Happy Halloween. Also known as ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, celebrated by many countries on October 31st, dedicated to remembering the dead. Many believe the origins are pagan, transformed by the Christian Church, but today, its many facets of carving pumpkins, horror stories, haunted attractions, costumes, candy… have morphed it into a more commercial and widely celebrated secular holiday.
Who doesn’t love this time of year? Especially today. A chance to shed our normal demeanor, clothes, and persona, and for a brief shiny moment try on a new one. Or try on a few. Safe in the knowledge it’ll only last a day. Became a vampire, witch or wizard, alter ego, scary, sexy, cowboy, change your hair, or physique. . .I used to love the weeks preparing with my daughter. Spending hours deciding what we wanted to dress as that year, then making, altering or buying parts of the costumes. Planning the perfect accessories.
It always began with pulling out of storage the “Halloween boxes” then carefully extracting those items that had been safely packed away at the end of the last season. Each was filled with cherished memories, linking us to past celebrations and stories. Reminding us of people long gone, but still in our hearts.
Our windows became beacons filled with cob webs, insects, creepy lights and eyes following all who dared to approach the front door. A disembodied head, hands and feet clawing through dirt mounds, head stones, ghosts and witches surrounded the front yard screaming-“enter at your own risk.” Spooky doorbells replaced normal ones, as did skull goblets for cups. Our prized assortment grew every year as we’d take advantage of after Halloween sales and buy one more accent to add to our already burgeoning repertoire.
When those boxes were unpacked, we knew the holiday season had officially started. It meant the weather was finally cooling off, and the gauntlet of activities wouldn’t end for months. It was also a time to shed those adult worries and fears and become a kid again.
Did you know Halloween is celebrated by 70% of adults? It is the third biggest party day of the year, behind New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday. Its a chance for children, parents and adults alike to let loose and have some fun. When I was a little girl, we actually walked from house to house trick or treating. Often times going inside to visit with neighbors and get their special home made caramel apples and popcorn balls, while marveling at decorations and costumes. Everyone participated. Groups of kids traveled together without fear of injury or harm. We all knew each other, played sports on the streets and parks together, and shared each other’s places as if they were our own. Halloween was like a big block party. And why not? Who can argue with dressing up, getting silly, and gorging on candy?
The world had changed by the time my daughter was born but that never stopped me from finding safe, different, and unique ways to enjoy all the festivities. When she was a toddler, one of her very first costumes was a bunny. Big white ears, painted-on whiskers and a bushy tail. She looked adorable. My brother felt the costume needed one more piece to make it work so he brought a bunch of carrots with green stems longer than she was tall. It was the perfect finishing touch.
There she was, in her stroller, clutching the vegetables tightly as she called out, “Trick or treat!” He passed away when she was six, but his repeated investment of time and love stays with her.
As she grew up, costumes became evolved, requiring more and more effort. The days of just throwing on a white sheet with eyes and calling her a ghost or draping a scarf over a pair of pajamas and calling her Super Girl were over!
One year, while visiting Universal Studios in California, we were picked to receive a complete movie makeover. In a few minutes, they had transformed us into zombies. I was shocked how just a little baby powder turned my hair gray and lifeless. Black and gray streaks on white ripped shirts and pants looked like we had risen from a grave. Ashen colored face paint with black coal eyes finished the look. The transformation was so amazing it’s not surprising we couldn’t wait to attempt our own version for the upcoming Halloween.
That year, she was a wicked witch. This meant a false nose, teeth, and grotesquely long nails. I painted her face green and dark and gloomy. I became the devil wearing a red dress that had flames erupting from my lower abdomen, flowing to my neck. I then extended the flames up one side of my face with face paint and added horns to complete the picture.
I was impressed and surprised by the reaction. Her school allowed one day for costumes but warned against any that were too violent or frightening. Apparently hers fell into the latter category-actually scaring the younger kids! And mine, well, suffice it to say I learned that Halloween craziness is better left outside the office.
For years, I wore a men’s suit and tie to work, now it’s usually a simple 50’s poodle skirt. I leave the extreme makeovers to after -hour parties. But that’s what’s so wonderful about Halloween. Whether you like the creepy, scary side and want to walk through a real, abandoned slaughter house or the whimsical, fantasy side of becoming a pirate, royalty, historical figure, or animal, they’re all an option this time a year. For one brief moment we’re all encouraged to let our inner child run free.