The rich history of Halloween.
The Halloween we grew up with comes out of seasonal factors and traditions that stretch back for centuries. The time of year when it begins to grow dark again, the harvest is all in and there will be no more for several long months, wild game becomes scarce and winter is coming—these were all powerful factors for life and survival until relatively recently. In the last century, as we culturally tried to distance ourselves from superstition and the supernatural, and produced more universally accessible illumination and larger volumes of food (and better storage for it), the rich legacy of harvest/Equinox/Samhaim festivals and rituals became a single-day holiday for children.
As we knew it, kids dressed up in cutely scary costumes, went to parties with cupcakes and cookies, and trick-or-treated around the neighborhood on the thirty-first. Older kids put on or went through Haunted Houses, and some teens pranked the neighborhood with mean-spirited acts of eggings and the damage of private property. Adults mostly just put up a few decorations, bought pre-wrapped candy at the grocery store, and gave it out at the door. But in the last ten or fifteen years, Halloween has come closer to rivaling Christmas as a major holiday for everyone. Grown-ups are celebrating it for themselves, not merely for the sake of children.
The rise of Halloween.
Like Christmas, which encompasses almost the whole month of December with shopping, decorations, Christian traditions and parties, Halloween has become the month of October finally culminating in the day itself. While trick-or-treating by children has decreased since the seventies due to the fears of their parents of poisoned candy and abductions, adults purchase and wear almost as many costumes as children now, and homes are heavily decorated, inside and out, for weeks ahead of the Big Night. Scary movies and Halloween specials run all month, and large specialty stores open up for a few weeks all around the country (like the Halloween Super-Store). Blockbuster movie releases are set up far in advance, most TV shows feature Halloween episodes, and hosting costume-dress Halloween parties for all ages has become a tradition in a lot of households.
Why this new Halloween?
It can be no coincidence that in a time called the rise of the geek (those who gravitate towards using their intelligence and imagination), when supernatural fiction flourishes in all markets, and comic-cons and cos-play have become household terms, Halloween should soar in popularity. And I say it is because people maturing in my generation and on downward have held on to the delights of FCI (fantasy, creativity and imagination)—instead of forgoing them because society says it's 'just for kids' and you can't be an adult without giving that stuff up. We may have stopped trick-or-treating, but we did not feel the need to sit back and let kids have all the fun and excitement of the dark side of wonder.
Here are the Confessions of a My-Gen Halloween Fan:
At the beginning of Oct I make a quick list of all the movies I want to watch for (the month of) Halloween. It will include some yearly favorites, and some flicks I've never seen—either ones that came out earlier in the year I didn't go see, or older 'B' movies I haven't seen yet. Some favorites include the two Barry Levinson Addam's Family movies, Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, the fantastic Bugs Bunny cartoon 'Water, Water, Every Hare,' new episodes of The Walking Dead and now Sleepy Hollow, and maybe a random Simpson's Treehouse of Terror. Although I'll watch horror in Oct, what I'm really looking for is supernatural horror—not real-life brutality and death—where imagination intersects with fear. I also try to read some classic gothic/horror/scary literature like Lovecraft, Peake, or Poe.
My house becomes a place of skeletons, skulls, eyeballs, bats and masks. At night it turns into its own dark world with orange and purple twinkle lights, blacklights, a carved pumpkin and candles as the only illumination. I replace the wall clock with one that goes off with spooky noises at the hour. I have a yearly tradition of going to see a local improv troupe at the Brody Theater where they make up and play out sci-fi/horror B movies based on audience input. Halloween night itself I dress up in full costume including a mask, add some decoration to the outside of the house to advertise it's open for business, fill the house with ambient light and seasonal sounds and answer the door and give out candy to the adorable kids in their costumes. Once they stop coming I get serious and eat take-out pizza while watching scary movies or episodes, preferably sitting on the edge of my seat.
I'm usually too busy the first half of November to take everything down, so it stays up, and as we transition over to Christmas after Thanksgiving, I often have a bit of fun mixing some of the Halloween decorations with Christmas ones until Dec. A scary mask gets a santa hat. An over-sized Christmas stocking hung on the wall is 'stuffed' with a glo-in-the-dark skeleton. Eyeballs sit on sprigs of holly. And it's the perfect time to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas! So really it ends up being more like a two-month holiday for me.
Anybody else want to confess how much they love Halloween?
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