I’ve been seeing a lot of pumpkins being drawn lately with Halloween coming up. Not wanting to be left out of this pumpkin party, I figured I would try doodlewashing one. Since it was my first time doing this with a pumpkin, I thought it was fitting to choose the first pumpkin Philippe ever carved as the subject matter.
Since Philippe lived in France his entire life, he never really celebrated Halloween, much less carved a pumpkin. Though the commercial craze has made its way there now in bits and pieces, it’s still not celebrated like it is in the United States. So it was really exciting to introduce him to the wonderful world of Halloween American Style as it was always one of my favorite holidays as a kid.
In some ways, for a kid, Halloween is even better than Christmas. You get to grab a pail or a bag and go from house to house while tons of complete strangers give you guaranteed gifts just for showing up in a costume. That’s really a major upgrade from Christmas where you have to be good all season long to get a few conditional gifts from just one stranger who puts them in your sock. And only he gets to wear the costume!
Of course, when I was a kid we were allowed to roam the neighborhood freely on the night of Halloween. As our cultural fear grows, fewer kids find themselves in this enviable position, and only get candy from people they’ve met, often out of the trunk of a car in a church parking lot. So who knows, perhaps Christmas is now trumping Halloween for them, but back in my helmet-free, lawn dart flinging youth, it was always an unforgettably wonderful night.
The best part was meeting other groups of ghouls on the street corner and getting the skinny on who was giving out the best candy. This was very important as you had to get to the candied apples before Mrs. Robinson turned out her porch light for the night. And equally important, you had to avoid the deplorable hermit woman, who was quite possibly a witch, because she was giving out toothbrushes.
With this insider information, you were able to maximize your evening while hitting as many houses as possible to get the most treats. I quickly learned that the little plastic pumpkin was insufficient and progressed to a large bag instead. One year, feeling particularly brilliant, I took a doubled up brown paper bag. Once the primary bag was full, I could simply hide it temporarily behind a bush, and take the second fresh bag to continue with my ritualized begging.
As I was describing all of these wondrous things to Philippe I realized just how ridiculous it all is. It’s truly a bizarre tradition. Strange that something built out of celebrating a harvest and honoring the dead could morph into a holiday about dressing up, destroying pumpkins, and scaring the crap out of each other. But honestly, not so surprising, because those last bits sound way more fun.
Today, I don’t go to parties and no longer dress up in a costume. Halloween has just never been as much fun as an adult as it was when I was a kid. Going to only one house and hoping that the treats will be good there, just loses much of the magic for me. No, I’m happy with remembering all of the childhood joys of Halloween. I know there will always be new things we’ll experience in life, but there will be little to beat the thrill of carving your first pumpkin.