Column: Missing out on Halloween

Since it’s Halloween, I thought you might enjoy a column I wrote a decade ago.



  Halloween has always been somewhat of a mystery to me.

  Perhaps that’s because I grew up in Africa, where you’d have

  to be a little crazy to leave your pumpkins outside. Folks
  there never have trouble distinguishing between decorations
  and food. And leaving food on your porch is not a good
  Especially during a famine. When people are starving, there
  is nothing more arrogant than decorating your house with
  Actually, the conditions were never that bad in Zambia, the
  country I grew up in. We never felt the need to go door to
  door, begging for candy.
  My mom would have been so embarrassed if I had asked a
  neighbor for food. Especially after giving the neighbor a
  threat. Trick or treat? A quick call to my mother and the
  trick would have been saving my butt from a whipping.
  If we were guests at someone’s house and they offered me a
  second helping of dessert, the correct response was "No,
  thank you." Mom was always watching and I didn’t want it to
  be my last dessert.

  Mom was concerned that people would think she wasn’t feeding
  her son well. It didn’t help that I was built like a bamboo.
  She would have thrown a fit if I had wanted to wander the
  entire neighborhood, begging strangers for candy. But she
  might have liked the idea of me wearing a costume and
  mask, so no one would identify me as her son.
  Of course, trick-or-treating would never work in Zambia,
  because few people know about Halloween. If you knocked on
  their doors dressed as a werewolf, they might throw
  something at you, but it probably won’t be candy.

  After coming to America, it took me several years to get
  used to Halloween. No one explained it to me. They were too
  busy trying to scare me.
  Though I’m a grown man, I scare easily, especially early in
  the morning, when I look in the mirror.
  Seeing so many people wearing masks made me wonder whether
  Halloween is a special day to honor bank robbers.
  I often mixed up American holidays. Once, on a Sunday
  afternoon, a female friend who was planning to visit me
  asked if I had a carving knife. I thought she was going to
  bake a turkey or some other tasty bird for me. After I
  had built an immense appetite, she showed up with a
  pumpkin. And it wasn’t even for eating. I wanted to
  carve that pumpkin to pieces.
  In later years, I still found myself unprepared for
  Halloween. I hardly ever stocked up with candy. And I
  quickly learned that those ghouls, goblins and other
  creatures do not appreciate my closest substitute: cough
  I guess those creatures never get sick.
  Halloween seems to be the best time of the year for some
  children. It even beats Christmas. They believe in the
  spirit of giving, but not as much as they believe in the
spirit of scaring.
  It must be fun to frighten your neighbors, pretending to be
  Dracula, Freddy Krueger or Steve Forbes.
  It makes me wish I had grown up in this country. I would
  have had a great time trick-or-treating, especially after
  convincing my mother that ignoring Halloween in America
  is against the law.
  Maybe it’s not too late. I don’t think anyone can stop me
  from trick-or-treating. That would be age discrimination —
  and I’m prepared to sue.
  So if you happen to see a rather big creature at your door,
  give him lots of candy. He has to make up for lost years.
  He likes mints, peanut butter cups and malt balls. If you’re
  nice to him, he promises not to run off with your pumpkins.

Photo by Miala

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Great article! Very funny and engaging. I came across it by accident, but it makes me want to read the rest of this blog!
    Garrett Kenyon

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