Tuesday, October 15, 1996
Now here's a scary thought: no Halloween

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

This is probably politically and socially incorrect, but I'm going to notice publicly that we seem to have lost our perspective. Not to mention our sense of humor.

I am not speaking of the suspension from school of a 6-year-old boy, accused of sexual harassment after he kissed a little girl on the cheek.

I am not speaking of a nation united in debate over the crime of spitting on a baseball umpire. This is a country that puts up with rape, robbery and murder. But we draw the line at spitting on sports officials.

No, I am speaking of the flaw in America's character that compels us to ruin perfectly good holidays.

Santa in a string bikini

First of all, the very word holiday means ''a day in which one is exempt from work.'' The only people who take this seriously are government employees. The rest of us are lucky to be able to sneak off an hour early for a green beer on St. Patrick's Day.

It's not bad enough that we have been denied the option of blowing our fingers off on July 4. Or that Abe Lincoln and George Washington don't get their own birthdays anymore.

It's not bad enough that Christmas shopping begins in late August. And that Easter baskets are now prepackaged, including already-dyed, hard-boiled eggs.

Now we are in danger of corrupting Halloween.

A Bridgetown pastor canceled this year's Halloween party at his church because he says it ''promotes the occult.''

Promotes the occult? Give me a break.

Halloween promotes candy.

Halloween promotes wearing costumes - cute when you're young, scary when you're older - preferably homemade. Next to science projects, most mothers' worst nightmare is the annual making of Halloween costumes.

Bee-ing creative

Luckily, I came from a large family of cousins, so we recycled the costumes with customized personal touches. For instance, my Aunt Flora, an excellent seamstress, made a bee costume for my cousin Hank. Wings, stinger, stripes, the works.

The next year, my cousin Sara wore the bee suit with a crown. Her queen bee was a big hit, and one year later, the suit fit my brother, Steve, who carried an ax and told everyone he was a killer bee.

When my turn came, the suit was a little worse for wear. The killer bee had spilled grape Kool-Aid down the front of it. My mother, a resourceful woman, tied an apron over the purple stain and I marched in the parade as Aunt Bee.

Then, of course, there was Beggar's Night and the really, truly true meaning of Halloween. Candy. More candy. The kind of candy that would ruin your dinner and rot your teeth. Enough bubble gum to send us to orthodontia hell.

This was all collected amid satisfying and totally untrue rumors that some fiend was handing out apples with razor blades inside. Our parents didn't worry because we were all begging in our own neighborhood, knocking on familiar doors.

This was before children were loaded into vans and driven into subdivisions where houses are closer together. In fact, people with long driveways usually gave the best stuff because they got fewer visitors.

The best stuff was chocolate, but Tootsie Rolls, caramels, popcorn balls and candy cigarettes also were desirable. We did not appreciate boxes of raisins or apples, which we could get at home.

I feel sorry for kids today. Not only are they walking around in prepackaged Power Ranger and Barney suits, but I have heard that certain households are passing out fast-food gift certificates and granola bars. From here, we are just one, short, ugly step to orange rolls of dental floss and sandwich bags filled with brussels sprouts.

Myself, I pledge to pass out only treats blacklisted by the American Dental Association. I will check the nutrition label and if the item has any niacin or iron or vitamins, I will feed it to the dog. At my house, we will revive the ancient and honorable tradition of doing something that has absolutely no socially redeeming value. In the olden days, it was known as ''fun.''

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.