Hey big business, keep your fangs out of my holiday

August 18, 2019 11:15 pm

Creative Commons via Pixabay.

I like that my birthday falls on Halloween.

Always have, even though I’ve heard all the corny jokes — “You definitely were a trick, not a treat!” “You can save money by using your face as a mask!” — throughout my nearly three-score years. 

The Oct. 31 milestone (6:45 a.m. in a D.C. hospital, for those who are curious) made me unique. I begged my mother to bake a cake each year, even though she and I both knew the sugar rush from just trick-or-treating overloaded my sweet tooth. 

See, I didn’t want to be treated differently from my five siblings just because my birthday was special. It’s not my fault they landed on March 2 or Sept. 29. So ordinary.

As my own three children grew, it was my task to walk them around the neighborhood – first in Detroit, then in Chesapeake. I relished the chore, from candy collection to costume selection. Argh, pirate! 

In fact, the eldest of the Chesley Trio is a Fourth of July firecracker baby. The older daughter’s birthday sometimes lands on Easter. 

Maybe it’s in the genes.

So I was taken aback – miffed, actually – that a fledgling campaign tried to move the Halloween merriment from its longtime Oct. 31 designation to the last Saturday of the month. It’s like giving dental floss to a dressed-up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

CNN reported recently the nonprofit Halloween & Costume Association launched a petition drive last year urging the switch. The group argues that the new date will lead to a “safer, longer, stress-free celebration.”

Ideally, this would allow kids to start trick-or-treating in daylight, wouldn’t force parents to rush home from work to accompany the younger children, and let the tykes stay up longer since they wouldn’t have to go to school the next day.

As the self-appointed president of the newly enshrined “Keep Halloween on Oct. 31” crusade, I object. If you come to my door other than on the true date, you’ll get a rock – à la Charlie Brown

It’s bad enough the feds caved to the travel industry a half-century ago, moving several national holidays to a nearby Monday. I’m sure a couple of generations of Americans know nothing about Memorial Day always falling on May 30, or Washington ’s Birthday landing on Feb. 22. 

Yes, the change created three-day weekends for families and workers, providing time for mini-vacations and stress-reduction. But the practice that took effect in 1971 also removed the specialness of those individual holidays. 

It was all about commerce, Jennifer Mittelstadt, a history professor at Rutgers University, told Time magazine.  “Travel organizations had been pushing for three-day weekends like this since the 1950s,” she said, “and they finally got the employee unions on board … because there was a fair amount of agreement that it’d be good for business.”

I have nothing against business. Except when it removes my luster.

Fortunately, the Halloween & Costume Association has backed off its earlier advocacy. A spokeswoman for the group said many parents, teachers and Halloween enthusiasts indeed liked the switch. 

But the group “also received some strong reactions and even mixed feedback on the proposed change,” Aneisha McMillan told me by email. I bet they did.

The group now says that instead of seeking to change the Oct. 31 date, “we will be adding an additional day of festivities in partnership with Party City and other brands. National Trick or Treat Day will take place annually on the last Saturday of October so families … can participate in community parades, throw neighborhood parties and opt for daytime Trick or Treating.”

All well and good. The more dressing up, the merrier.

Just keep your fangs off my birthday.

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Roger Chesley
Roger Chesley

Longtime columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the (Newport News) Daily Press and The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot from 1997 through 2018. He previously worked at newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Detroit. Reach him at [email protected]