Friday, October 29, 2010

What's so great about Halloween

I'm surprised at the number of kids who tell me that Halloween is their favorite holiday--over Christmas with all the presents and the tree, over 4th of July with the parades and fireworks, or Easter with the chocolate eggs.

I'm also surprised at the costumes they choose. I think my girls were always something sweet and adorable--princesses and fairies and maybe a good witch or two. But my little granddaughter Mary has been a vampire, two years in a row. What's more, she is so convincing about it that her teacher last year had to ask her mother to speak to her about scaring the other children.
"They think she's a real vampire," the teacher said.
So Clare spoke to her and she agreed she wouldn't try to tell them she was a real vampire any longer.
So guess what she told them?
She told them she was really a werewolf instead!

So is this the main reason that kids like Halloween? Not the candy? They love the power of being able to scare people, and feeling just a little scared themselves. Mary for the rest of the year is a sweet, well-behaved little girl (if a rather good actress).

But I'm also surprised at the number of adults who say they love Halloween. I suppose again it's the costumes, the taking on a character so different from our own--pretending to be evil, or sexy, or both. It's the one day nobody stops us if we act strangely or look even stranger.
But it's not for everyone. You try getting my husband to select a costume for a party tomorrow night. He's agreed to look like an Englishman from the 1930s, wearing blazer, bow tie, yachting cap, white flannel trousers.  And what does he normally wear--blazer, sometimes bow tie, sometimes light trousers. And he thinks this is a costume???
I'm going as my character, Lady Georgie in my blond flapper wig, long backless evening dress and long pearls. Still looking for cigarette holder, and you know what? They don't seem to make candy cigaretts any more so I'll have to pay for a pack of real cigs--almost more expensive than the rest of the costume.
 I expect we'll have fun, but it's not my favorite holiday. My favorites involve the family, around the dinner table, fire crackling merrily, Christmas carols on the stereo, tree twinkling with lights in one corner. Or Thanksgiving is almost as good.

You know how Halloween started, don't you? It's a Celtic festival that was adopted into the Christian calendar. It is the one night of the year when the door bewteen the two worlds opened and the dead came among us. And people put on scary costumes--skeletons and ghosts--so that the dead would think they were one of their own and wouldn't take them to the otherworld with them.
Do you think they'd be convinced by a man in a bow tie and yachting cap?

Do you love Halloween?


  1. I can pretty much take Halloween, or leave it. It has just become so commercialized, like so many other holidays, that is seems to take the fun out of it. I really find the original Celtic premise much more intriguing. Unfortunately, we usually stay home to make sure there are no ridiculous "pranks" around our house from the neighborhood children.

    However, I would love to see some pics of your dressed as Lady Georgie! Here's hoping you will post some!

  2. I am not at all fond of Halloween. I think dressing in costumes is fun, but I don't like the greed and bad manners this holiday seems to foster in too many children. I, too, like holidays that are about family and hope.

  3. I love Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I also love Halloween. It is fun to dress up as someone you normally wouldn't be. One year my husband and I dressed up as a total redneck couple. Putting the costumes together was fun, and we had a total blast at the adult Halloween party we went to--in fact, we won the prize for best costumes and we had people cracking up all night with our antics. Another year I dressed up as Pat from Saturday Night Live (back in the mid '90s)I was the spitting image and had fun with that--just being someone I'm not. I tend to go for the funny costumes as opposed to the scary ones. This year my 19mo old is going to be a lion because when you ask her what a lion says, she says, "Raaaaaaaaaar!" It is so cute.

  4. Rhys, this is totally off topic...and pretty "off" anyway. I just found out you wrote some of my favorite books!! I had no idea you'd done YA under Janet Quin-Harkin! I LOVED those, kept them FOREVER (until the paperbacks got destroyed in a flood). I'm way past high school now (25 years past) but I still remember some of those plots, and if I could find the books, I'd re-collect them now. So I guess what I want to say is "Thank you" for many, many hours of reading pleasure :)

  5. Shel--thank YOU for telling me about this. Every now and then my former life comes to the surface and it's good to know that I touched lives with those books.
    I'm glad I no longer write YA, however. They are all too dark and violent for me these days