Brains versus brawn

Contemplating the contemporary manifestations of Halloween traditions, the Science Editor takes on the Sports Editor; brain takes on brawn. As more and more alternatives to trick or treating become popular, the two sides debate the merit of each.

Brain: Going out trick-or-treating on Halloween is a tradition, plain and simple. And it’s a tradition that is being drawn to an untimely end by a fear-mongering media and over-protective parents. Halloween parties and going door-to-door for candy in a shopping mall; what have we become? A society so afraid of each other that we imagine our neighbour will poison the candy they hand out? I think it’s time to switch off the Fox News and start talking to one another again, and what better chance to do so than by going door-to-door with your child asking for free candy?

Brawn: Yes, it can safely be said that trick or treating is a tradition, going back hundreds of years and originating in Europe. However, taking a quick look at the history of Halloween, it is obvious that the original Halloween traditions have changed dramatically. From heavily religious roots, Halloween is now largely a secular and commercial event. Changing immensely as the traditions were brought to North America from Europe, we have gone from carving turnips to carving pumpkins, from giving out healthy foods like apples to giving out copious amounts of chocolate. Halloween is now synonymous with overpriced costumes and unhealthy amounts of sugar and artificial ingredients in candy; there is much excess in the contemporary version of Halloween. This is what the Halloween tradition has become, and it is not a tradition I can whole heartedly support.

Brain: Excess! Excess? You call the tiny little chocolate bars and boxes containing no more than four Smarties excess? I whole heartedly disagree. Even so, it’s not the “excess” that I want to preserve — it’s the tradition. Yes, All Hallows Eve — as it was known in the era of which you speak — was a tradition, but over the years it has melted and melded with other traditions, into the glorious door-to-door festival of awesome that is today’s Halloween. And I know for a fact that you enjoyed it in its true and unadulterated form just as I did. Running around the neighbourhood, hitting up the good houses, avoiding the “apple and toothbrush” houses and having a wicked time. Who are we to tell our kids, “No, you can’t go door to door asking for candy!” You know who we would be dressing up as for this Halloween if we did that? Hypocrites, that’s what!

Brawn: I certainly do call my kid going door-to-door amassing more than her weight in miniature candy excessive! And what’s more, I think that at this point, Halloween traditions cannot be extricated from their resulting excess. Excess is the new Halloween tradition. Sure, I guess some can consider it a beautiful thing to brave the freezing weather and navigate busy streets with a kid on a sugar-high in a costume that they can barely see out of to ask strangers for candy. But I would prefer trick or treating in the safe sanctuary of the local mall where it is organized, brightly lit and there may even be a Halloween deal or two.

Brain: Would you prefer your child go to school in the safe sanctuary of your home? Would you prefer your kid play with the safe sanctuary of a television instead of real kids? We are raising a society of pre-sterilized, 99.9 per cent germ-free hermetically sealed children who will be too weak to face the harsh realities of the real world. What are our kids supposed to do when the Commies attack? Change the channel? We need our children to be ready for anything, and I see no better way to toughen them up than sending them, ill-prepared, out in the cold dark night, sight obscured by masks, boldly demanding calories and sustenance from strangers. Halloween is the ultimate training ground for the coming conflict, and I for one am glad that our proud North American traditions include this survival ritual. Vive le Halloween! Vive l’excess! Vive le mini-Mars bar!

Brawn: It’s called home schooling, and for many it is a way to preserve and create new traditions and systems that have been horribly mutilated by capitalism and mainstream culture. Now called un-schooling by many, it is actually a pretty big movement these days that entails teaching critical thinking skills and creating alternatives to doctrines of excess, such as Halloween. Vive alternative Halloween celebrations!