There are holidays that commemorate great historical events in American history like Independence Day on July 4th. We honor accomplished leaders such as civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. usually the first Monday in January, and presidents on Presidents Day in February. We honor our mothers and fathers, and even our “Sweethearts.”
We have religious holidays, and holidays that memorialize events of War including Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and unofficially, the terrorism of Sept. 11th.
And we also honor our children with a special holiday that comes every October 31 called “Halloween.”
Most are “national holidays,” which means we get the day off from work, usually paid. Others are “traditional holidays, which means the decision to give employees a day off is up to the employers.
And then there are holidays that are meaningless in the true spirit of what it means to be free and American. It’s the holidays that really have no meaning that truly represent the American spirit because they are there for no reason except to let people have fun.
Halloween is one of those holidays. There’s no real reason for it except to let kids dress up in costumes and ask the neighbors for candy. Children take it very seriously and so do the parents who spent billions every year in purchasing candy and costumes.
The trademark slogan of Halloween is “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.”
The idea of “trick” or “treat” is exactly that. If you don’t give the kids candy, they might play a trick on you. And those tricks can range from spraying whip cream on the non-participant homeowner’s cars, homes and possessions, to covering their trees with toilet paper. For the most part, though, there are very few tricks and many, many treats.
The candy can range from expensive candy bars of milk chocolate and nuts and almonds, to the chintzy handouts like the sugar-packed little orange and yellow “corn” candy. And it took cunning to get those good treats.
Dressing up as an Arab
When I was a child, we lived in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. In fact, most Arabs, and especially Palestinians, moved into Jewish neighborhoods because despite the Middle East conflict, we shared so much.
We looked alike, loved the same food, talked about the same region of the world, and were pretty much hated by most other Americans who couldn’t tell the difference between Jews and Arabs.
But I knew that after the 1967 War, the way to get the best candy in my neighborhood was to dress up like an Arab. In full flowing robes, hatta wa-igal (kiffeyeh) and swagger.
I would swagger from house to house with my bag open and smile across my face and the homeowners would look at me with shock and literally threw the candy at me like Sandy Koufax pitching in the World Series.
Okay. I looked like Nasser. It may have contributed to the enthusiasm of the pitch.
They usually threw the biggest pieces of candy at me. Sometimes, I didn’t even have to make it all the way up the driveway from the sidewalk to the door to get the candy either. They would throw the candy like stones in an Intifada.
Come to think of it, that is an ironic twist, Jewish people throwing candy like stones in an Intifada.
I didn’t care how I got the candy, as long as it was the large candy bars that, granted, could spin my eyes and head in a little dizziness if they hit their mark. But I always came home with the best candy bars while most of my friends in traditional costumes, had bags filled with unwrapped, small cheap morsels.
Homeowners usually save the best candy for the kids in the costumes they like, or, kids like me, dressed as Arabs in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods.
I remember once entering a local park district contest in my Arab costume, and I came in last place. The emcee said I looked like “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Well, these days I’m older, of course. And I don’t have to dress up like an Arab to be profiled as one at the airport.
Some Christians and Jews but mostly, it seems, Muslims, dislike Halloween claiming (wrongly) that the holiday really represents sinister devil worship.
The critics link the holiday to a 2,300 year old festival celebrated by Pagans called Samhain, which was really intended to allow the peasants to prepare themselves for the hard work of the fall harvest.
They couldn’t drive to the 7-Eleven during the Dark Ages to buy a loaf of bread.
Personally, many of the critics go too far. If you don’t want your children to participate in Halloween, that is your right.
But, when you slander someone else’s practice and claim that their children are worshiping the devil, paying homage to evil spirits or are engaged in witchcraft, you are really showing yourself to be very ignorant.
These religious fanatics call Halloween “Haram,” or sinful.
Of course, these same religious fanatics also discourage their followers from celebrating “Valentine’s Day” and “Sweetest Day,” innocent American holidays intended mainly to honor women.
They urge their followers to respond to Halloween by turning out their lights in their house, locking their doors, shutting their windows and not answering the door bell no matter what.
And they wonder why people react so unfriendly and unsympathetic to their holidays and practices.
Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com