Here we are, 28 years down the road, same situation, no better off. I wrote about it then, for The Tennessean. My lead now could be the same:
“Nashville suffers from a lack of effective leadership in a crucial area: Halloween.”
Oct. 31 fell on a Sunday that year, 1993. Some kids – or their parents – decided to stick with trick-or-treating on that day. Others, perhaps owing to religious considerations or church attendance obligations, went Saturday instead. Not exactly chaos, but not ideal.
As you might have noticed, Oct. 31 falls on a Sunday again this year. I expect the same confusion to ensue.
It’s not a surprise, this Halloween and Sunday confluence. It didn’t sneak up on us. The calendar rules such matters: Every year in which October starts on a Friday, Halloween arrives on a Sunday. It happened in 1965, my last year as a trick-or-treater. Officials in my hometown, Moss Point, Mississippi, addressed the situation by advising that the celebration be held Saturday.
I wondered in 1993 why Nashville didn’t do the same thing, so I asked. The explanation I got was that the Metro legal department had advised Mayor Phil Bredesen that, since Halloween is not a city observance, the city lacked authority to do anything.
Which, I suggested then, is bull. Nobody was going to sue the city over a Halloween recommendation.
My Halloween observances, as is true with many other things, reach deep into the previous century. My peak years were ages 9 to 12. It was the Golden Age of Halloween. Any kid industrious enough to knock on doors for a couple of hours or so could be assured of a significant haul of store-bought confections. If you were lucky, you might also get a homemade popcorn ball or a caramel apple – and it was safe to eat them.
Beyond that, the local elementary school had an annual Halloween carnival, with various activities like cake walks and apple bobbing. Moss Pointers of my vintage probably still consider it a highlight of the school year. TV celebrities from nearby Mobile, Alabama, even made appearances from time to time.
I remember one in particular with his captain’s hat, Navy peacoat and blatantly fake beard, handing out autographed photos. Captain Bob, I think. Maybe Captain Jack.
As an adult, I turned into a bit of a Halloween Scrooge, if those two concepts can be mixed. Aside from a couple of outings trailing my brother Lee’s kids in Maryland, I generally avoided any participation.
Most recently this was abetted by the fact that I worked evenings, and was not home while little ghosts and goblins worked the neighborhoods. On those nights when I was home, I kept most of the lights off and pretended to be out.
The best dodge: We went to Mexico in 2019 to witness the Day of the Dead celebrations. I highly recommend such a cultural experience, though it does cost considerably more than a few bags of candy.
Kayne, however, has never been fully on board with my avoidance approach. And this year, partly owing to the fact that we now have a house with a front porch pretty much tailor-made for greeting the little beasties and handing out calorie bombs, I was about to give in.
But I’m not prepared to spend two nights so engaged.
When I asked the city help line, hubNashville, whether the city planned to offer any guidance on the topic, I got this response: “There’s not a plan for an announcement about when Halloween is observed.” Channel 2, conversely, reported that the city expected an Oct. 31 observance. Right hand, meet left hand?
I asked the same of Knoxville and got this: “Halloween will be observed on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Knoxville TN. The city does not have any guidance, policies or regulations regarding Halloween or when it is celebrated.”
Given the second sentence, I don’t know how they can be confident of the first, but whatever.
From Chattanooga, this: “[I]t’s up to individual neighborhoods to decide how they want to celebrate Halloween.” In other words, anarchy.
Moss Point, my hometown, was proactive for Halloween 2021. The mayor, Billy Knight, proposed that the board of aldermen address the situation. Upon a motion made and duly seconded, the board unanimously voted last week to set the observance for Saturday, Oct. 30. That’s what effective leadership does, folks.
The next Halloween Sunday will come in 2027. Don’t make me write this column again.
Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at email@example.com