Sometimes we fly into the maw of our fears. On Halloween, we masquerade as demons. At the movies, we cry "Bring it" to those that would frighten us. And then there's trick-or-treating, when we let children forget everything we've taught them about candy from strangers.
The story of Hansel and Gretel is for a different time of year. The gingerbread home, bedecked with chocolates, sugared fruits, marzipan, and penny candies, wherein resides a cannibalistic witch, is a fine cautionary, but not for the night of October 31st. On All Hallows Eve, the kids walk right up and ring the bell, take whatever treats are offered, and soap the windows of old fools who won't come to the door.
Of course, each year the urban legends are rehearsed: razor blades in apples, maraschino cherries laced with LSD, and now, perhaps, counterfeit candy from China sweetened with anti-freeze (I made that one up). Even though the stories never pan out, they belong to the scary lore of Halloween. My uncle used to say he was going to pass out plastic bags to the kids, but he never did it.
I've saved up quarters this year in lieu of treats as I no longer allow chocolate into the house. I've also refused an invitation to watch football Monday night because I feel it's my duty to be home when the wandering sprites and neighboring goblins come to call.
Peddlers are extinct. Door to door Christmas Caroling has all but died out in the cities. Halloween is the only time I can think of when a stranger's knock is a welcome event. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Hansel and Gretel in a scene staged by Grace Coddington and photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue, 2009. The witch is Lady Gaga whose excellent duet with Tony Bennett, The Lady is a Tramp, was released this month. Click on the picture for a closer look, and Happy Halloween.