We have long been in an era of holidays starting earlier and earlier: Valentine’s day advertising will start very soon, Christmas trees go up in stores in late August alongside Halloween decoration displays. And along with the very early, elongated promotion, every holiday seems to have gotten much BIGGER in every way, taking on even greater and greater significance. Every holiday is more of an event than the year before – more parties, elaborate mechanized decorating inside and outside the home, more gifts for every occasion (I’m guilty here!).
I’m not necessarily criticizing, by the way! I fully recognize my lifelong take on Christmas, for example, could be considered over the top by some. My total love of the Christmas season has been documented in past blogs CHRISTMAS EVE. I will go to almost any length for food, decorations, gifts and celebrations at Christmastime!DECK THE HALLS!
I’m similarly crazy about Thanksgiving and love a large family dinner. I also love a good fireworks display as much as the next guy!
But Halloween, no matter how much marketing surrounds it, has somehow escaped me. Even as a child, I half-heartedly went along with getting dressed up in a costume of my own invention but didn’t put a lot of thought into it. I participated more as a social thing with my friends rather than really digging in and creatively putting together the best costume possible. I also never quite got the concept of going to strangers’ doors for candy. I know, every party has a pooper, that’s why you invited me – sorry, just never been a huge fan!
But I’m also not really as much of a crank about it as I’m coming off. I do have a nodding history with Halloween. Once in about fifth grade I was a “glamour girl” with tight leopard skin pants (where did I find those?), I recall even an off-the-shoulder top and actual high heels. In retrospect, it seems just a tad risqué to flaunt in the faces of 1950’s nuns. But the nuns and my parents apparently didn’t mind: there wasn’t much there to flaunt making this pretty tame by today’s standards. By high school it was the mid-Sixties and I went to a Halloween dance as a 1920’s Flapper, fringed dress (made by my friend’s mother) feather headdress and all. Other years I may have been just a run of the mill hobo. And we’ve had Halloween parties in our current neighborhood that have been a ton of fun but most of them involved wearing regular street clothes and carving pumpkins. Another year there was an actual costume party in the neighborhood and we went dressed up but neither my husband nor I can remember what/who we were. When my son was little, I gladly put together a costume for him (although nothing terribly original) and we went trick or treating but I never really got into it as much as the media hype said I should.
Halloween is now an event that has become the kickoff to the other holidays leading up to the end of the year. Along with pumpkins, mums and ghosts, houses are now festooned with orange lights; skeletons dancing in the windows of upstairs bedrooms (a very cool display in the window of a neighbor that is mesmerizing as you drive by), there’s a Halloween card for everyone on your list, front lawns are pretend cemeteries. A lot more effort is put into it than when I was a kid. And again, a lot of it is pretty cool.
My son, daughter-in-law and grandkids live in Chicago and their immediate and extended neighborhoods comprise the epicenter for all things spooky, inventive and fun! I have to say that their goings-on and the exuberance of our grandkids have shown me how much fun Halloween really can be! The streets are closed off to traffic around their homes; EVERYONE – kids, parents, grandparents – is in costume; families are out in the street going from home to home; people hand out candy and snacks to revelers; it’s a giant party! I’ve even seen a house or two or ten where grown ups share adult beverages rather than candy! Everyone is in a great mood! It doesn’t feel like forced fun – it’s real fun!
Before my retirement, I always went into the city directly from my office so I didn’t wear a costume. I’m well aware, no excuse! I could have brought a costume with me to change into, right? My hand is now slapping my forehead!
I’ve been going into Chicago from the ‘burbs for Halloween for the past eight or nine years, since my grandkids were born, watching them dress in increasingly impressive costumes. No run-of-the-mill hobo, witch or ghost for them!! There was the time my grandson went as a musk ox during his horned animal phase, or as a construction truck during his construction phase! Or my granddaughter as a hot air balloon. I thoroughly enjoyed every costume they’ve had.
My role was one of accompanying the grandkids trick or treating or handing out candy at their house. But each year, I was aware that I was drawn into the spirit of the whole celebration more and more. Last year I actually put on a semi-elaborate mask while most of the rest of the family dressed as members of the Addams Family or Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Watson.
I so enjoyed the Addams Family that I became inspired to participate fully this year. As my grandson told me what this year’s theme is and asked me what I would like to be within that theme, I came to the conclusion that it’s not Halloween about which I’ve been so tepid. It’s the thought required to come up with a theme. If someone does that thinking for me and presents me with the concept, I can completely rise to the occasion and join in. So over this past month I have been gathering up the pieces of the costumes that both my husband and I will wear! He and I will be full-on characters costumed in this year’s family group theme! Look for pictures on Instragram and Facebook on October 31! In the meantime, enjoy! Happy Halloween, everyone!
And get those Valentine’s decorations up – you’re late!
See you soon…..