Holidays bring out a weird split personality in the U.S. We are instructed to enjoy each holiday, and the quarter of the year we call the “holiday season”. It’s our liturgical calendar. Everything from Christmas to Superbowl Sunday is celebrated with deadly serious intensity. It isn’t just that advertisers push us to buy stuff. We get into this shit really deep and want to do each holiday perfectly. We will be joyful, or patriotic, or “spooky”, or whatever the occasion calls for, and we will demonstrate this with decorations and special foods and events and and and.
At the same time the holidays scare the hell out of us. Partly because of public service campaigns over the years by anti-drunk-driving organizations, we have a national obsession with the hazards of holidays that’s just as strong as our desire to celebrate the hell out of them. “Enjoy your Memorial Day barbecue” or “Have a Merry Christmas” has acquired the suffix “safely” in the last 30 years. It’s understandable that we’d want to reduce the body count from New Year’s drunk driving or poorly cooked turkeys, but we put way more effort into it than the actual numbers warrant.
Sentimentality makes us frightened. Each holiday must be perfect — the Christmas Carol Christmas, the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving — or it will be a terrible tragedy. Not only must the snacks be perfect and every child rosy-cheeked and laughing, but no one may die during the special happy time.
I’m on the record as disliking the new Halloween for other reasons, but the safety bit is hilarious here. Folks! Let’s make sure that while celebrating the Day of the Dead, All Hallows’ Eve, the terrifying Pandemonium in which the gates between Hell and Earth swing open and the dead walk the earth and Satan Himself tests the faithful with the terrors of the grave, that we’re all super safe and stuff!
And now a piece of found poetry received from my HR Department today on this very subject: & On the way Instruct children to stop only at houses or apartment buildings that are well-lit and never enter a stranger’s home. Walk, do not run, from house to house. Do not cross yards and lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can present tripping hazards. Walk on sidewalks, not in the street. If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic. Sweet Treats Give children an early meal before going out. Children shouldn’t snack while they’re trick-or-treating. Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten. Watch for signs of tampering, such as small pinholes in wrappers and torn or loose packages. When in doubt, throw it out. If a child has food allergies that may result in a reaction to the candy they receive or if you are unsure, trade them candy (one for one) that they can eat. Parents of young children should get rid of choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys. Carving a Niche Carve pumpkins on stable, flat surfaces with good lighting. Votive candles are safest for candlelit pumpkins. Lighted pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects and should never be left unattended. Drive Carefully Watch for children darting out from between parked cars and walking on roads. Enter and exit driveways carefully. At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing. There is no trick to making Halloween a treat for the entire family. Most people think of Halloween as a time for fun and treats; however, roughly four times as many children (ages 5-14) are killed while walking on Halloween than any other evening of the year. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injuries on Halloween. Many Halloween-related injuries can be prevented by closely supervi