[This is a piece I read at the October How to Kick People show. I can't reproduce the shaving cream demonstration I gave at the show, but I can give you the rest. Happy All Soul's Day, little pretties.]
In preparation for this evening, I spent some time researching Halloween customs. Initially, I’d assumed Halloween was an exclusively American tradition because Halloween, like America, is awesome. So I was surprised to discover it’s actually one of the world’s oldest holidays, dating all the way back to 5th century – that’s over 100 years ago, before Benjamin Franklin and Moses were born. And according to historians, the custom of trick-or-treating, or some semblance of it, first appeared a couple of years later, in the 9th century. The custom was originally called “souling,” because back then it was required that everything have a Christian name – for example, breakfast was called “The Resurrection, with Toast” and oral sex was called “Bobbing for Jesus.”
Today, Halloween is still celebrated around the world. In Mexico and many Latin American countries, October 31st is an occasion to honor the dead who, it is believed, return to their earthly homes on that evening. Instead of Halloween, the holiday is called “El Dia De Los Muertos,” which, in English, means “Zombie Christmas.” As a way of honoring the dead, homes are adorned with flowers and foods, as well as photographs of deceased relatives. In some homes, the family will even morbidly display the body of a recently deceased relative. To protect children from this ugly shock of mortality and decay, they are often given decorative blindfolds to wear. Then the blindfolded children are handed sticks and invited to beat the corpse of their dead relative until it bursts forth with candy, toys, and gold fillings.
In England, Halloween traditions officially ended with the spread of the Protestant Reformation. But don’t worry; Halloween-style mayhem occurs every November 5th, on Guy Fawkes Day. Fawkes was a Catholic extremist who was burned as a traitor in the 17th century for attempting to blow up Parliament. To commemorate this day, the British light small bonfires across the countryside and toss effigies of Guy Fawkes into the flames – not much different than the after-math of every Manchester United game, ever. Interestingly, the burning effigies were originally meant to symbolize the burning of the Pope, and not Guy Fawkes, until many years later when the Catholic Church said, effectively, “Hey, guys – come on. That’s not cool.”
In some parts of the country, the English have even preserved a form of trick-or-treating that is very close to the American tradition. Children carry around their own small effigies of Guy Fawkes, and go begging door to door, asking for “a penny for the guy.” If they come to your door and you tell them, “I haven’t got a penny,” the children traditionally reply, “then a hay-penny will do.” And if you explain further that you haven’t got a hay penny, the children throw acid in your face.
Some form of trick or treating exists in many other countries like Egypt, Ireland, and some of the smaller, crap nations. From region to region, the custom changes slightly – kids beg for cookies and fruit in some countries, for death to all infidels in others – but there remain pretty fundamental differences. However, in all the literature I combed through – well, in both of the literatures I combed through – I mean, not really “combed through” but sort of glanced at…OK, what I’m trying to say is the “Did You Know?” information bubble on the back of my package of Dr. Dracula Glow-in-the-Dark Fright Fangs contained a lot of information about Halloween customs but indicated nothing about whether there is an internationally recognized age limit on trick-or-treating. Even the Fright Fangs advertised themselves as being suitable for ages “8 and Up.” But how far up?
The last time I went trick-or-treating, I was fourteen years old. [READ THE REST OF 'A HALLOWEEN TOO FAR'...]