In the echoes of the past, the shape of the future can be found. What we now call Halloween, was once the pagan Celtic holy day "Samhain", a day in which they believed the veil separating the world of the living, and the "Other World" of the spirits, is at it's weakest. It was this day (or night rather), that they believed the spirits from the other side could cross over most easily, and thus they painted themselves up, both to ward off evil, and to be more recognizable to ancestors and deceased kin. Today, Halloween is more commercial, for kids it's about dressing up and candy, for adults (sadly) about dressing up and getting drunk (like every other holiday). But there still remain even amidst all of that, echoes of the Old Ways, and the old times in which the bonfires burned high and bright, as people told stories and played games and danced the night away.
For me personally, Halloween has always been just about my favorite holiday. I say "just about", because Christmas, at least as a kid, was always right up there with it. But I think, getting into my early 30s now, that while there are still things about Christmastime I still am fond of, Halloween has been the most enduring. The imagery, the atmosphere, the celebration of ghouls and monsters, the great movies and cartoons that tend to get shown, the first sitings of pumpkin pie (my personal favorite), you name it. There's just a lot to love about the holiday, even as an adult, even if, like myself, you don't drink. I'd even go so far as to say that there is far more to enjoy during Halloween sober, but I digress.
Naturally, one of the things that stands out the strongest of my Halloween memories, are the costumes I wore. The earliest one I wore, or remember at least, was when I was about four or five years old, I went as "Spider-Man". I had a pair of Spidey pajamas at the time, and my grandmother made my face up in red and black web design (which is odd, because several years later, she decided she didn't want me partaking in comic book superheroes). I went around and trick or treated, likely for one of my first times. The following year, I do believe, I went as Superman, this time with one of those cheesy store-bought outfits, with the suit and the plastic mask. That was the only time I wore one of those. Another I remember, perhaps when I was about eight or so I suppose, I wore something similar to what the kid in the picture above is wearing: a cheeseball green dinosaur costume, though in my case my grandmother made it herself, and I painted my face green to go with it. I also went one year as a cowboy, even though I totally wasn't into them at all, complete with cut up carpet she had cut from little rugs to make chaps, and a cheap-as-hell plastic hat from a promotion Taco Bell had been doing in the late 80s.
The costume that probably became my favorite, even though it was never great, was two or so years in a row, my friend Harold and I went as Mario and Luigi, the Super Mario Bros., which to us was awesome, because we were both at the time obsessed with Mario and Nintendo. The first year wasn't much of a success, because all I had was some floppy brown hat she could find, and mis-matching suspenders, etc. But the next year, we did better, as we actually found red and green caps, and she sewed on "M" and "L" patches, and we came much closer to having matching red and green suspendered outfits. That was about the last time that I really got excited about dressing up, probably at the age of 12 I'd say. I still dressed up a bit in the following few years, but it became less of a big deal. When I was 16, three of my friends and I dressed up as weird, gothed-out versions of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalype". I was, of course, Death, complete with "The Crow" looking face-paint. That was pretty much the last time I have ever really dressed up for Halloween. I might again someday, but I just really kind of fell out of it.
|Ah the memories.....and the cavities....|
One of the other big things, of course, was the candy. Just about all kids who live in any country where Halloween (or one of its ethnic analogs) is celebrated, loves the candy part. It is a part of it that I now, as an adult, can no longer really enjoy much, as I developed diabetes in my late 20s, but as I kid, I literally ate it up. I loved Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey bars (especially the dark chocolate ones), the little Mr. Goodbars, Butterfingers, M&Ms, Skittles, you name it. There were very few candies that I really didn't care for, one of them being those damn, stale orange marshmellowish "circus peanut" things. Another was candy corn, which I don't hate, and would eat, but didn't love. I also remember the only vaguely sweetened, chewey "wax lips" and other such allegedly edible wax "candy" things that used to exist when I was a kid. I don't really see those around anymore, so perhaps people wisened up and thought to themselves "maybe kids shouldn't be eating this shit", but as a kid, I for some stupid reason liked them. I guess it was just the novelty of it, more than anything.
|When it comes to decorations, the more creative the better.|
Trick or Treating in and of itself was something to look forward to. It was an adventure. Even with a parental figure or adult with you for supervision, it was this whole big thing of "we get to walk around at night", and it had this wild and exciting feel to it. The coldness of an autumn night, the crisp, almost tangible energy in the air (Perhaps from the Veil being thin? Perhaps from spirits being out and about?), just the whole ambiance of it. It was also a roll of the dice, and a somewhat scary proposition, going up to each house, to each porch, to each door, and knocking. You never knew if you were going to get candy, what KIND of candy, what kind of people they'd be, whether they'd have a dog, etc. etc. Some houses were dark, obviously not wanting visitors. Others would be totally made up, with people going all out, having haunted decorations and lights and whatever else, really getting into it all and trying to enhance the experience for the kids. It was fun, in a way that few things in life ever truly are. Yet, like many fun things, it also had an air of slight mystery and danger to the whole thing. And I guess that fit the Halloween feeling all the better.
|The timeless classics.|
And before I draw this to a close, I can't talk about my Halloween memories without talking about another part of it that was always important to me: the television specials and movies and cartoons that would play every year. I've already written a fairly in depth article on the subject of Halloween specials, but it needs to be embellished, for completions sake. As a kid, every year around different holidays, they always used to show many of the same specials around Christmas, Halloween, Easter, etc., and the Halloween ones were some of my favorites. Whether it was Disney's old 80s "Trick or Treat" special, or the classic Garfield special (arguably the best), or random other shit that would show like the hilarious "Mr. Boogedy", it was something I looked forward to almost as much as the dressing up or candy. Those specials, those shows and cartoons, and when I was a bit older, the cool classic horror/sci fi movie marathons, etc., all of those things helped shape me as a child, and I still love them to this day. From the still-amazing early Disney classic "Dancing Skeletons", to the Charlie Brown "The Great Pumpkin" special, it was all golden to me.
|Awesome, but scared the bejesus out of me at a young age.|
My strongest memories of Halloween growing up, were more of senses and feelings, than of specific events or candy or things. Much like Christmas, I was always bummed out the next day, after Halloween was over. Though Halloween was easier to get over, because I always had Thanksgiving and my birthday and Christmas to still look forward to. But that build up to Halloween Night, every year, was something genuinely special, no matter how hard other parts of childhood might have been, there were always certain times you could still find respite and joy within. Halloween was one of those special times. It was a culmination of elements, that combined to make real magic, if you were open and eager enough to see it, to feel it happening.
Whatever your plans are this Halloween/Samhain, make sure you take some time, for my sake, for your sake, to watch some old cartoons, or movies, or whatever. Make sure to stop when you're out after dark, and just stand there, take a deep breath, look up at the moon, look all around, and just drink it in. Even as one of us numbed, stupid adults, you can still feel "it" if you try hard enough. Even if just for a fleeting moment. And whatever you wind up doing for your Halloween, I hope you have a great time. Cheers!