The Reason for the Season

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Unless you are a stick-in-the-mud or a communist, you will no doubt be celebrating Halloween this Friday. Halloween is a marvelous holiday with a long, sentimental history, but I fear that with the over-commercialization and the hustle-and-bustle of the season, people may forget the true meaning of the day.

No, sorry, forgive me, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Every year people complain about the roots of Halloween — how it used to be a Druid holiday, or a Celtic cult day, or Charles Manson’s birthday, or whatever — and see that as good reason for not celebrating it, as if the mere fact that Oct. 31 USED to be a pagan holiday automatically ruins it for all other purposes. If we follow this logic, then Christmas should be moved away from Dec. 25, and the stock market should be closed every Friday (Black or otherwise).

I see no problem with Halloween. Trick-or-treating seems like a relatively harmless activity, except of course for the malicious pranks that teen-agers pull that often result in injury and death, and except of course also for the madmen who put poison and razor blades in candy. Aside from these things, though, trick-or-treating seems perfectly safe and sane, except of course again for kids who go dressed as black cats or Darth Vader or Robert Smith from The Cure who get hit by cars because the drivers don’t see them.

Generally speaking, I think the most evil things about Halloween are the people who give out lousy candy to trick-or-treaters. You know who I’m talking about; perhaps, through some cruel twist of nature due to pre-mortal unrighteousness on your part, you actually ARE one of those people. I’m talking about people who give out apples, and pennies and nickels, and that awful hard candy from Mexico that the kids sell while you’re waiting to cross the border from Tijuana back into California. These people should turn off their lights, lock their gates, and put a sign on the fence saying, “We’re jerks, and we hate kids, and we think fruit is candy, and we’re jerks. Oh, and we hate kids.”

The worst thing anyone ever gave out was a toothbrush. At first I thought this couldn’t be a very common occurrence, but then, after asking the reporters in the newsroom, I learned that Chumbawamba is currently No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and that a good episode of “Seinfeld” was on TV (the one where Jerry can’t remember his girlfriend’s name, and he thinks maybe it’s “Gipple”). After a few more questions, I determined that indeed, many people were victims of random toothbrushings during their childhood trick-or-treat days.

What could possibly be going through someone’s mind that would make them give out dental hygiene products? Do they think they’re being cute? Do they think they’re doing kids a favor? And how do we know these toothbrushes haven’t already been used, anyway? Suffice it to say that handing out toothbrushes to trick-or-treaters is the worst crime ever perpetrated against humanity, and I include the “Batman & Robin” movie in that statement.

The cause of this lousy candy problem is that we have lost touch with the roots of Halloween. Oh sure, we TALK about “trick-or-treating” — but do we really think about what that means? If someone fails to give us a treat, do we realize that we are now both legally empowered and socially obligated to play a trick on them? My friends, I fear we do not. I fear that we say “trick or treat” over and over again so much that its repetition has lessened its meaning.

I am encouraging two things here: One, start trick-or-treating again. Some grown-up may have told you that you were too old for it now that you’re in college, but, like most grown-ups, they were lying.

And two: Do the tricks. If someone gives you something stupid — loose change, fruit, dental floss, anything with coconut — feel free to start a fire. You’ll be glad you did.

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The best thing about this column, in my opinion, was the photo that ran with it. I always used a "mugshot" -- a head-and-shoulders photo -- with "Snide Remarks," but for this column I had one of the graphics guys put my face on a pumpkin. A jack-o-lantern with my face. It was great. Note also the amusing typo ("SNIDE REMAKRS") underneath it. I'd like to blame someone else, but I was doing the column's layout myself in those days, so....

As for the column itself: ehh, typical. I wasn't thrilled with it. I often found, during this early period of "Snide Remarks," that when I assigned myself to write about a particular topic, the humor came out forced, like I was trying too hard. But the column got a good response, so who am I to complain?

(As a side note, the next year, I received an envelope in the mail that had no return address. Inside was nothing but a Polaroid picture. Naturally, I was apprehensive. I mean, Polaroids are the traditional means of blackmailing people, and I shuddered to think what someone might have snapped a photo of without my knowledge. But it turned out to be merely a photo of a jack-o-lantern someone had carved with my face in it. Ha-ha! Isn't that jolly and festive?! Someone who obviously has a fair amount of talent is using it to carve my likeness into a vegetable. Delightful! There was no hint who it came from, which is too bad, because I would like to have thanked them for the flattery, albeit a very odd means of flattery.)

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A few months after this ran, I got a phone call from the secretary for Elder Richard G. Scott. (For non-Mormons, Elder Scott is one of the apostles of the LDS Church, making him very, very high up in the church's hierarchy.) She made it clear that she was NOT calling on his behalf, but was merely expressing her opinion, and she happened to be Richard G. Scott's secretary. She didn't like my column in general, because it was too sarcastic, but she particularly didn't like this one. She was worried that children would read it, take me seriously, and start fires if they didn't get good candy. She also worried about the many elderly people who can't afford to buy nice candy to give out.

I think this woman, who by the way kept calling me "Brother Snider," seriously misunderstood The Daily Universe's audience. We had very few children or old people who read the paper. And the ones that did probably can take a joke. (It's a good thing she didn't know what the Seinfeld/"Gipple" reference was really all about.) She also didn't like my Police Beat column; go there to read her comments about that.

Well over a year later, someone saw this column on my Web site and sent me the following e-mail:

Dear Mr. Snider,

I read yours, now you can read mine, [Yeah, like I MADE her read mine.]

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Aside from it's biblical perspective, read everything in between. Mr. Snider, just a little bit of evil is enough of an influence to murder and mame. ["Mame," starring Carol Channing, is a musical. "Maim," which I believe is what she meant, is something else entirely.] Open your eyes and carefully watch the world around you. What you wrote about is a myth. There's a hard reality out there and it's hurting our children.

Pastor Maria Ciarlante
NEW BRANCH MINISTRIES

I highly recommend that you check out her Web site at the link provided above. It has several more amusing typos, and her position is ... well, if you want to agree with her, I won't argue. Religion (and, in this case, subjects tangentially related to religion) is something I don't care to comment much on, at least not in a humorous manner. (Religious PEOPLE, well, they're fair game. But not their religious beliefs.)

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