Why Halloween Has Always Bewitched Me
I’m not quite sure why Halloween has always bewitched me. I know the holiday is almost exclusively American, and I’m aware that it screams commercial even if folks claim it has religious or pagan roots. Still I can’t help but get excited every year when this day rolls around. Granted, I haven’t celebrated it properly since preadolescence—wait a sec, I'm getting flashbacks from a cheesy Halloween bash in Paris five years ago. Shudder. Despite all that, I find Halloween to be 100% endearing.
My brothers and I were invariably the first kids on the block making the candy-collecting rounds. Even before sundown, we could be seen hustling from house to house, skipping the dimly-lit ones so as not to waste precious time, and filling our plastic pumpkin pails with treats big and small. (In later years, we'd graduate to over-sized pillowcases for obvious reasons.) Some homes would generously distribute king-sized candy bars like Milky Way, Snickers, or--my favorite--Butterfinger (we don’t have that in Lebanon because people here don’t appreciate the merits of peanut butter). Other homes were more tight-fisted and would chuck a cheap Jawbreaker or a single Jolly Rancher into our buckets.
Still other neighbors would go all out for the holiday, erecting a miniature haunted house in their own front yards complete with giant elastic spider webs, cacophonous background music and black smoking cauldrons. These spectacles would make us so giddy, we’d temporarily forget amassing candy and instead squeal with delight at every haunt and spook on display.
After three or four hours of scaling as many streets as our exhausted legs could carry us, we would amble home to pour out and survey our treasure. Unwrapped or tampered-with candies were duly tossed out. Inedible items, too, like dinky toys and trinkets, were thrown away. Candy swaps among the three of us would ensue until we were each at our optimum happiness level. Then Mom would barge in. She’d allow us a few candies each to indulge in before stashing the rest for safekeeping. Over the next 50 days leading to Christmas, she'd trickle a single candy daily into our sack lunches to ensure our teeth didn't rot. Oh, the misery.
As we approached our teenage years, Halloween suddenly became childish. No way would we be caught dead donning a juvenile costume or mask, and we pretended we had cooler things to do on Halloween. In my case, that meant watching my beloved TV show “Sabrina the Teenage Witch" with the droll talking cat Salem.
It wasn't until college that I rekindled my fondness for Halloween. More mature parties marked the haunted evening, with spiked punch and gourmet treats. Girls would use the night as an excuse to sport revealing garb; guys would come to ogle them and embark on imbibing binges. Nevertheless these were times for harmless fun and excessive consumption of junk, and how often can you say you've done that as an adult?
I've noticed that Halloween is starting to catch on in Lebanon. Sure, there’s always been St. Barbara’s feast day on December 4th when little kids hide behind unsightly masks and visit relatives and neighbors only to gain a wheat berry stew (2am7ieh)--what kind of lame attempt at a treat is that? But that day bears no resemblance to Halloween, and thus the rising prominence and recognition of October the 31st.
Humor and spooks aside, perhaps what I love most about Halloween is that it is the eve of a very important day. All Saint’s, you ask? Well, er, yes, technically, that is what November 1 commemorates. But from a more personal vantage point, that day is my birthday. From what I've been told, my mom took my eldest brother Andre trick-or-treating the night of Halloween. Hours later my dad whisked her to the hospital, and the next morning, I came into this world.