Tuesday, October 16, 2018

For the love of trick-or-treating

image photographed by Dr. J.P. Hergan
by Perzaia 

A juju wind stirs the dregs of forlorn and forgotten summer leaves hanging limply and cast aside to fade into late summer sun rags.  They crackle to dust, litter for the sake of the next generations, the bell tolls in tones of gray browns, hoarfrost and desolate seed puffs finding new homes wherever they land.  Time becomes a damp lethargy scented in ripe walnuts and fuzzy brown caterpillars spinning bunkers on branches.  Slow down from the lack of dog days that have faded into Indian red falseness gnawed frigid from frostbit nights.

It is time for the reap of harvests, readying the land for the sleeping death and not the sweet dreams of Nemesis’s short naps that filled the garden hammock in warm sunshine and singing birds.  Now the goddess sings her crone’s song, her future basks in the perfume of the dead and decay.   Grasses burn down to seed, pumpkins flare to brilliant orange globes sitting in bleak fields to await their pumpkin fates of stews or pies or faces.   These are the days we’re most thankful for warm woolen coats shielding the furless from Lammas brisk winds returning from kissing the grains ochre and the start of another frozen court paying homage to the Holly King.  Foreshortened daylight that tints the skin in the particular golden glow that touches the air for those so lucky to live in the ethereal world of a Maxfield Parish painting.

Maxfield Parrish, Riverbank in Autumn
I speak of course of Halloween. All Hallow Eve, All Saint’s day or Samhain, take your pick of titles, I abide by every one.  Most favorite of the yearly holiday seasons, a holiday that warrants all the rules that are imbued on any statutory holiday, how else can our costumes be made on time without regretting the missing of work Samhain is my holiday.

Born an autumn baby in a family born near or on the sacred of Samhain, (one of my brothers was born on this day and always, and I mean always, he always had the best birthday cakes ever), we celebrated as all frugal families do, by the harvest of the garden’s bounty, making preserves, eating hodgepodge by the gallons (a type of ratatouille), and smelling pickled vinegar until it is imbedded in my nose.

Autumn is walking to school with family or friends on those crisp mornings before winter bites into your skin like rabid weasels, making your walk unbearable.  Autumn is in fact the truest time of new beginnings, more so than New Years Eve.   Attending maybe for the very first time, school, in a flash of new friends, new teachers, new desks and a host of other ‘new’.  Or, it is the refresh of meeting up with those already met, to catch-up after the length of summer that can stretch a lifetime in recollections, uninterrupted fun and summer camps.

The end of hard toil and the worship Pomona, to commence the plentiful of harvest, to bring forth the fruits of endeavor, enduring the sight of a southbound V of geese or the barren of a brown hydrangea bushes.  To give way to the loss of greens and flowers and birds for the realization that the ground will freeze and all will die a quiet stone hard death.

It a chance to cloak yourself in the skin of your inner enchantress, embracing the esoteric of those who have gone before, holding the world in your hand while gathering herbs to make a harvest talisman to guard the end of summer.  To dance around Samhain bonfires with a trusted coven and your token black cat-familiar to complete the circle, together bringing down the moon to cast spells that soften the effects of a harsh winter. Celebrating the ancient rite of throwing fistfuls of plain white flour at unexpected recipients yelling, “I banish thee”, as you dash away into the darkness, hoping to shock the persistent of household banshees into fleeing for another year.

Or perhaps it is a time to let your freak flag fly by way of gorging on the elaborate of gory immortal movies assuming the form of your favorites, dripping blood from plastic fangs, wrapped in erotic gauzy getup and groaning for brains in your own version of a sexy mummy, vampire zombie mix babe.  Hordes of strangely attired humans attending costume parties or hitting the pubs to win prizes for impossibly clever hydraulic limbed insects, or a swarm of frocked Steampunk beauties in Victorian inspired clothes, and over there stands a pair of perfectly sculpted Grecian plaster statuary. Incoming!  Make way!  Here comes Santa Clause, his sleigh and sack of toys, driving by eight scantily clad reindeer with one decked out with a red flashing nose, living life in the perpetual glow of a Harry Potter world.  Imagination is an endless thing.

Halloween has all the possibilities of kindergarten costume parade with an art therapist thrown in for good measure enhanced by the carnival of hiding behind a mask.  It is the costumes, the chance to be anything you want to be, that certainty that once a mask in donned, a different person opens to the world.  Halloween is a life coach remaking your personality or finding yourself hidden in a frock that brings out the inner you.

Then there is the whole deal of dressing little children in an astounding variety of plastic, funfur and nylon outfits ranging from the sweetest of bunnies, princesses, bumblebees, mutant turtles, Superman or any cartoon god, good ol’ Frankenstein or Freddie Kruger, supplying them with something large and bottomless to collect candies, chocolates, grab-bags full of sugar from neighbors and strangers alike, bringing it home to have it okayed by grown-ups, then eating it silly to bounce off the walls driving everyone crazy, smuggling it into bed getting gum and chocolate stuck in your hair with an embarrassment of photographic memory record to be used as blackmail at a later date (or maybe that was just me).

Include in this grand larceny perpetrated yearly by the angelic, the tiniest of little, driven by a pack mentality going door-to-door terrorizing the neighborhood, threatening the trick of egging or TP-ing if an appropriate treat isn’t procured swiftly.   No one can help you if you run out of bootie.

Even now I can’t say Trick or Treat without smiling.

I must own to a particular weakness at seeing tiny kids standing on my front stoop, dressed-up in memorable roles.  There is something so cute about a three year old robed up in a black satin cape lined in blood red, turned out in black trousers and a vest of the same intense red, curly blonde locks plastered down with black hairspray and slicked back, sporting fangs and a jaunty little moustache penciled in to look very Gomez.  I am putty, mesmerized under this teeny Dracula’s power, dumping a night’s worth of candy into his endless bag with a glazed look in my eye.  Judging by the weight of that bundle that he flings over his small shoulder, he has had this same effect on others tonight.

And it is not just the kids that focus on the masked.  Complete houses undergo the transformation from respectable home into the forlorn careless of a haunted house.  Looming under a dense fog of dry ice hiding a grave riddled boneyard, the rotting coffins lean haphazardly open to reveal skeletons and zombie corpses struggling to reach for the living.  A ghoulish laugh permeates the gloom.  The scent of twinkling pumpkins carved simply or complex infested the stoops and walkways cooking from within by their tiny candles.  Cutout witches in pointy hats croak around foam cauldrons boiling fog over fake fires, spooky spiders had draped their webs eerily around bushes and darkened windows, while the hiss of nine-foot blow-up pumpkin bobbles in a breeze.

Hiding behind doors festooned in paper skeletons, lurk grown men dressed in convincing blood and gore, plot retaliation upon the guilty and the innocent alike by lunging and moaning out in convincing tones, gleaming handfuls of candy in their cold, dead, hand.
Reactions can be hilarious.

Happy to know
I am not alone
in my love for
Halloween.

[shared from la Vie Sirene]

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Halloween Comes to America

Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday.

[from history.com shared in la Vie Sirene 2013]

Friday, October 12, 2018