(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)


[Paul McKinnon is a 42-year-old Canadian living in the southwest corner of his country. From 1984 to 1994, he lived in Victoria, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Banff National Park, Tokyo and The Yukon. During that time he also visited the U.S. (Hawaii, Alaska, Seattle, San Francisco, The Grand Canyon, Los Vegas), Mexico and parts of Europe (England, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Spain and Portugal).

During that time he worked as a dishwasher, a waiter, a cook, an English teacher, a groundskeeper, a courier, a hotdog salesman, a chauffeur and, of course, a writer.

In 1995 he became a father, cut his hair, and got a real job. He continues to write, and is currently the co-editor of THE NEPENTHE JOURNAL
, an online 'zine that features travel stories, short fiction and pop culture analysis. NEPENTHE can be found at]

So...Did you survive Halloween?

I don't know about you, but I have a thing for Halloween. As a kid it was obviously one of the more interesting times of the year.

And since I was born on the 28th of October I'll always associate it with my birthday. (For those of you who forgot to send cards and best wishes---too late! Money Orders, on the other hand, will still be excepted---but hurry!)

A few years back I realized something else about Halloween. It was getting BIGGER. Have you noticed that? Some people simply chalk it up to that force of the universe that seems to rule so much of our day-to-day living ---Demographics. Your know the drill---Baby boomers have kids then get nostalgic about their own childhoods and, being the spoiled brats that they still are, carry Halloween into adulthood.

Fair enough. But I'm pretty sure that there's MORE to it than that.

I believe that Halloween has become one of our culture's biggest rituals. And that it will continue to grow because we NEED it, and we need it bad.

In fact, Halloween may be the ONLY real North American ritual in which EVERYONE is invited.

Yesterday, for example, I had lunch at an East Indian Restaurant, and they were offering free "treats" to their customers. I took my candy and walked over to Chinatown to buy my fireworks. There was a line-up. Some of the fireworks were

Bank tellers dressed up as criminals; a lady who came over from England didn't know what to make of kids ringing her doorbell and saying, 'Tricker Tree'

 manufactured in my hometown. Others were made in Taiwan.

Outside the Public Library dozens of Government Workers were having a contest for best costume. Bank tellers were dressed up like criminals (Insert your own obvious snide comment here). Some of the street people were wearing funny hats (ditto). Pumpkins and Skeletons were EVERYWHERE!

There was a sense of celebration- and boy oh boy we can use as much of that as we can get these days.

One of the many things I like about Halloween is that it is all-inclusive. Anyone can join in. It is not exclusive to any one specific religion/ethnic background/political stripe/gender/age/class/economic background or sense of taste. It somehow manages to cut through all the borders and barriers we set up between us. How many things, besides natural disasters and airline crashes, are able to do that? (OK---we'd have to include music in there somewhere.)

That's not to say that everyone is "into" Halloween. Take my Landlord... please. He just doesn't "get" Halloween. So we don't put any pumpkins on the steps, or leave the porch lights on, or hand out any candy. He grew up in England, so didn't experience Halloween as a kid. Not that that should stop him from doing so now, but hey, it's a free country. He just doesn't know the fun he's missing.

Yesterday the CBC featured a true Halloween story by woman who came over from England and didn't know what to make of the strange children on her doorstep asking her about the "Tricker Tree". One of the kids opened up their bag of candy and the woman took one! She figured perhaps these kids were members of the "gangs" she kept hearing about. By the following year, she had figured it out and was looking forward to giving out treats to the neighborhood children, only to find that word had got around about what had happened the previous year, and the kids stayed away.

Last year was the first year my daughter "got" Halloween. She was four. And I don't think I've ever seen a more excited human being in my life. At one point she stood in the middle of the road in her princess costume and declared in her loudest excited little girl yell:


Me too Sarah.

Me too!!  ##  



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