• Carmen Marie Fabio

Trick or treat


A good portion of my weekly commute is spent after sunset so I can't help but notice that at least one municipality has already begun hanging and illuminating their Christmas lights and while they may indeed be pretty to look at, their beauty is diminished, at least in my eyes, by the fact that we're not yet done with celebrating the season of orange, black, blood-red, and apparition-white.

Above the Yuletide season, Easter, and even birthdays, Halloween ranks in first spot on my family's favourite celebrations and it's disconcerting to have icicles and – gasp – reindeer foisted upon us when we haven't even officially made it to All Hallows' Eve and paid the event its due respect.

Halloween has metamorphosed into another Hallmarkesque marketing opportunity with costume and notion outlets designed to milk the observance for every commercial dollar possible. Far from the glut of today's mass-produced costumes and bloody body parts, the Halloween of our childhood forced us to plan, concoct, and improvise our collective persona for the evening's candy-seeking mission as well as take pains to ensure our own homes had, at the very least, the requisite carved Jack o' Lantern on the porch indicating we were complicit in the evening's shenanigans.

While the Easter Bunny, long ago appropriated from a Pagan ritual, is the apparent embodiment of innocence, Halloween allowed us kids to break a number of adult boundaries – we could conceal or embellish our identities, we could be out after dark, and we could boldly approach perfect strangers and ask for something that suited our childhood desires as opposed to constantly meeting an adult ideal. Halloween belonged to kids and along with that ownership came our clumsy, often inept attempts at rising to its costuming challenge. It was an observance celebrated with hand-me-down clothing, jerry-rigged intentions, and an optimism that dictated that every year, we were determined to fill our pillow-cases to the point of bursting, having to return home for a fresh new one.

Above all other celebrations and rituals we observe throughout the calendar year, Halloween is best left to children before adults get their interfering hands in there and remove its inherent magic with store-bought costumes, expensive makeup kits, and the outsourcing and subcontracting of one of the fundamental stepping-stones of childhood development - imagination. Somewhere along the way, commoditization has reared its ugly head.

Things took an even uglier turn recently in Quebec City with the news that some schools are telling kids to refrain from wearing Halloween costumes to school October 30 as part of the teachers’ ongoing work-to-rule campaign over contract negotiations.

The monetization of childhood is one thing.

Holding it hostage, however, is entirely another.

I’m taking my kids’ current strike days in stride and but my youngest, who attends French school in the region, came home with some surprising news this week.

Presumably as a pressure tactic, the teachers have announced that the entire afternoon of Friday, October 30, will be dedicated to celebrating Halloween.

Rather than punish the kids or use them as negotiating pawns, the teachers are getting their message across without removing what most kids hold as an annual rite of passage.

Sounds pretty sweet to me.