AS GHOSTS and goblins and Gagas gather at your door tonight, can it be that Halloween is under attack? Can some aspects of it be racist?
The average amount spent by celebrants - candy, decor, costumes - was $75.03 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. It is expected to be higher this year.
An estimated $2.6 billion will be spent on costumes ($330 million on costumes for pets), while more than $2 billion will be spent on candy, making Halloween America's fourth-biggest spending holiday, behind Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, according to Alliance Data Retail Services.
Is it under attack?
Radio host Dom Giordano, of WPHT (1210-AM) thinks so.
"It's been taken over by the adults and by the worrywarts," he says, smudging what should be a simple holiday where kids just have fun. It's not so much under attack as having the joy squeezed out of it, he says, and he may be right.
Some places won't allow Halloween parties or parades this year. He points to the North Penn School District banning Halloween last year.
"It's 5 to 10 percent who are driving the ship," he says. "They're loud, they'll threaten lawsuits while the average person just wants something uncomplicated."
A letter to parents from the North Penn district said that although Halloween is secular, "The district must always be mindful of the sensitivity of all the members of the community with regard to holidays and celebrations of a religious, cultural or secular nature." What goo.
Halloween is actually under attack from some fundamentalist Christians who see it as celebrating the devil, but Halloween continues to grow.
On his show, Giordano talked about what happens when non-neighborhood kids knock at your door.
That happened when I lived in the white Columbus Park area of South Philadelphia.
I had my house lights on for Halloween, had a plastic pumpkin full of treats ready. I turned away some teenagers - high-school age - who showed up (not in costume) to mooch free treats. To get candy, I think, you have to be in costume - and you can't have a 5 o'clock shadow.
A bit later, another group knocked, about a dozen kids, 7 to 12 in age, all African-American. From my door I saw a yellow bus parked halfway down the block. Parents apparently hired the bus to bring their kids to a safe, middle-class neighborhood.
The kids were not from my neighborhood, but they were from some neighborhood. They got the candy.
The next day I talked to neighbors, most of whom said they gave candy to the kids. Some didn't, maybe because the kids were black, but I don't know that any more than I know if people who blacken their faces and dress up like suspended Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice are racists. Certainly stupid, but I think "racism" is too serious a charge to be applied without certainty.
Giordano says not one of his callers said they would turn away minority kids.
This led us into a lighthearted chat about the best neighborhoods for trick or treating. "Chestnut Hill would top my list," says Giordano, "whole chocolate bars.
"Lansdowne would be a half-a-candy bar neighborhood," he says, "while you'd get a Hershey Kiss at 5th and Indiana."
Center City kids have it tough because most apartment buildings are locked. Residents in my building can sign up to receive resident trick or treaters, which is great because it means parents know their kids will score.
Finally, the Food Allergy Research and Education nonprofit encourages people to provide "nonfood treats" (that's an oxymoron) and to designate themselves by displaying a teal colored pumpkin.
Next year maybe kids will have to report their Body Fat Index before they get a KitKat.
On Twitter: @StuBykofsky
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