Jack-o-lanterns are blooming on doorsteps, paper skeletons are dancing in windows and supermarket aisles are loaded with enough candy to fell a small nation with a hypoglycemic shock wave. It must be Halloween. That, or the prevailing trend in home decor has gone the way of 10-year-old Goths. Either way, the season of tricking and treating is upon us. Mwahahaha!(By the way, that burst of diabolical laughter is in the dictionary.
I grew up during the first great wave of Halloween’s commercialization into a kiddie cash cow. This would be after the release of the novelty hit “Monster Mash” and the animated holiday special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown but before the arrival of Elvira and her cleavage, as white and precipitous as the Cliffs of Dover.
Samhain I Am
It wasn’t always like this. There were once Celts, then later 12th-century Christians involved, though, sadly, I have little information on their cleavage. I’m confident there was no cleavage when it came to the New England Puritans and their opposition to the evolving holiday. Halloween’s reception with these guys would be colder than a witch’s tit. Until they burned her.
It wasn’t until the first decades of the 20th century that Halloween became assimilated into mainstream America. And I think I know why.
Not to get too X-Files on you, but consider this: What if the oft-bandied backstory about Celtic harvest rites (“Samhain”) and Halloween’s origins were cooked up on Wikipedia to cover the true story of Halloween. I’ve been meditating on the notion for a while and it comes down to what Sonoma County’s own Mark Felt, a.k.a. “Deep Throat,” might’ve said if Hal Holbrook hadn’t said it for him: “Follow the money.”
This is where the Halloween money flows – to the candy makers. And dentists. Is there a conspiracy between Mars, Hershey, Cadbury, See’s, etc. and the American Dental Association? Like “one hand washing the other” then snapping on rubber gloves and grabbing the pliers? Think about it. Nearly 600 million pounds of candy is sold between September and November. That’s a $2 billion business; two billion little pictures of a man with wooden dentures who ain’t smiling.
Candy & Tooth Decay
Candy rots your teeth because bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars and excrete acids, which causes decay and cavities. Basically, when you eat a “Bite-Sized” Snickers Bar, you’re also feeding prokaryotic microorganisms, which eat the sugar and poop in your mouth. That poop eats holes in your teeth. So, thanks, Snickers.
The Centers for Disease control report that tooth decay will affect 49 percent of kids between ages 6 and 15. That’s nothing compared to the 95 percent of people their parents’ age, who will also experience tooth decay. All those holes have to be plugged: for “Tooth-colored composite resin fillings,” that will run you between $90 and $250 a cavity. Clearly, standing up against these kinds of numbers is near to impossible, if not downright scary. Remember when those well-meaning carrot farmers got together and offered “scarrots” as a healthy Halloween candy alternative? No one does. In fact, I’m a bit nervous even writing the word “scarrots” for fear of receiving a candygram from Dr. Butterfingers, DDS.
If you ring my doorbell this Halloween and I don’t answer – don’t take it personally. Unless you’re Tom of Maine. Or Shane MacGowan. Then it might get real personal, real quick. Happy Halloween!