Having been involved in several Halloween-themed activities this month, I've come to realize that a lot of folks LOVE Halloween, for reasons as varied as the fanatics themselves.
Some people, often the quiet, reserved type, relish the opportunity to dabble in the dark side once a year; they're the traditionalists, the ones who deck out their offices in cobwebs and become witches or vampires for the night. A truly dedicated few put a great deal of time and effort into building haunted houses for the neighborhood kids or for a charitable cause.
Other people obsess over creating clever, one-of-a-kind costumes; the best I've seen so far this year is a dress covered with those paint sample tiles from the hardware store to portray "50 Shades of Grey." Still others delight in expressing their creativity through elaborately carved jack-o'-lanterns, something I've long admired but have yet to try.
And for some folks, it's all about the treats. The kids aren't the only ones who look forward to the abundance of sugar that late October brings. I know people who buy giant bags of candy corn and mini-chocolate bars with no intention of passing them out to trick-or-treaters. Not me, of course. Although I have, occasionally, consumed most of the candy before the big night and had to run to the store to restock.
Sadly, Halloween ain't what it used to be, in terms of trick-or-treating. I feel sorry for today's youth; not only has the door-to-door adventure been diminished by safety concerns, you can't get the really good stuff anymore.
I remember coming home from a night of trick-or-treating with homemade treats like caramel apples and popcorn balls at the bottom of my bulging sack. My generation was the last to enjoy trick-or-treating without the fear of contamination or, worse, malicious tampering. We had kindly neighborhood aunties who offered cookies and hot cocoa if we needed a little rest on our rounds.
Because my father was a dentist, people often assumed that my consumption of sweets was limited. Little did they know, my dad allowed me to eat all the candy I wanted, as long as I brushed my teeth afterwards. He liked the sweet stuff as much as I did.
Daddy's favorite candy bar was Big Hunk. He'd chill the bar, then whack it on the edge of his desk to crack the hardened nougat into pieces. I preferred Look, which was a smaller Big Hunk coated in chocolate, and I liked it soft and chewy, so I never put my Look in the fridge.
I suppose the way we eat our treats tells others a bit about our personalities. Like whether you eat your M&M's one or two at a time or by the handful. Or segregate them by color and then consume them in a pattern. Does that make me OCD?
Actually, I only do that with Skittles and Smarties, because unlike M&M's, the colors are flavored differently. So it's really the most logical way to consume them. I like to alternate the flavors, trying not to eat two of the same in a row, and making sure I have one of each color at the end. I always save the lime-green one for last.
A few years ago, a friend shared his favorite candy indulgence with me, and it's become a favorite of mine as well. Mixing plain M&M's with Smarties. Equal parts, of course. Steve liked eating four or five at a time, randomly grouped. I prefer them in pairs, one M&M and one Smartie. Well, actually, I pop the Smartie in my mouth first, crunch it once or twice, then add the M&M. No, I don't match them up by color.
But if the trick-or-treat traffic is light tomorrow night, and I find myself with a lot of time and leftover candy on my hands, I just might start a new habit.
Whether your passion is for tricks or treats, I hope you enjoy a safe and satisfying Halloween. Happy haunting!
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.