the collected sweets to make sure that all are safe for their children. Needless to say, even an unwrapped piece of candy will not pass muster, let alone a taffy apple.

Hopefully, the weather will hold so that the youngsters can show off their costumes. There is nothing worse for a kid than to have to wear a coat over a costume, though nine times out of 10, that is what will happen. And adults, now, will spend incredible amounts of money to rent costumes at costume shops, which now have so much business that they open annexes and satellite showrooms just to accommodate adults who still delight in dressing up.

To their credit, I see more and more parents out with their little ones to make sure that their trick-or-treating goes smoothly. Maybe that, too, is a sign of the times because, as kids, we did not feel compelled to have parents along, nor did they worry about our safety. Now there are predators out in the world far and away more scary than the hobgoblins and witches of yesterday.

So to all, a Happy Halloween. I will be looking forward to all who will come to my door for candy in the high hopes that I have figured out the right amount of candy to have on hand so that I don't run out ... or worse yet, have left over so that I wind up eating it, to the concern of my physician and dentist.

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