All hallow’s eve is just around the corner and yes, it’s a wonderful time of the year.
I don’t know about you, but I have always been a huge fan of Halloween. It is the only communal holiday that has survived, the ritual calendar used to be peppered with them, and even if it has been commercialized (what hasn’t?), it still retains a strong whiff of otherness from mundane time. As it should be. Exactly as it should be.
The air has gotten colder to the point that firing up the dragon belly is almost a daily occurrence, the Veil is thinner, and there are stunning lapses in judgement. Halloween is nigh.
What does pumpkin spice whiskey lead to? Only one thing:
Of course there is no such thing as pumpkin spice, that’s some lazy ass use of the English language for you. What we really should be saying is pumpkin pie spices, and those are (recipes vary): cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, nutmeg and allspice. No pumpkin in there. My pleasure.
Back to Halloween. If you stop to think about it, it is quite an interesting event.
A direct descendant from the festivals of the Middle Ages, it is all about upending the rules of society. Quite literally. This is the one night where children are encouraged to take candies from strangers, where dressing up in public is the norm and when things otherwise avoided, like snotty kids ringing at your door, fake spurting blood and clowns, are welcome.
So you can imagine my reaction when I read about a student union making a list of prohibited costumes (gross violation of basic freedom much?) or when, two years ago, at one McGill University party, the door staff was supposed to turn away offensive costumes and colour code the acceptable ones and the ones they were unsure about. What kind of fuckery is this? There are so many things wrong here I don’t know where to start, but I think the main one is “you are missing the point”. If there is one night that should not be politically correct, sanitized and “nice”, it’s Halloween. Trust me, it would do your psychic immune system a world of good. We’ll behave the rest of the year, but that is a night to let our freak flag fly.
In our overly policed and increasingly rigid society, you’d think one night of carnival, because that is exactly what Halloween is, would be welcome, but apparently not everyone agrees, because some things are offensive. I’m very curious how far this will go. If you can’t dress up like a geisha, in all fairness, I suppose unless you’re from Texas, you can’t dress up as a cowboy? Maybe one day nurses and hockey players will be on the verboten list as well, on the index so to speak, after all they are not costumes either, nurses and hockey players could be offended.
This irks me (but of course Halloween is about being irked) almost as much as the people giving out toothbrushes instead of candy. Boy, I pray they never get to dominate the narrative. I can just imagine myself handing out candy from a shadowy alley, wishing barely costumed kids a happy Halloween in a hushed voice.
Are there costumes that would offend me, or that I would find in poor taste? Yes, without a doubt, but this is what Halloween is for, it’s good to be challenged and have to take it in stride at least some of the time. It’s very easy to tolerate somebody else’s freedom when it does not bother you, but that is no longer tolerance, that is mere recognition of compliance, of sameness, it is an absence of opposition. It’s important, healthy and good to rock the boat and have your boat rocked, but the people with the loudest voices rarely see it that way, because they are right and we are wrong… Yes, I’ve heard that argument before, it is frequently followed by book burning, and we all know where that leads.
I also wonder if there isn’t something cathartic in all of this, in dressing up as something you aren’t or as a monster (be it a big pharma price manipulator or just a less scary blood sucker), in maybe making light of the darkness? If my mom had her way all “ugly” costumes would be banned, of course she would be the one to decide what makes the cut or not. No doubt Halloween would be a lot “nicer”, but it would also be a lot blander, sort of like a roller coaster without the sudden drops. Where’s the fun in that?
Remember to rock the boat once in a while.