What I am not wearing in this picture is the full alligator costume. Leaving the (admittedly cute) head behind and substituting a certain distinctive black helmet, I became…I’m sorry, but there’s no turning back now…Darth Gator.
But you knew that, didn’t you? Obi-Wan has taught you well.
Last year he was a pirate. My 2011 costume began with Belle doing an impressive zombie makeup job on my face and hair. With a severed limb for a prop and with notes reading Thank you, Much obliged and I appreciate it fastened all over my blood-stained shirt and pants, I was, of course, The Grateful Undead.
MH is one handy dude with the sewing machine, and made our kids’ costumes when they were young (the itsy-bitsy spider outfit, worn by K & then Belle on their first Halloweens, was a favorite). As the years passed Belle got into the costume-making aspect of Halloween, and used her artistic and engineering skills to collaborate with MH in producing arguably her finest costume: an ATM machine. Belle still attends costume parties with her friends, and her fellow Oregon Zoo Teens Leadership corps throw themselves a great Halloween bash every year. Serious Sophomore that he is, I don’t know if K participated in any of his college’s Halloween activities (and what happens in Tacoma stays in Tacoma).
Halloween, along with the Fourth of July, was one of my favorite holidays when I was a child, for a simple reason. It was fun! I eagerly awaited Wilson Elementary School’s annual Halloween carnival, even though I never won the cakewalk nor ever managed to lob the ping pong ball into one of the miniature glass bowls which housed those poor, fated-to-be-flushed goldfish. I was three times cast in key roles in the Haunted House play, won prizes for tossing the most bean bags through the ghoul’s mouth, and was awarded the Best Grade Four Costume blue ribbon when I was…wait for it…in the fourth grade.
Planning/making your costume; haunted houses; trick-or-treating; feigning fondness for Butterfingers or other candy you loathed so you could “reluctantly” agree to do your sister a favor and swap her in a one-for-two ratio for M & Ms…. What’s not to like?
Our neighborhood trick-or-treating was a pack affair, and traditionally began with an argument over who had to include “the little kids” (the collective pejorative for younger siblings and their posse) on their rounds. My trick-or-treating years were way-back-when enough that you could accept homemade goods without a thought of poison candy or razor blades. I earnestly thanked the elderly couple who gave out candy apples and the young mother who doled out popcorn balls, treats I did not care for but which made great bargaining chips for the Sweetarts I adored. By age seven I knew who had the best candy (the people on the corner gave whole M & M bags, not the mini-size!), who had the lamest (one neighbor’s treats were orange & black pencils – okay, she was a teacher, but, pencils!?), and which house to avoid because despite the bright porch light and beckoning Jack o’ lanterns by the door, the prune-faced occupants’ response to Trick or treat! was to thrust a basket of Halloween=devil worship! Chick religious tracts in your face.
Confession: we didn’t avoid that house. Far from it. My T & T gang saved it for the end of our circuit, when we were tired and well-laden with candy. Reading the unintentionally hilarious tracts — comics which looked like a collaboration between the Hagar the Horrible and Family Circus cartoonists after they’d dropped acid at a Pat Robertson rally — gave us a metabolic boost unrivaled by the most potent chocolate covered espresso bean.
I don’t recall K or Belle ever receiving a religious pamphlet along with their candy; still, the barking-mad practice apparently continues. Chick tracts are the granddaddy of religious pamphlets; you must have run across them at some point. Never had them dumped in your goody bag along with a Snickers bar? You might have noticed a pile of ’em left at a bus stop, or by the change machine in a laundromat, or planted on a dentist’s waiting room reading table, snuck in between the six months old copies of Newsweek and Good Housekeeping by a stealthy patient.
(From the Chick Tracts website) Make Halloween a Soul-winning event
While Christians should not celebrate Halloween, if you drop a Chick tract (and some candy) into their Trick-or-Treat bags, you can easily give hundreds of kids...
It goes on. I kid you not. An excerpt from one The Devil’s Night tract (their emphases):
–Yuk! Is that how Halloween got started?
-Yes, Buffy. It wasn’t a fun time. It was a night of horror! Teens everywhere are going into both white and black witchcraft, and both really serve the devil. You know God hates witchcraft…but witches don’t care. And when they die, they’ll end up in hell. Thank God my grandpa told me about Jesus, so I won’t be in hell with them.
* * *
Halloween is not the only target of the tracts’ rabid-dog wrath. There are dozens if not hundreds of pamphlets, arguing all manner of evangelical whackadoodledoodery, including the belief that Catholics are not Christians , “the papacy helped start Islam” and the Holocaust was in fact an Inquisition sled by Jesuits. In the World According to Chick, starting in the 1950s a (gasp) “beat” was introduced into popular music by The Devil ® : all rock ‘n roll acts, from Elvis to the Beatles to Motley Crue to contemporary Christian Rock, are Satan®’s tools to “destroy country, home and education.” So, you’re not a Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, or even a rock ‘n roll fan? If you read a Harry Potter book, if you’re an Orthodox or liberal or moderate Christian, even a conservative one who’s in favor of ecumenism, if you’re any kind of liberal or libertarian, or support gay/women’s/civil rights or have a basic understanding of science – if you are anything other than a card-carrying fundamentalist/young-earth creationist Christian, God has a plan for your life Chick has a condemnation tract, especially for you.
Trick or tract? The Halloween edition of Asshat of the Week goes to Jack Chick and all the would you like some candy, little girl? purveyors of inanity, fear and prejudice.
