“Where’s your costume?” demanded the woman at the office.
So I undid the top button of my shirt. “This is it,” I replied. “I’m going as a Sexy Newspaper Columnist.”
She shook her head. “There’s no such thing. Try something more believable, like Sexy Axe Murderer or Sexy Mutant Zombie.”
This is the problem: Halloween used to be for kids. You would dress them in dad’s old work clothes, tell them they were hobos, then shove them out the door to request/extort candy from strangers while roaming pitch-black streets illuminated solely by the Vimy Ridge strobe of ground-shaking backyard fireworks and the flashing red lights of paramedics racing to reattach the severed fingers of those who had set them off. It was fantastic.
Then things changed. Halloween got hijacked by adults.
First, they decided to use the occasion to dress up as Sexy Whatevers and party in a way that caused them to lose their inhibitions/undergarments/stomach contents. (Really, ask the cops how much they enjoy working the Saturday night before Halloween. By 2012, VicPD was fielding four times as many calls that night as on New Year’s Eve.)
Then, worse, these same adults decided to use Halloween as an excuse to show up for work in a moose suit.
Actually, it wasn’t so much an excuse as a firm suggestion, bordering on requirement. If you didn’t show up in a moose suit, then your colleagues would narrow their eyes and glare at you in disapproval, just like when you stunk up the lunchroom with your microwaved leftovers.
The HR guy, festooned in purple balloons attached to one-piece long johns (an attempt to resemble the bunch of grapes from the Fruit of the Loom commercials), would take in your absence of a moose suit and make a mental note: Not A Team Player.
Now, at some point in the day, the novelty would wear off and everybody would get back to business. The HR guy would forget he was still in costume, as would a manager who came in dressed as the horned-fur-hat shirtless Capitol Hill insurrection guy, and together they would shepherd Little Bo Peep into a side office where they would inform her that third-quarter figures had fallen short of expectations, so her flock-tending services would no longer be required. But feel free to help yourself to some little Oh Henry bars on the way out!
Meanwhile, the kids’ Halloween experience was becoming duller, diminished. At some point, probably after B.C. Children’s Hospital declared this province to be the “North American capital of fireworks injuries” in 2006, we noticed that nowhere else on the continent was it deemed a good idea to mix pyrotechnics with Halloween.
Your Alberta relatives would peer over the Rockies at our combination of explosives, small children, darkness, limited-vision costumes and liquor, and ask why we didn’t make the children run with chainsaws while we were at it. This might have been sarcasm.
Gradually, Halloween became quieter, safer. Fewer fireworks. Less vandalism. Healthier treats. (Once, when my wife proposed handing out raisins and sunflower seeds, I threatened to egg our own house.)
Pumpkin faces were felt-penned, not carved. Scary costumes were discouraged at school.
Had this dreadful trend continued, Hollywood would have done a Nightmare on Elm Street remake in which Freddy Krueger, having been accused of “bullying,” would in turn have accused his tormentors of “micro-aggressions.”
But then the pandemic came along. In 2020, some residents decided that after several months of isolation, taped-off playgrounds and being home-schooled by day-drinkers, the kids deserved some fun, so they ignited fireworks displays that lasted longer than a British prime minister.
This cacophony, in turn, triggered an explosion (as it were) of complaints from pet-owners and others — though when I subsequently wrote about a proposed regionwide fireworks ban, several readers suggested that since I had nothing between my ears, perhaps I should stick a candle in my head and use it as a Jack-o’-lantern.
This year? We’ll see. Some municipalities, citing the fire risk after a bone-dry summer, aren’t issuing fireworks permits at all — not that this will deter a determined detonator. (“Permits? We don’t need no stinking permits!”)
If you ask these backyard bombers if they’re doing it for the kids, they’ll just look at you blankly. “What kids?” they’ll reply, standing there in their moose suits.