Since it’s Halloween, I thought you might enjoy a column I wrote a decade ago.
MISSING OUT ON HALLOWEEN
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 idea.
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