I like that old poem, though I must confess that I had to look up "kobold," which, it turns out, is a sprite of ancient German folklore, a pesty goblin that hangs about and likes to think it is helping people, but more often than not, ends up subjecting them to malicious trickery. Sort of like Joe Biden.
Personally, I would put all of the people trying so hard to ban Halloween into the role of kobolds.
That includes stuffy school boards, those trying to ban Halloween parades in California and Louisiana, officials in Russia trying to eliminate the holiday nationwide, religious extremists and their self-righteous snits against trick or treat nights. Malicious trickery, all of it.
"Fond of cellar, barn,or stack,
True unto the almanac,
They present to credulous eyes
Strange hobgoblin mysteries."
For goodness sake, a Washington State school board banned Halloween - for fear of offending Wiccens! Sense when did witches get all sensitive?
Of course, Halloween really has nothing to do with witches, zombies, mummies, beer-buzzed gals who bar hop the night way dressed as Taylor Swift, or little shavers in Spiderman getups.
Halloween's roots lie in a Celtic festival, Samhain, celebrated in northern Europe millennia ago. The Celts believed that on Samhain, the souls of the dead returned to their former homes to be entertained by the living. So people built bonfires and offered food and shelter to these spirits to ward off evil spells. Medievil party time.
"Doors they move, and gates they hide,
Mischiefs that on moon-beams ride
Are their deeds, and, by their spells,
Love records its oracles."
Most of the beefs with the holiday consider it anti-Christian. I suppose they have never stopped to learn that the holiday we know as Halloween evolved from Christian origins! Legend has it that Pope Gregory III himself decreed in the eighth century that the Feast of All Saints (previously celebrated in May) be moved to fall - to mark the dedication day of All Saints Chapel at St. Peter's Basilica. The day before was the feast's evening vigil, "All Hallows Even," or "Hallowe'en."
If you don't want your kids dressed as nightmarish monsters and devils in ugly rubber masks, I don't blame you. So don't buy the junk. But don't take all the fun away, either. Do something positive with it - make a point of visiting the elderly and lonely in your neighborhood, for trick-or-treat, and maybe turn the tables and take them a treat.
"Cabbage-stomps-straws wet with dew-
Apple-skins, and chestnuts too,
And a mirror for some lass,
Show what wonders come to pass."
There's a problem with getting old, and it is that too often, in the process we forget what it was like to be young.
To be able to put on a mask and become someone entirely different for one night, and to be outside after darkfall, knocking on doors and yelling trick or treat at the top of our lungs - it's a tingly feeling. And the payoff, ohhhh the payoff, to have a haul of candy so vast and wonderful that you couldn't eat it all if you wanted to - how great is that?
My kids outgrew trick-or-treating some time ago, but I stay in the Halloween loop one way or another. I'm the first to go through the haunted house (for reporting purposes, of course.) I haven't noticed any of the visitors emerge as Satanists. Each year, we take our second-grade Partners in Excellence class for an old-fashioned apple-bobbing party. No Wiccans have been harmed in that process, to the best of my recollection. Last year, I spent a weird, entire night in the Halloween costume aisle at Wally World for an article. Nothing more demonic came of that than a kid who got his wet Gummi Bear stuck in my hair.
"Don't we all, of long ago,
By the ruddy fireplace glow,
In the kitchen and the hall,
Those queer, cooflike pranks recall?"
The odd thing to me were the rows and rows of adult-sized costumes. People pay $40 plus tax to dress up as naughty nurse or a disco vampire? Last Halloween party I went to, I tore off the sleeves of a ratty flannel shirt, wore the jeans that had shrunk in the wash and tied a rag around my head. That's right, instant Bruce Springsteen costume.
We can't go back, people. You and I, we will never see Halloween again as we did when we were eight years old. The holiday will never have the same thrill, or innocence. Instead, we will complain about having to go to the store for candy, worrying if someone is going to smash the pumpkin, or having to drive slower because of all the rugrats on the streets.
It would be pretty easy for us to kill the fun. We can do that. We have the power. We're the grown ups.
And we oughta be ashamed of ourselves for even allowing this foolish talk of banning such fun. Let the kids be. It's their turn.
"Eery shadows were they then-
But to-night they come again;
Were we once more but sixteen,
Precious would be Halloween."
Don't be a kobold, huh?