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Letter from the Editor

When did Halloween become such a ridiculously big deal?

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Ah, October. Crisp autumn air, leaves changing from green to ochre, wispy clouds against a cerulean sky, the smell of woodsmoke ... the massive displays of candy and cheap plastic costumes in our 23,798 local Walgreens stores.

It's Halloween, y'all! The bestest holiday of the year — that wondrous night when we homeowners get the chance to feed sugary junk to carload after carload of strangers' children. (Or, alternately, when we turn off all the house lights and sneak out to a movie.)

But Halloween isn't just for kids anymore. There are lots of parties for grownups, too. Every bar in town has one. Women, of course, are faced with deciding what kind of traditional slutty Halloween costume to wear. So many options: Naughty Nurse, Sexy Policewoman, Kinky Catwoman, Dirty Dracula, Crazy City Council Lady. The list goes on. Men, on the other hand, usually just wear a bandana, schmear on a moustache, and say things like, "Arrrr, I'll have another beer, matey." Or dress up like Michael Donahue.

No-o-o-o!
  • No-o-o-o!

When did Halloween become such a thing? It doesn't commemorate a historic event. It doesn't honor a notable American. It's not a religious holiday (unless you're Pagan). Yet, it's now the second-most expensive American holiday, trailing only Christmas. Last year, Halloween generated around $7 billion for the U.S. economy. (I'm guessing about $1 billion of that was spent on fake spider webs, judging from a drive around East Memphis on Sunday.)

There are around 14,609 "haunted houses" in Shelby County, including religious ones designed to scare you into the arms of the baby Jesus. And there are no fewer than 18,430 corn mazes in the Mid-South, all designed by computers and helicopters instead of farmers. Let's get lost, y'all! Whoo.

And don't even get me started on pumpkins ... Oops. Too late. I'm started. Used to be on Saturday morning you'd take the kids to pick out a couple nice ones, then go home, scoop out the disgusting goo, hack out three triangles and a crescent mouth, stick in a candle, and voila: a jack-o'-lantern for the front steps. Then you could watch football.

But now? Nooooo. These days you have to create epic pumpkin masterworks that require two semesters of art college, six dremel tools, and a surgical residency. There are now pumpkin designers and pumpkin consultants. I know because I've seen 'em on television. Martha Stewart is in the pumpkin-designing game these days. Paula Deen is probably in it as well, but she's in the witness protection program.

Yes!
  • Yes!

And there are 16 million YouTube videos that will show you how to spend an entire weekend creating ornate jack-o'-lanterns that look like witches, devils, Lady Gaga, Rahm Emanuel, or the Reverend Pat Robertson.

What's next — a Naughty Nurse jack-o'-lantern? Why not? The way things are going, porno pumpkins are inevitable. Frankly, Halloween is just out of control. To which I say, "Boo, humbug."

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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