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From House Of Cards To House Of Horrors

Halloween: what other other holiday do you know of that forces you to buy candy and call in for pizza instead of cooking dinner?

I have definitely given up on the idea of going in disguise and crashing the set of “The House of Cards." It’s just too hard to pretend to be something I’m not. I’ll save that for the politicians. But the idea of disguise and costumes, especially this time of year, coincides with my favorite holiday: Halloween! It is the most fun and stress-free holiday in the world and here’s why.

Unless you are going to a costume party where you have to select a costume, you don’t have to worry about what to wear. There are no hours spent looking through your closet trying to find something, anything to wear. My closet is divided, not by season, but by: "fits," "fits if I don’t sit down in it," "fits but missing buttons" and the biggest section of all… "doesn’t fit now but someday it will after I finish my diet which will begin right after this weekend."

Buying something new is not an option because of lack of time, lack of money, and lack of self esteem to face those awful dressing room mirrors (besides, there’s all those "someday it’s gonna fit" clothes in my closet so why spend money now?).

If you have young children though, it can be quite stressful and time consuming to help them pick just the right costume. Unless you are a Martha Stewart type person, you can spend hours searching for (or looking on the web on how to put together) just the right outfit. It doesn’t have to cost much because creativity is the key (Martha had plenty of time to be creative when she was in jail but most of us don’t have that "luxury").

If your neighborhood has a "best costume contest" or parade, there is even more pressure.  There’s also the dilemma of deciding what is an age appropriate costume for children. Years ago Barbie Doll costumes were controversial because they were considered too "mature" for children and the women’s liberation movement didn’t like the image they presented. Now little girls want to be Lady GaGa or Nicki Minaj. Things really haven’t changed that much. Do kids still play "Cowboys and Indians"? Or is that another one of those "politically incorrect" messages we are sending to our kids? (I always  took up the Indian cause. Guess those were my first rebellious ways. But mostly I think I just liked their costumes the best). Today you can still be a cowboy but would probably need to "lose the gun." And dressing up as an Indian or any ethnic character might be perceived as being insensitive or bigoted. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, but (and here goes that overused expression) "it is what it is" today. Maybe we should instead say, "it is what you think it is." What I think, is that we think too much about these things. I’m not saying it is….. just thinking…. you understand.

I still love Halloween.  Not only do you not have to worry about what to wear, you don’t have to clean the house. The only part of the house you have to worry about is the section that the kids will see when you open the door. (This is similar to ironing only the front of your blouse because the rest of it isn’t visible beneath the sweater you are wearing). After cleaning that small area, all you have to do to prepare is open the door and hand out candy.

As for entertainment, the kids are the entertainment so you don’t need to provide any unless you plan on having a Halloween party which is lots of work and worry. Hosting a party requires you to  do lots of the same preparation that you have to do for “The Big Ones" (Thanksgiving and Christmas) coming up, so why would you put yourself through all that now?

A major reason I love Halloween is that there is no cooking dinner!!!! This is very different from Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter where people cook for hours (and sometimes days) to prepare. They also have to worry about how they are going to fit all those people around one small dining room table and decide who gets to sit at the "kiddies" table even when there are no more "kiddies." On Halloween, with the constant knocks on the door, you can’t possibly cook dinner but are forced to call-in for pizza or subs delivery. What a shame! No cooking means no cleanup either. No family gathering means no arguments about whose going to whose house for the holiday. This kind of planning can drive you crazy and no doubt has eventually led to some permanent separations. There’s no, "we went to your folk’s house last Thanksgiving so we have to go to my parent’s house this year" type of conversation that can get especially complicated if the parents live in two separate households. Some people don’t listen to the wise advice of  "you can’t have it all" and try to please everyone by  having  dinner at one house at noon,  another dinner at a different family member’s  home at 4 p.m. and desert at a third house even later, all this while smiling and pretending to be hungry. (I think that the begging dog who has positioned itself to receive handouts under the dining room table is the family member who is the happiest of all).   

On Halloween you just stay home and answer the door. If you will be going out or should run out of candy, you simply turn off your porch light so the children will know you aren’t participating. There’s no family feuding there either.  The biggest argument my household has on Halloween is, "why did you buy Mars bars when you know how I love Snickers?" or, "why are you giving the kids Snickers bars first? Give them the Three Musketeers and if we run out, then we can give them the Snickers."

