The Days Of Trick Or Treating Are Over

42308248 – children in fancy costume dress going trick or treating

Halloween was always my favorite holiday, because I could dress up as anything I wanted to be. It was always such a blast to think of what I wanted to be for Halloween, and my mother always obliged, albeit begrudgingly at times when she wasn’t thrilled with my choice or had to put together a costume for me. That being said, there were only two years in which she took on the task of putting a costume together for me: in fifth grade, when I went as Cleopatra, and once in seventh grade when I went as Princess Leia.

Year after year, I used the same hard plastic trick or treat pumpkin which my mother bought me when I was five years old, and I always managed to get that Jack O’ Lantern filled to the brim with candy when I went trick or treating. Back then, parents were concerned about apples containing razorblades, so I was instructed to never accept apples, but I could accept all the candy I wanted, as long as the wrappers were intact. I had my favorites, like Snickers Minis and Dubble Bubble Gum, but I was such a polite kid that I was happy to get any candy when I approached front doors and made that request:

“Trick or Treat!”

The Halloween I celebrated in sixth grade was characterized by trick or treating with several friends in Bel Air, an upscale community in Los Angeles. When we knocked on the doors of the beautiful homes there, we didn’t get Dum Dums or candy corn. Instead, we received things like full sized Hershey bars and little boxes of Godiva chocolates. One house we went to handed out $5 bills, which was a sizeable amount to a ten-year old in 1976!

Things have changed dramatically over the years, with parents opting to take their children to the mall or to scheduled events in lieu of knocking on doors at dusk. I completely understand why, since the hazards of walking around after dark and accepting candy from strangers can be just like playing Russian roulette. In the eleven years that I have lived in the same community, I have only had four groups of children trick or treating. It’s a dying trend.

Valentine’s Day: A Money-Maker

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Valentine’s Day is one of the most retail-driven events in the United States, and for good reason. Savvy business owners have figured out how to capitalize on desperate men everywhere who want to please their women. The women, in turn, have been heavily influenced by clever advertising. Most women know about Jared (no, he isn’t the neighbor two doors down), and the Robbins Brothers have also exerted a powerful influence on the fantasies of ladies everywhere.

However, it seems like more and more couples have become aware of the fact that the big day of love is filled with hype and commercialism. After all, it’s supposed to be about the love, lust, or shared interest between two people, isn’t it? However, I still think a fella can’t go wrong with a beautiful bouquet of flowers (I know I love them!) for his lovely lady. If he wants to go the extra mile, he can get a nice trinket of jewelry (no, it doesn’t have to be diamonds), a stuffed teddy bear (if she’s into that kind of thing), or a sexy undergarment from Victoria’s Secret, but those are very predictable gifts on Valentine’s Day.

Then there are the chocolates and candy hearts. Heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates have become increasingly more dreaded, since more ladies than ever are concerned about the sugar rush which comes from consuming them. Don’t be surprised if you buy a box of cheap chocolates and your woman refuses to eat them because they have high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors. Perhaps it’s time to get more creative and pick up a few gluten-free, vegan cupcakes?

A popular outing for couples is to go out to dinner, but restaurants have become far too opportunistic in recent years. Typical Prix Fixe menus for February 14th are so outrageously expensive that you almost have to take out a second mortgage just to afford the meal. I have gotten to the point that I have no desire to pay three times the amount of money I would usually pay for a meal at the same restaurant, simply because I was foolish enough to go there on Valentine’s Day. Besides, the restaurants are always packed, always noisy, and there’s a good chance that your table might be right next to the men’s restroom or in a drafty corner of the patio. Never mind that you made reservations three months ago and specified that you wanted a booth inside the restaurant.

What I enjoy the most, and am planning to do this year, is to cook a nice meal at home, open a good bottle (or two) of wine, and enjoy the comforts of home. That holds much more value for me than surrounding myself with red heart cutouts, chocolates I can’t eat, or spending a king’s ransom for a meal. I also don’t have to yell over the din of the other patrons blabbing.

A New Christmas

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I used to love Christmas, with all its twinkly lights, wonderful-smelling trees, and presents. However, once my mom’s health began declining (brought on by a brain aneurysm in 2004 which almost killed her), my attitude towards Christmas changed dramatically. Though her cognitive abilities are markedly improved now, she doesn’t care about her personal appearance, nor does she get excited about opening up gifts which I wrap carefully for her.

Another thing which happens every year, and has occurred for the past several years, is that people leave town, and I find myself alone on Christmas Day. I remember spending the Christmas of 2011 and 2012 moping about the fact that I was alone, but then in 2013, I sort of gave up and decided to use Christmas Day as more of a personal day, to catch up on projects and cleaning, or to spend part of the day with friends who might be in town during that time. This year, I will spend the early afternoon sitting in a movie theater by myself and watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, and I think that is absolutely perfect.

Another Christmas tradition which I had abandoned in 2012 was getting a tree. From 1997 through 2010, I would get a 7-1/2 foot Noble Fir for the living room and decorate it along with the rest of the house. In 2011, I still bought a tree, but I put it in a different room because my cats were so rambunctious that I was concerned that they would destroy it. Then we moved in 2012, and I didn’t even make an effort to buy and decorate a tree. We had no tree in 2013 or 2014 either, and to make sure that I didn’t go hog-wild with other decorations, I got rid of a bunch of lights and other decorations at a garage sale I had earlier this year.

This year, I was completely torn. I put wreaths up on the front door and the back door, but didn’t put any lights up on our patio. Almost daily, I would toy with the idea of running to a tree lot and buying a tree. But here’s the thing: it’s not exactly fun to think about picking out a tree by yourself, loading it up onto the roof of your car, lugging it up a flight of stairs to your house, pulling out all the lights and other decorations from the garage, and decorating the entire damned thing yourself. The cat factor also really bothered me, because I didn’t exactly relish the thought of coming home to broken ornaments or chewed up light cords. I thought that if I could test the cats’ behavior with a smaller tree, that I might buy a tree, but that it wouldn’t happen until next year.

Then I found myself in a Rite Aid on December 20th, and saw a 4 foot artificial Noble Fir for sale for $10. That was my chance to finally get a tree. Ten bucks was cheap enough for me to take the plunge without feeling like I had made a huge commitment. I purchased the tree, and as soon as I got home, I decorated it. My cats looked at it with great curiosity, but they didn’t bat at the ornaments or chew at the tree (well, Shima chewed a bit on the tree, but I’m watching her!). I have enjoyed the tree so immensely that I have decided to get a 7-1/2 foot Noble Fir next year, and I will also put up the artificial 4 foot tree. I am even considering putting lights out on the patio next year.

In many respects, Christmas is just another day for me, but it doesn’t mean that I have to avoid enjoying the decorations which the holiday brings. My Christmas gift to myself is a nice little movie date which I am sure I will enjoy as well.

Merry Christmas everyone!