Every year at the end of October, plastic skulls appear on porches, fake spiders dangle above doorways, and creepily grinning jack-o-lanterns leer from windowsills. The air gets cooler, the clothing gets cozier, and the valley starts to buzz excitedly with talk of spooky costumes and haunted houses.
I don’t want to sound like your mother, but there is a real horror-movie undercurrent to what goes on every year on the 31st.
Since I was little, my parents checked my candy meticulously upon my arrival home—as I’m sure many of your parents did, as well. We used to roll our eyes at this; candy poisonings always happen to other kids in other states, never to us or anyone we know! However, checking candy should be a matter of course: A quick Internet search reveals cases in which children have been poisoned with cyanide, heroin, arsenic, Tylenol, and cocaine. From 1958-1988, there were 78 cases, out of which 2 were fatal. The moral of the story: It’s extremely rare, but please check your candy wrappers for punctures or tears, and avoid fruit, homemade goods such as muffins, and anything not in its original packaging. The mantra regarding Halloween candy should be “Better Safe than Sorry.”
Another worry that may seem relegated to anxious parents is getting hit by a car. This seems silly, but actually is logical: Lots of people in the dark, on the street at night, perhaps not wearing easy-to-see garments. Add potential drunk drivers to the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster. According to Allstate Insurance, the number of Californians hit by cars increases by 25% on Halloween as opposed to the rest of October. Please, Please look both ways before crossing the street, and don’t text and walk. Even more important, don’t drunk drive. It would be devastating if an accident happened to any classmate, so please be careful.
Another worry that may affect San Lorenzo Valley residents in particular is pet safety; nearly everyone I know has a dog or cat. Most of the concerns regarding pets seem like common sense: keep them inside because of the increased number of cars, keep Fido away from the bowl of chocolate. However, there are other, darker dangers for cats and dogs out on Halloween. If you own a black cat, try to keep it inside. Pet owners have come forward with stories of their cats being kidnapped and killed, either by superstitious people or wannabe cult members. In addition, those who believe that pitbulls are a vicious breed seem to have declared Halloween “National Kill-A-Pitbull Day.” It’s dubious that this will occur in our valley, but those with beloved family dogs that are pitbulls, mixes, or other similar breeds should keep them in the house for their safety. It’s terrible that animal cruelty has become tied to Halloween, but it’s best to be aware and watch out for our pets. No pet owner wants to lose a beloved friend.
The last issue to be discussed is different from the rest in that it will not physically harm anyone, but could still make people angry or uncomfortable. Please don’t wear a offensive Halloween costume. It’s disrespectful to dress up as a culture that you are not a part of in a comedic or derisive manner; the word for this is “appropriation” and is essentially borrowing someone else’s identity to use as a fun joke for one night. If you are white, please don’t go as Pocahontas or a Geisha or something similar. If it isn’t your culture, don’t wear it unless someone from that culture gives you express permission. The “Indian” costume—headdresses, feathers, and moccasins—is inaccurate and irresponsible. For someone who is white to dress as a people that have been pushed out of their homes for centuries is insensitive and rude. Same goes for “Geisha” or similar costumes. Just don’t do it. And don’t do blackface either (the painting of a non-black person’s face to a darker color) under ANY circumstances. On the other hand, it’s totally okay to be a character from a TV show or movie or book who is outside your ethnicity. Just don’t paint your skin a different color, and make sure your costume is RESPECTFUL. The difference is that while it’s a fun costume for you, it’s part of someone else’s identity. For you it’s temporary, for them it’s forever. So keep it respectful, but have fun and be creative with your costumes!
Now that all the bummer stuff is out of the way, have a great Halloween! Stuff your face with pumpkin-based foods and eat candy until your stomach hurts! It’s my personal favorite holiday and I would love for everyone to have an amazing time and stay safe!
– McKenna Maness