Halloween meanings vary among people

Grant McGee: CNJ Columnist

Halloween can mean different things to different people. I’ve learned there are folks who think Halloween is a time for mischief or time for a good party. There are those who don’t care about Halloween and those who think there is something sinister about the last night of October.

I once lived in a town where, every Halloween, some pranksters would take a chainsaw to a random tree, felling it across some road. I worked with a guy in Arizona who believed, without a doubt, that the national media engaged in a massive cover-up every year, alleging that Halloween night thousands of people across the country are abducted and used in dark rituals.

I’m going to celebrate Halloween anyway. That means costuming up.

The Lady of the House is making hippie outfits for us. I told her I could just wear what I do around the house in the evening.

I’ve never really been one to dress up for Halloween. I like a simple costume. For instance, a few Halloweens ago I strung an empty box of corn flakes around my neck, stuck a huge carving knife in it and went partying. Only one person recognized me as a “cereal killer.”

I went to a party one time wearing my old “Miami Vice” white jacket (yes, I had one; don’t ask), a multicolored tie, a stethoscope and some sunglasses. Nobody recognized me as “The Rock ’n’ Roll Doctor.” Some partygoers did think I was a narcotics officer.

Celebrating Halloween means handing out candy. I’ve learned a few things about this practice over the years. There is a right way and wrong way of doing this seemingly simple task.

The lesson came the first time I had been entrusted with candy-handling one Halloween night. Some kids came knocking. I opened the door and told them they all had nice costumes. I held out the bowl of candy and said, “Here help yourselves.” Big mistake. The kids attacked the candy like a school of piranhas. Now I know to hand the stuff out bit by bit, bag by bag.

My favorite thing about Halloween time is something I didn’t discover until I came to the American Southwest: Los Dias de Los Muertos. The days run from Halloween to Nov. 2.

There are specific traditions that go with Los Dias de Los Muertos. My favorites are the trips to the graves of those who have passed on, taking along food and drink and remembering them. It’s something we take for granted out West. I was trying to explain the concept to my oldest daughter who lives in North Carolina.

“If I’m ever in your neck of the woods around Halloween we should take a trip to your grandfather’s grave, take a picnic, then sit there and talk about what we remember about him,” I said.

“That sounds kind of gross,” she said.

“It’s a tradition out here,” I said. “It’s part of Days of the Dead, Los Dias de Los Muertos.”

“I don’t think it’ll catch on over here,” she said.

So have a good Halloween.

One more thing: Remember to turn your front light out when you run out of candy — something else I had to learn the hard way.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: