Some polls show Halloween to be America’s favorite holiday, topping even Christmas. On the commercial scale, Halloween is second in spending only to Christmas. Both facts are odd, given Halloween’s origins in pre-Christian pagan culture, when superstitions ruled.
The holiday probably arose when earlier European cultures recognized Halloween as falling between summer and winter and the richness of the harvest and the lean larder that looms ahead. Perhaps the long shadows and longer nights also inspired thoughts about death. And all that in-between stuff sparked beliefs about a brief opening between the worlds of the living and the dead.
How it evolved into dressing up like Lady Gaga and gorging on candy is a mystery, though.
But thinking of the modern version of this holiday, the heart of which has something to do with scaring people, has us thinking about a Maine writer who has sold millions of books and whose movies have been seen by millions more.
Stephen King, whose stock-in-trade is scaring the stuffing out of people, remains one of the state’s best known icons. Mention Maine — or especially Bangor — among a group of people the next time you travel out of state, and you’ll probably be asked about him. To others, he’s the King of Horror. To us Mainers, he’s more — a benefactor whose efforts to improve life here are well-chosen and generous.
With so many individuals and groups doing so much good work, we typically are wary of singling out any one benefactor. But today, on this feast-of-fear holiday, we make an exception.
The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation has given most generously to libraries around the state. It has given to recreation groups. It has given to education, including, very notably, the University of Maine. It’s no surprise, given that Stephen and Tabitha met through her work-study job at UMaine’s Fogler Library.
All those scary books and scary movies, often set in Maine, have — perversely enough — made our state a better place. Take solace in that as you endure yet another knock on the door from a child begging for candy, or — much worse — a roll of toilet paper hanging from the trees in your front yard Tuesday morning.