Sometimes we like to ogle with amazement the weird traditions and rituals of other cultures. But we have some gnarly traditions too. Especially when it comes to Halloween. Now, law and order, if nothing else, prevents us from doing some of the things other countries do in the name of ritual — such as tossing babies off tall buildings or keeping dead folks around for extended periods of time — however, here is how I would imagine a third party describing our Halloween practices.
On Nov. 1, American Christians celebrate All Saints day, honoring those who have passed on to heaven. The night before is the secular holiday All Hallows Eve, whose traditions include donning costumes (for women of child-bearing age, this often includes short skirts, fishnet hose and thigh-high boots), bobbing for apples and inviting small children to your door, terrorizing them (“trick”) and then giving them sweets (“treat”). The average American does it all with a good-natured and humorous bent. But some get their kicks by displaying ornaments that might scar a sensitive child for the rest of his or her life. A property with say, a make-believe graveyard and a zombie on a bench eating his own dismembered foot is simply not an extreme enough “trick” for some homeowners; types wishing to inflict more-intense trauma will, for example, suspend authentic-looking severed heads from overhangs under which children must pass in order to obtain the treat.