Not all traditions are worth keeping. Some are good for the soul. Some traditions bring only temporary happiness. Some are horrible to everyone involved. For a tradition to be worth keeping, it has to have some lasting merit.
There’s a simple tradition in my family of handing out candy on Halloween while watching a movie. This is the most innocuous example of any tradition, right? The idea of watching a movie, usually a horror flick, while passing around candy on the night of the dead is fairly harmless. You could dig deeper and say the merits of a horror flick are debatable. You could even say the act of giving children candy is terrible for their teeth. Chances of drawing a massive stir among society over these arguments would be small. Few people would really care, or see either dilemma as a life-shattering tradition. A viewer of the horror-show will rarely enact what they’ve seen on the screen, and children who eat candy can always brush their teeth. The true dilemma in that last one is whether or not the parents are teaching their children to brush.
A less innocuous tradition is that of the late-night prank. Harmless, usually, it does however have the potential to scar the victim mentally.
One time, a few years ago, there was an old man who lived near me. He seemed stable enough in his mental capacity. He seemed mellow. Halloween was near, but this old man didn’t decorate. He hadn’t answered the door on previous Halloweens, if he was even home. Possibly he left home for the night. It was also possible he was watching a movie like me, except without handing out candy. No harm in his tradition whatsoever.
Another tradition had inserted itself in the days prior to our beloved spook night and the other tradition was even spookier than death…it was political posturing time. Signs for the various parties and the names of people who represented were planted on lawns next to fake cardboard gravestones. The comparison was too obvious.
My mischievous mind couldn’t handle the pressure. I had seen the political signs go up nearly a month earlier and thought the political decorations were uglier and more sinister than life-like zombies posed in leaf piles. That night, I collected all the political signs within five blocks of my house…about a dozen of them…then I transplanted them to the old man’s front lawn.
The next day I saw all of the signs scattered in the road. It looked like he had ripped them up and thrown them out there in anger and frustration. Although it wasn’t my intention to upset the old man, it seems that’s what happened. So even though there’s a small part of my mind still finding humor over his reaction, I can’t help but put myself in his mind and think maybe he found the signs as a direct assault, not as a harmless prank. Lesson learned.
A more positive prank I did the same Halloween: I collected a bunch of basketballs from the lost and found from the rec. center by telling them I was going to donate them to a group of young men. I gathered Sharpies. I drew Jack-o-lantern faces on all the basketballs and put all of them (about twenty basketballs) in black plastic bags. Late that night, long after the signs went in the old man’s yard, I carried the black plastic bags as if I was some demented Santa Claus. I went to another neighbor’s house where the family who lived there had two teenage boys. They also had a basketball hoop next to their driveway. I put all the basketballs in their front yard with the Jack-o-lantern faces visible.
It was a couple of weeks later when one of the boys told me the story of how someone had left a bunch of basketballs on their lawn on Halloween. He also said his family had to throw away most of the basketballs because they were flat, but there were some that still held air. I didn’t offer him any clue to who might have left all those basketballs, but it was a good feeling to know one prank went right.