Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Trick or Treat: The (Even) Darker Side Of Halloween

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on October 30, 2017. 

Just a few days ago, a big explosion and fire at a firework factory in Tangerang, Indonesia, killed at least 47 people. The death toll will likely continue to rise as many of the survivors have suffered severe burns. Among the dead, a 14-year-old girl.

My mind raced to the banners draped around town announcing great sales on fireworks. I am sure I am not the only one thinking that some of the fireworks being manufactured there are likely shipped to Canada for Halloween. It makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t it? The factory, which seemed to have employed underage workers and had some serious safety violations, was only two months old, much like the Halloween stores we see popping up around town prior to October 31. We have to wonder where all that (cheap) stuff is coming from and who makes it.

I have already stated on more than one occasion that I am not a big fan of the one-use plastic and other questionable stuff sold for Halloween. If all would be reused to eternity, perhaps I can lend a more lenient thought towards it, but that’s beyond wishful thinking. We would not have so much excess to begin with.

Truth is, as soon as school’s back, summer items are cleared off the shelf and the Halloween merchandise returns, outdoing itself every year, and without a doubt redefining the concept of excessive. There isn’t much consideration for what it takes to bring all that merchandise to stores, or what happens to it afterwards, whether in the customers’ hands or as store surplus. Hopefully the unsold items will be saved for next year’s Halloween.

Many of the costumes though, and some of the decorations too, will likely break because that’s what cheap, fast-manufactured items do. Then, it’s the landfill, which really sees a surge after every big celebration and not only then. The scary thing is, there used to be a couple of big celebrations in the past. Now thanks to marketing wizards, there’s barely any time to breathe between them. As a society, we have shortened and fake-sweetened the distance from non-renewable resources to trash via disposable items with the most tragic long-term consequences.

This is not the case of the Halloween Grinch (how scary would that be?) but rather an argument for a return to simple fun, creativity and much less waste. After all, if it is about the kids, let’s really make it about the kids. The last thing they need in a plastic- and garbage-choked world, is a laissez-faire attitude on our part when it comes to footing the bill for celebrations like Halloween (and all the other ones too.)

Just imagine if all decorations and costumes would be homemade. The creativity involved in such endeavours would be the first great thing that comes to mind; then would be the time kids and parents would spend making them, having lots of fun with ideas, some of which may prove too hard to materialize, as some ideas do, while others will become memorable creations.

Then there will be all that time spent hands-on, minds active and far away from devices that numb them on a regular basis. There will be some frustration too, as all handmade projects carry a dose of that necessary and inevitable feeling, due to various limitations. But then, there’s the joy of finishing projects, and all that good self-confidence that comes from it. That is one amazing gift to give to our children.

As I write this, my youngest – the only one left to do the trick-or-treat in the family, and this is his last year too, – is painting a design on a homemade Roman shield. He worked very hard to bring it to this point, getting deep enough in frustration at times, just to emerge a while later with a better solution in mind. With a bit of help maneuvering woodworking tools, he also made himself a wooden sword and came up with the rest of the items for his Roman soldier costume. No, it will not look identical to a movie set costume, but perfection was never, not should ever be, part of the design.

Much like they say free money has no value, and no matter how much you get, it’ll get squandered in no time, excess merchandise such as decorations and ready-made realistic costumes will never make Halloween better or more memorable. Frankly speaking, they’ll partly make it a source of garbage, most of it unseen, because that is the story of garbage, and most of it will be disposable, single-use stuff, such as the glue-on rainbow eyelashes and blood-oozing-on-demand plastic face masks I saw in a store a few days ago, along with way too numerous to list items. We already know too well that less is more.

As with other aspects of our everyday life, remembering that in the grand scheme of things we’re but a blink, mere guests, in the history of the Earth, the best celebratory attitude should come with the least amount of trash left behind for our ‘host’ to deal with. At the end of the day, it’s not the Earth that is left with the ever-growing bill for all celebratory disposable paraphernalia, but our children and their children. Which is why we should give a better consideration to the question: Will it be tricks or treats that we hand over to them, year after year?


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1 Comment

  1. I’m all for more creativity, less landfill material on Halloween and throughout the year. Great article.

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