It’s Halloween! My favorite day of the entire year. I loved Halloween as a kid, but because our parents strictly forbade us from eating candy, we had to donate all our candy to the church food pantry each year. Trick-or-treating was about the activity itself, not about the candy at the end. (Though, I confess, I usually snuck a few pieces here and there when Mom wasn’t looking!!!)
As an adult, I fell in love with autumn through Ray Bradbury’s books Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes (which has also been turned into a FABULOUS film, easily Disney’s scariest film of all time), and fell in love with Halloween all over again through his novella The Halloween Tree. Chances are you’ve never heard of this little book. Like Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales, Bradbury wrote this book for children, but it’s really meant for adults. It has brilliantly-etched, supremely creepy illustrations from the great Italian-American artist Joseph Mugniani.
The book tells the story of all the holidays like Halloween that have been observed throughout the history of civilization…from Mexico’s El Dia de los Muertos, to the death holidays of ancient Egypt. It’s not only educational, it is suspenseful and fun, and a quick read. Whether you have kids or not, you should own a copy of this book. It’s out of print, unfortunately, but both new and used copies can still be found on Amazon for under $5, which is a total bargain. I usually keep 3 or 4 copies on hand at any given time because I love loaning them out. It’s truly a miraculous little book.
Growing up in West Texas where we have no trees and only two seasons: bitter cold and blazing hot, I never experienced AUTUMN as a kid. But through Bradbury’s books, which so perfectly capture the spirit of autumn in a boy’s mind and heart, I feel like I inherited childhood autumn memories from Bradbury. Who couldn’t with words like these:
“It was the afternoon of Halloween. And all the houses shut against a cool wind. And the town full of cold sunlight. But suddenly, the day was gone. Night came out from under each tree and spread. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked.
“The cries behind the locked house doors grew more exasperated as shadows of boys flew by windows. Half-dressed boys, greasepaint on their cheeks; here a hunchback, there a medium-sized giant. Attics were still being rummaged, old locks broken, old steamer chests disembowled for costumes…”
All our holidays are being taken over by marketing specialists and commercialism, and rather than let Halloween disappear into a Hallmark card of inflatable lawn decorations and poly-molded plastic ghosts hanging from trees, I have always endeavored to bring the homemade spirit back into Halloween by making most of my decorations and doing my best to truly terrify the children who come trick-or-treating at my door. We’ve softened this holiday into a candy-corn love fest with cutsie costumes and decor…when this is the one night of the year when you’re supposed to be scared so much that your mom doesn’t want to do laundry that night! I haven’t had much time to devote to decor due to my recent travels, but here is what my front yard looks like this morning:
I spent about $4 on spider webs and spiders (one of the greatest Halloween decorations EVER invented…and one of the most mis-used…you have to stretch the webs VERY thin for a realistic effect), my neighbor has picked up a few items from garage sales to contribute, but largely the decor is homemade. Her trees got trimmed last week, so we just drug the branches into my yard to make it look overgrown, and stretched spider webs across the homemade stick-fence and the branches, and the place looks pretty creepy!
Last Saturday night was my annual pumpkin carving party. After tonight I’ll have some night-time photos of the pumpkins all lit up, but here are a few we snapped the night of the party:
I’ll carve a few more before it gets dark. I like my yard to be absolutely FILLED with jack-o-lanterns.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I put a homemade burlap sack mask over my head and lean awkwardly against my front door so that I look like a homemade scarecrow. When the kiddies come up, they usually don’t give me a second look because they are eyeing a black cauldron of candy sitting in front of me, and I jump and scream at them as soon as they reach. Then, if the volume of trick-or-treaters permits, I continue following them up the street and jump out and scare them when they come back from neighbor’s doors, also! You should get scared on Halloween…that’s what makes it fun!
(One year I ran out of candy and had to squat down to make myself look short, dash a few streets over, and trick-or-treat to get more candy to give to MY trick-or-treaters. I got a few nasty, suspicious looks from the adults who could tell I wasn’t 10 years old.)
I do hope each and every one of you has a truly terrifying Halloween tonight. Think of my on my favorite night of the year!!!
And if you haven’t watched my little 5-minute short film called “Pumpkin Eater” on YouTube, you should head over and check it out at the link below. It’s fun for the whole family…maybe a tiny bit creepy, as well. Happy Halloween!