Each year, the retailers start pushing the holidays on us earlier and earlier. This year, the ads started showing up in September. Kids are already talking about what they want to get.
Of course, I'm talking about the biggest holiday of the year: Halloween.
Who doesn't fondly remember their parents spending hours hanging up fancy, expensive outdoor Halloween lights, addressing and mailing their Halloween cards and buying fancy, Broadway-musical-quality costumes for all their kids before putting out bowls of $2 candy bars for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters? Oh yeah, me neither.
The way I remember it, we carved a pumpkin the night before. A big toothy thing, obviously done by enthusiastic but unskilled children, not something that looks like Martha Stewart spent a week on it.
The scariest thing about Halloween today is what it has become. I don't want to sound like the Ghost of Halloween Past, but when did this fun, minor holiday get blown up into New Year's Eve, Christmas and Thanksgiving combined? If the greeting card companies and the retailers can do it to Halloween, they can do it to any random day of the year.
How long before we have to start buying our kids presents for the summer solstice? How long before we have to decorate the house for Arbor Day? How long before changing the clock to and from Daylight Saving Time becomes a couple of new three-day weekends? Have you sent out your Cinco de Mayo cards yet?
And don't forget, if retailers have their way, you'll have to buy presents for every one of these holidays. Not just for your children, but for your spouse, your siblings, your in-laws, your co-workers and your boss.
If you give your sister the waffle iron for Groundhog Day instead of the neck massager she's been asking for, it could cause bad feelings for years to come. And isn't that the point of most holidays? Face it: If it's not stressful, is it really a holiday?
Don't get me wrong, I love Halloween. It's the perfect holiday for kids -- even better than Christmas. You've been naughty all year? So what? You'll get just as much candy as the nice kids. And unlike all those other holidays, you don't have to get in a car and drive for hours to visit some relatives, only find out you're still sitting at the kids' table.
For Halloween, the good houses, the ones that gave away malted milk balls or wrapped candies, we'd hit two or three times. I would visit first as a ghost with an old sheet over my head, then as a Roman senator in a sheet toga, and a third time as Lawrence of Arabia with the sheet secured to my head Bedouin-style with a belt.
So now, in the holiday spirit, my wife and I turn out the lights, close the curtains and pretend our house has been abandoned for many years. For some reason, we don't get as many trick-or-treaters as we used to.
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.