December 19 • 07:04 AM

Favorite costume or real personna?

November 01, 2017
I think I've figured out why Halloween is so much fun for kids. Lots of them say it's their favorite holiday—even better than Christmas and all the presents and time off of school and whatnot.

I think it's the draw of wearing a mask. A costume. Being someone or something else for a few hours on this one special day. And being able to snag loads of treats from strangers because that's the ritual. Those are the rules, and they're really simple. Any kid at any age gets it. Dress up. Have fun. Get candy.

Getting to pull all the squishy stuff out of the middle of a pumpkin after the top has been sawed off by Mom or Dad is a bonus too. So is threatening to slime your younger sibling with the goop as you dig into the smooshy pumpkin guts up to your elbows.

Seeing the light flicker in the triangle shaped eyes and jaggedy-toothed smile of the newly carved jack-o-lantern is pretty special too—as is that unmistakable scent of slightly singed pumpkin flesh that emerges when the vented top is put back on the pumpkin.

Yep. Kids and Halloween are a natural fit and I think I've figured out why.

Kids are themselves every other day of the year. They don't think or worry about how they'll be perceived. They're just fine how they are, and they're good with it. It's the only way they know how to be.

On Halloween, they get to change that. With the help of the adult(s) in their lives, kids can deliberately set out to be something else...whatever they want. A princess, a firefighter, a super hero, a tiger, a doctor, nurse, vampire, zombie, witch, dinosaur, whatever. For kids it's a day to put on masks and costumes and to parade around and be complimented and get treats and have fun.

Later, they'll learn about all the masks and costumes they'll have to wear at all of the different stages and phases of their lives.

When I was a kid I couldn't wait for Halloween. My sisters and I loved to dress up and make our own costumes. We used stuff from around the house—old clothes we were allowed to mess around with. We used our imaginations, too, fashioning props out of cardboard and fabric scraps, using crayons and magic markers for special touches.

It was the one time of year we were allowed to use makeup too, though our costume choices didn't always call for a lot of face paint.

When I became "too old" to dress up and trick-or-treat, I relished creating costumes for my little sisters, particularly Virginia who was such a cute, scrawny little kid. Because she was so anxious to be part of our 'big kids' group, she'd be game for just about any costume suggestion I'd come up with. My favorite was when she let me dress her up as Underdog. With the hand drawn 'U' on the signature red undershirt and the blue cape tied around her shoulders, I balled up two pairs of my dad's long woolen socks and stuffed them in the arms of her undershirt for some really big biceps. She loved it and so did I.

Today I think about donning the Underdog costume every day. The parallels in that old favorite childhood cartoon—what with Sweet Polly Purebred and the whole reporter thing—don't seem so coincidental. While I'm not exactly a humble Shoe Shine Boy nor a practiced television reporter, I am rather fond of telling myself on a daily basis that no matter what I do, or try, or risk that "there's no need to fear...Underdog is here." Right under the surface, on Halloween and every other day, too.

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Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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