Going out with a bang


For those who’ve put it off until the last minute, there’s still time to throw together a disappointing Halloween costume.

The ancient Celtic-based holiday, a day the veil between the world of the living and the dead is said to be the thinnest, is probably one of our most cherished because it offers something for everyone.

Children get to wear fancy costumes, break the usually non-negotiable taboo of accepting candy from strangers and then spend days getting high on high-fructose corn syrup. Young adults or those pretending to be have an opportunity to escape their mundane existences for at least one night of the year, embracing the whimsy of childhood innocence that never truly disappears, and don ridiculous and/or skimpy outfits, drink their faces off and potentially have weird sex with someone dressed as a zombie or a Smurf. Lonely seniors, meanwhile, get to have adorably dressed children visit them at their homes for a fraction of a second.

Plus there’s no need to purchase expensive presents, attend awkward family dinners or feign lapsed religious beliefs.

Of course, most grown-up Halloween enthusiasts already ventured out over the weekend into a costumed sea of Avengers, Heisenbergs, stale Internet memes and sexy Hannah Montanas because Oct. 31 falls on a Thursday this year. All Hallow’s Eve has essentially become All Hallow’s Week, a bit like how Boxing Day morphed into the discounted shopping frenzy now known as Boxing Week.

But while we can see the appeal of stretching out a holiday, we’ve never understood why it is considered OK to terrify pets, small children and/or jittery war vets with a week of sporadic explosions at all hours of the night.

While it’s true Vancouverites are known for their love of sparking up illicit substances in general, we’re not sure what’s up with this obsession with bright lights and loud noises. It’s just not as big a deal in other Canadian cities. The Chinese were the ones who first came up with the idea of blowing things up for fun centuries ago, so maybe it’s partly to do with the city’s considerable Asian population. Could be it’s exacerbated by Diwali, the five-day, fireworks-friendly Indian festival of light, which takes place around the same time. But you can’t buy or launch cherry bombs, M-80s or Roman candles in neighbouring Richmond or Surrey, which probably has something to do with the fact that around a dozen people die each year from fireworks and many more blow off important body parts.

According to Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, fireworks can also cause more than half a million dollars of damage on a single clear night, but the city nonetheless remains one of the few in the Lower Mainland where people are cheerfully allowed to set off pyrotechnic devices cooked up in overseas factories with sketchy safety standards.

The fireworks fetish even goes all the way to the top. Despite city hall’s oft-trumpeted plan to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city, each year it encourages thousands of people to cart their trash into the West End and enjoy the visual splendor provided by countless kilos of aluminum arsenic, barium nitrate, lead dioxide, mercury, nitric oxide and more belching into the night sky. City council is also considering allowing fireworks permits for New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Vaisakhi, although to be fair some of the explosions would at least probably be the colour green.

Vancouver wants to be the world's greenest city.
Vancouver wants to be the world’s greenest city.

While we hope the city’s love affair with sparkly noise pollution will someday fizzle, for now we have to accept that celebrating Halloween responsibly is simply another thing Vancouverites are collectively bad at. Like driving on snow, dealing with Stanley Cup final defeats or calmly discussing the pros and cons of adding bike lanes. Boom.

(This post was first published in Kudos & Kvetches  © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)


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