* * *
My Lutheran parents would have had a WTF? response to people who trash-talked Halloween. I say would have had, because, except for a Jehovah’s Witness friend of mine, we didn’t know any such folk. It seems to the grown up, religion-free moi that a number of evangelical/conservative Christians consider the October 31 goings-on to be a celebration of evil. Although in my experience there is ultimately no comprehending the incomprehensible, several years ago I was curious about the origins of this myth-understanding of the day, and did an internet search on the subject. Perusing several why-true-Christians-should-not-observe-Halloween websites, I saw that a common belief among fundamentalists is that Halloween originated from the worship of Samhain, the “Celtic God of the Dead.”
Minor major sticking point, fundies: there ain’t never been no Celtic god named Samhain.
Samhain (“summer’s end”) was the name of the Celtic month equivalent to November. The “Feast of Samhain” on October 31 marked the end of summer and celebrated the last harvest of the year. The veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was said to become thinner on that day, and thus the spirits of the departed – those beloved to you, as well as the cranky neighbor who’d screamed, YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN PEATBOG!– could cross that boundary and walk among the living. The Celts left food at their doors to encourage good spirits and donned masks to scare away yucky ones.
The more fundamentalist the believer, the more ignorant they seem to be re a fundamental truth behind their religious observances: “Christian” holidays, in particular the biggies, Christmas and Easter, began as pagan festivals.
When the Roman Catholics came to power and spread north from Rome, they met pagan practices that had gone on for thousands of years before the Popes decided to claim divine authority and subdue the illiterate masses by dressing like the bastard spawn of Elton John and Lady Gaga.
Early Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with the missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the pesky price of staying true to their original beliefs. But they refused to totally relinquish their old celebrations, and so the church, eventually and quite effectively, simply renamed most of them.
Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry. This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshipping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church. Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshipping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.
In the case of what is now called Halloween, ancestor veneration had been going on with the Celt’s Samhain festival for as long as anyone could remember, and so RC missionaries incorporated a Christian connection. The day was set aside by the church: All Hallows’ Eve, to honor the dead Saints.
Sweet baby Jeeeeysus and Isis sittin’ on a Ritz® ! I am, like, so having a major duh moment. The basic intent and result of any “successful” religious missionary endeavor is in succinctly expressed by the Borg manifesto. Ya think I’m kidding? Just swap “Borg” for “Missionaries for Christ/Yaweh/Allah.”
We are the Borg.
Lower your shields and surrender your ships.
We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.
Your culture will adapt to service us.
* * *
Yet again, I digress. Time to flip the page on my Demotivators calendar. The picture for November was, I’d wager, taken at the annual Running of the Bulls (Pamplona, Spain). Its caption has become a motto of sorts for K and I.
* * *
But wait, there’s more! Just when I thought Asshat of the Week was a slamdunk….
Sliding in at the last moment, leaving skidmarks on his tighty whities, we have Washington state congressional candidate John Koster. Yet another festering turd of ignorant misogyny conservative politician running on what seems to have become the hottest Republican platform: Life Begins At Rape. This week, in response to questions asked by a liberal activist, Koster said he does not oppose abortion when the life of the mother is in danger, but would oppose it when it involves incest or “the rape thing.”
Such astonishing crap-wipery is deserving of…oh, but really. Two Asshats of the Week, in one week? I can’t do that. Instead, a newly-created award, Bite Me, You Horseradish-and-Batshit Crazy Yap Flapper, is conferred on John “the Dickhead Thing” Koster.
* * *
This is too depressing — an Asshat of the Week and a Bite Me, You Horseradish-and-Batshit Crazy Yap Flapper? I haven’t even mentioned the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, nor the devastatingly dim-witted pastor who blamed gays for causing the storm. There have been, of course, many good things the past seven days have brought, including encounters with intelligent, decent, witty and kind people, the crisp air and brilliant foliage of autumn, and the simple yet profound pleasure derived from watching your daughter turn a really big pumpkin into a really awesome angler fish jack o’lantern, complete with lure:
* * *
And so the season marches on. I’m sorry if you couldn’t find the right naughty nuclear scientist outfit for Halloween. There’s always next year. And there’s always some celebration going on, somewhere. If you’re anticipating the aftermath of Election Day and looking for levity, you might want to:
– remember This Stupid Day in History, Nov. 2 1960, when a not-so-well-hung British jury determined that Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was not obscene.
– grill a BLT on Nov. 3 to mark the 1718 birthday of John Montague, Earl of Sandwich
– walk like an Egyptian on King Tut Day , Nov. 4
– do whatever is done (turn on the fan, please) on Nov. 5 to mark Panama’s Colon Day
– ditch your GPS, find your way to Nov. 6 and observe Marooned Without a Compass Day
– remember you’ve got until Nov. 7 to celebrate National Fig Week
– smack your favorite Romney supporter knucklehead on Nov. 8 for Dunce Day
– nothing. There is nothing else to do.
Yet another reason to live: next Friday, Nov. 9, is Chaos Never Dies day. Hilarity ensues.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Only a history geek would call it, “Independence Day.”
 Store-bought costumes were considered “cheating.”
 I prided myself for my poker face but couldn’t bring myself to pretend I liked candy corn, even if I could have gotten a barf bag load of Milky Way bars from the ruse.
 At the time yet to be invented. Not much of a footnote, is it?
 Not making that up, either. Buffy. Holy mother of fornication.
 If they thought in those acronyms, which they didn’t. My mother would probably think it’s shorthand for, “Where’s the fire?”
 Persecution, torture, death.
 Except, oddly enough Easter, a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.
 This Egyptian deity was queen of the multi-taskers — patron of nature, magic, slaves, sinners, artisans, the oppressed….
 What — mouth breathers running for office in my beloved Pacific Northwest?
 The horseradish is authentic (and kosher). Alas, no bats in our ‘hood. Fresh-from-the-litter contributions (thanks, Nova and/or Crow) are the stunt poo.
 Unless you consider “being boring” an obscenity. Which I so fucking do.