Dave Barry on Halloween


   I love Halloween. It reminds me of my happy childhood days as a student
at Wampus Elementary School in Armonk, N.Y., when we youngsters used to
celebrate Halloween by making decorations out of construction paper and
that white paste that you could eat. This is also how we celebrated
Columbus Day, Washington's Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday, Thanksgiving,
Christmas, Easter, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's
Day, Armistice Day, Flag Day, Arbor Day, Thursday, etc. We brought these
decorations home to our parents, who by federal law were required to
attach them to the refrigerator with magnets.

   That was a wonderful, carefree time in which to be a youngster or
construction-paper salesperson. But it all ended suddenly one day -- I'll
never forget it -- when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite,
called ``Sputnik'' (which is Russian for ``Little Sput''). Immediately all
the grown-ups in America became hysterical about losing the Space Race,
which led to a paranoid insecurity about our educational system, expressed
in anguished newspaper headlines asking, ``WHY AREN'T OUR KIDS LEARNING IN
SCHOOL?'' I wanted to answer, ``BECAUSE ALL WE EVER DO IS MAKE DECORATIONS
OUT OF CONSTRUCTION PAPER,'' but I couldn't, because my mouth was full of
paste.

   But getting back to Halloween: It's still one of the most fun holidays
of the year, as well as one of the most traditional, tracing its origins
back more than 2,000 years to the Druids, an ancient religious cult that
constructed Stonehenge as well as most of the public toilets in England.
The Druids believed that one night each year, at the end of October, the
souls of the dead returned to the world of the living and roamed from
house to house costumed as Power Rangers.

   And thus it is that to this day, youngsters come to our door on
Halloween night shouting: ``Trick or treat!'' According to tradition, if
we don't give the youngsters a ``treat,'' their parents will ``sue'' us.
That's why most of us traditionally prepare for Halloween by going to the
supermarket and purchasing approximately eight metric tons of miniature
candy bars, which we dump into a big bowl by the door, ready to hand out
to the hordes of trick-or-treaters.

   The irony, of course, is that there ARE no hordes of trick-or-treaters,
not any more. We in the news media make darned sure of that. Every year we
publish dozens of helpful consumer-advice articles, cheerfully reminding
parents of the dangers posed by traffic, perverts, poisoned candy, and
many other Halloween hazards that parents would never think of if we
didn't remind them (``Have fun, but remember that this year more than
17,000 Americans will die bobbing for apples'').

   The result is that many children aren't allowed to go
trick-or-treating, and the ones who ARE allowed out come to your house no
later than 4:30 p.m., wearing reflective tape on their Power Rangers
costumes and trailed at close range by their parents, who watch you
suspiciously and regard whatever candy you hand out as though it were
unsolicited mail from the Unabomber.

   So for most of Halloween, your doorbell is quiet. This means that you
pass the long night alone, hour after hour, just you and the miniature
candy bars. After a while they start calling seductively to you from their
bowl in their squeaky little voices.

   ``Hey, Big Boy!'' they call. ``We're going to waste over here!''


   As the evening wears on they become increasingly brazen. Eventually
they crawl across the floor, climb up your body, unwrap themselves and
force themselves bodily into your mouth. There's no use hiding in the
bathroom, because they'll just crawl under the door and tie you up with
dental floss and threaten to squeeze toothpaste in your eye unless you eat
them. At least that's what they do to me. By the end of the night my blood
has the same sugar content as Yoo-Hoo.

   But eating huge amounts of candy allegedly purchased for youngsters is
only part of the Halloween tradition. The other part is buying a pumpkin
and carving it to make a ``jack-o'-lantern,'' which sits on your front
porch, a festive symbol of the age-old truth -- first discovered by the
Druids -- that there is no practical use for pumpkins.

   Here's how to make a traditional jack-o'-lantern:

   1. Cut a lid on top of the pumpkin.

   2. Pull off the lid and peer down into the slimy, festering pumpkin bowels.

   3. Put the lid back on and secure it with 200 feet of duct tape.

   (This is also the traditional procedure for stuffing a turkey.)

   But however you celebrate Halloween, make sure you remember this
important safety tip: (IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP GOES HERE). Otherwise, you
will not survive the night. I'd give you more details, but right now I
need to do something about these tiny Milky Ways crawling up my legs.






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