Candy is of course the main attraction on Halloween. What other holiday do you know of that forces you to buy candy? There’s lots of it around Christmas and Easter, too, but Halloween is all about "pretend dressing up" and eating candy. It just doesn’t get any better than this. I don’t know exactly how this holiday started and I don’t particularly care. To me it’s the perfect holiday for all the reasons I mentioned and as an added bonus it is one of the few “politically correct” and nondiscriminatory holidays.  Nobody cares about your race, your weight, height or sex. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or who you voted for.   Sometimes though, age can be an issue… "aren’t you kind of old to be out trick or treating" is sometimes heard, but most of us give out that candy anyway. After all, we are all kids at heart. Some say Halloween has its roots in pagan worship but there is conflicting information on this and it really isn’t important.  I love that you don’t have to worry about whether you say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Chanukah" (or that rather bland greeting of "Happy Holidays"). It’s just "Happy Halloween" and "trick or treat" (not the illegal kind) for everyone. It’s candy for all. I know we are  in the middle of both a diabetes and obesity epidemic but think we should all "lighten up" about it and not ruin the one holiday where you don’t have to send cards, or decorate the house, or buy gifts  or entertain or cook or cleanup afterwards. It only lasts one day out of the whole year so how much damage can you do? After a while, even Snickers bars lose their appeal. There’s none of the frustration that comes from trying to untangle Christmas tree lights or worrying if the candles on the Menorah will set the tablecloth on fire; no falling from the roof trying to put up those outside decorations. (Is it Santa or Dad? Only the local ambulance crew knows for sure). No trying to find why that one light doesn’t blink or running out of batteries for the toys. No stress about finding places to hide the Easter eggs or matzos. The most work you have to do is fun stuff like picking out a pumpkin and carving or painting it. This often involves a trip to the local farm complete with a hayride and apple cider which is sure is a lot easier than cutting down or trimming a tree. You may not see beautifully decorated houses and lights but you do see a bunch of kids (some very strange looking) running around and begging for candy which really isn’t so unusual a sight these days anyway.

There is a big decision on what candy to buy. To begin my search, I visited Wegmans (Bel Air, MD) where they have a large supply of everything. Before I even entered the store there was a sign proclaiming October 30   3-7 pm Pumpkin painting, fun, food and candy." Wegmans does a lot of this kind of stuff: ctivities involving families and communities, movie nights twice a month, live musicians at the Market Café weekly, etc (I do love this store!). You can call them to find out what’s happening there each week.  Anyway, the store was stocked with Halloween everything. You name it, Wegmans had it: candy and lots of Halloween themed merchandise and trinkets. There were decorations and party supplies, greeting cards and cupcake pans, nightlights and pumpkins of all sizes. Should you feel liking crying ("Boo Hoo!"), there are even boxes of Halloween Kleenex.

The candy aisles didn’t disappoint either. I went looking for prepackaged wrapped candy suitable for Halloween but keep getting distracted by all the other candy.  There was candy in wooden boxes, candy in acrylic bins, chocolate candy (is there any other kind?), suckers, candy that was “sugar free” and “no sugar added” candy—still not sure of the difference there. The most unusual display was the one showcasing  that old  candy staple M&Ms but these weren’t your typical M&Ms. These were M&Ms in more colors than your might find in a paint store.  There were twenty-two different colors of M&Ms. There were the traditional colors of black, brown, yellow, red, orange, and green. Looking further  I discovered cream and white (yuck!), silver and gold (more yuck), purple and light purple, blue, light blue and dark blue, dark green, teal green and aqua green, maroon, pink and dark pink M&Ms. They  were all  together batched by color and cost twice as much as buying  a pound of the mixed ones so be careful if you decide to indulge here. I returned to the packaged candy and faced a tough decision on what to buy. The idea is to buy something your family likes so you can enjoy any "leftovers" but it’s probably a better idea to buy something you aren’t crazy about for the very same reason.  On the other hand, you want to get something the neighborhood children like because if you really enjoy this holiday, your biggest fear isn’t getting your car “egged”  but not having enough kids come to the door.

One year was a particularly slow one for us. Several in our neighborhood “moved up” and out to bigger houses and other older residents “downsized” to smaller residences. Many of the newer residents that had moved in didn’t yet have children. And lots of the older residents that remained were “empty nesters.”    There weren’t many kids that knocked on our door. I kept thinking that maybe they all had gone to Halloween home parties. I know that’s popular especially with safety concerns today and rightfully so. Still, how can it really be Halloween without children knocking on doors and saying, "Trick or Treat"? My faith was restored (and the door knocks picked up) after I heard one child yell to his friends down the street, “Hey!  Hershey Miniatures at the house over here!” I knew we bought the right candy and had triumphed over the wrapped hard candy being handed out a few doors down.

With that “slow” year fresh in my mind, I reached for a package of Snickers (my personal favorite), Reese’s (whoever invented the chocolate and peanut butter combo is a true genius), Three Musketeers (not quite as rich a treat), and of course, packets of M&Ms. I justified this by thinking, “Well at least I’m spending money at a store with a reputation for giving back to the community.”  And give back they do. Wegman’s website gives a breakdown for the prior year of all the money they have raised for charity and donations made including donations of 14.9 million pounds of food to different food banks across the country last year. I figure if they did all that, buying   candy here was just one small way I too could contribute to the “greater good”.

Then, just as I was getting ready to leave the store, I heard a familiar tune in the air. I followed the music past several aisles and found it lead me to a display of ……… Christmas stuff!  Regardless of what you think of this kind of “early in the season merchandising,” one fact is undeniable…. Once Halloween arrives, Thanksgiving and Christmas and Chanukah can’t be far behind. 

So I’m going to enjoy the fun of Halloween while I can. If I find myself getting stressed thinking about all the work for those holidays that loom ahead, I’m going to relax with some music to relieve my frustrations.  I may even go to a concert or two. I hear the Smashing Pumpkins are playing at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia on November 3. I have to hurry online to buy tickets. Somehow I think they’re gonna sell out fast.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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