Bill Nemitz: Halloween – the perfect antidote to a pandemic


It was the best medical advice I have heard in a long time. On Wednesday afternoon, as Dr Nirav Shah neared the end of his weekly COVID-19 briefing, WABI’s Brian Sullivan in Bangor asked a question that had little to do with the pandemic but a lot to do with children’s bellies. .

The subject was Halloween. “Medical advice, Dr Shah,” Sullivan asked. “Better to eat a little candy a few days in a row, or a lot of candy at once?” “

The director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention smiled and, Dr Shah being Dr Shah, first took the opportunity to note that Halloween can be safely celebrated tonight, provided that when you are show up at someone’s front door, you don’t show them everything in the face.

“In terms of consuming candy,” Shah continued, “my overall general approach to candy is basically… more the amount of candy you can eat, within reason, is the right way to go.”

Right answer. How not to love a doctor who, faced with a choice between careful restraint and a load of sugar, advises us all to go crazy?

Which, more than ever, is the essence of Halloween.

We will dispense with the history of the holiday, which dates back over 1,000 years when ancient Christians in Ireland and Scotland celebrated All Saints ‘Day to celebrate All Saints’ Day on November 1. mythos, Halloween in the 21st century is less of a religious rite and more of the perfect prescription for these trying times.

It’s a night we all go out for no other reason than to walk our kids around the block and knock on our neighbors’ doors. A night when the things that divide us dissolve as so many witches, rabbits and dinosaurs – to name just the three best costumes this year listed by Google. A night when wearing the mask is just plain fun, not a personal statement about how seriously (or not) you take the pandemic.

Writing last year in Psychology Today, self-proclaimed psychiatrist and “culture shrink” Jean Kim called Halloween “a strong outlet for people’s identities, the dark and pleasant and impulsive side of our personality and human nature. “.

“Halloween only lasts a short time, once a year,” Kim wrote. “And in the right context, it can be a relatively safe and fun way for people to release and share what we all have in common … our struggle continues to survive difficult situations and our common vulnerability as human beings. humans. “

Translation: This is our great escape. A chance to get rid of the chains that bind us and to revel in the community of it all.

My most memorable Halloween is the one that never happened. I was 9 years old and my family had just moved to a new city. In the days leading up to October 31, I was giddy at the thought of joining a couple of new friends to wander the still-unknown neighborhood, my ‘new kid’ status safely concealed behind a plastic face of Frankenstein.

But alas, I woke up that morning with a slight fever. I stayed in bed all day praying that I would be ready to go after dark. Then, as the sun was setting and my siblings reveled in the pre-treat ruckus, Mom pulled the thermometer out of my mouth and darkly announced, “You’re 102. Back to bed.”

I watched for hours out of my bedroom window that night, fighting back tears of deprivation as the other children strolled around. Never had living been so unfair.

Another highlight: In high school one year a friend threw a Halloween party at her lavish house – its size is directly proportional to the very large, very Catholic family that lived there. My best friend and I introduced ourselves as Jesus the Son and God the Father. The hostess’ parents were less than amused.

Then came parenthood. As I escorted my own children from house to house, I have always been struck by the ease with which we parents enter into conversations amid the clamor. There were no strangers, just fellow moms and dads focused for a few hours on our over-excited kids. Later, back home, I would mediate the swap of the loot – a Starburst for a Nestlé’s Crunch, a Milky Way for a Tootsie Roll, two Kit Kats for an Almond Joy…

Last week I texted my kids asking for their most vivid Halloween memory.

Karl, the youngest, remembered the night he tried to run away from his older brother Eric during Sorting the Candies and ran straight into a corner of the living room wall.

“8-stitch cut to Mercy,” he wrote, noting that the bloodshed came right after “organizing our candy stashes, which has always been my ultimate favorite part.”

Stunned in sister Sara, “You were an exceptional hider!”

Meteorologists tell us that tonight will be all we could ask for on a Halloween – temperatures in the mid-1950s and partly cloudy skies under a waning crescent moon. A perfect and much-needed opportunity to hang out, connect with the rest of the world and, as none other than Dr Shah recommends, please our candy demons.

Need a second opinion? On Friday an email fell into my inbox from one of those PR agencies that regularly flood reporters with often mundane arguments. But this one, citing a Joel Berg, DDS, past president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, caught my eye.

“If you’re going to eat candy,” advises Dr. Berg, “it’s better for your teeth if you eat all the candy at one time, rather than snacking throughout the day.”

Happy Halloween, Mainers friends. Stay gentle.

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