All Hallows’ Eve? Allhallowtide, beginning with All Saints’ Day and culminating in All Souls’ Day? Inflatable Tigger Vampire? Animatronic skeleton at Home Depot?
If you think the spirit of Christmas got lost somewhere after the world premiere of Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, the celebration of the evening before All Hallows/All Saints Day, the recognition of all saints known and unknown who have made it to heaven, is as muddled as the conflation of the observation of the Roman sun God (Sol Invictus) and the Nativity. All Hallows’ Eve had a significant history before the church folded it into its calendar. I suspect that had I not been teaching in California, my annual salute to the pagan holiday, Samhain, might have been cause for alarm. Guilty of conflation myself, I reminded my 9th grade class in Humanities that on the evening of October 31st, the fragile boundary between this world and the Otherworld was flimsy enough that all sorts of hijinx were likely to ensue. Did we dance? Yes we did, to Lord Intruder’s version of “Zombie Jamboree ”. Stories? Only the most chilling, usually an enactment of the folk story, “Mr. Fox”, itself a variant of “The Robber Bridegroom” and “Bluebeard”. Its refrain, “Be bold. Be bold. But not too bold. Lest your heart’s blood run cold” travels with every iteration as does the clarification of the murderous suitor’s lies. Shakespeare quoted them directly in Much Ado About Nothing when the confirmed bachelor, Benedict, suggests that, “…like the old tale, “It is not so, and t’was not so.”
My zombies and threatened brides are now people of substance in the adult world, probably not planning to celebrate Samhain, but likely outfitting their own children in the classic witch/ghost/skeleton/ outfit or the costume du jour this season. Those dishing out the treats have to stay au courant to appreciate the spectacles brought to their doors. In the first year of the pandemic, when Tiger King:Murder, Mayhem and Madness ruled Netflix, we saw Joe Exotic costumes, to be sure, but the overwhelming favorite referenced Carol Baskin, proprietor of Big Cat Rescue, featuring blonde wig, flower headdress, and flowing cat print patterned tunic. “Trick or Treat, all you cats and kittens!”. This year, the hot costumes include the bride and groom from a Valyrian wedding, the red off-the-shoulder dress and huge sunglasses worn by scamming Anna Delvey as portrayed in Inventing Anna, t-shirt and blue apron worn by Carmy Berzatto in The Bear, a Doctor Strange Multitudes of Madness cosplay costume and the orange faux fur worn by Mabel in Only Murders In The Building. Want to trick and treat as a couple? Almost too easy. Go to any Party Store and pluck the Soap and Loofah costumes right off the rack. Or, go as M & Ms, or Trolls, or Minions, or guys with 80’s hair ala Stranger Things.
My inflatable Tigger Vampire finally expired just before we moved across the country; its replacement is too pricey, even on eBay, so I’m downsizing this year, adjusting to life at the end of an untraveled road, without juice for inflatables of any sort. I’ve put out some pumpkins, but expect our neighborhood bears will haul them away as autumnal snacks. I just bought a pathetic Halloween garden flag which I can stick in the piles of leaves near the mailbox. A dachshund wearing a witch’s pointed hat cavorts across the flag shouting, “Happy Halloweenie!”
At least the bears won’t eat it.
Candy-fueled hoopla and goofy costumes aside, Halloween stands alone in the calendar of communally celebrated events, mostly fun, but just a shriek away from unsettling. The uncostumed, everyday world has monsters by the truckload, and life sucking demons, and creatures who are not what they appear to be. Halloween is like bowling with bumper lanes; yes, honey that is a ghoul, but it’s all make believe. We get a slight thrill of terror, unwrap another Snickers bar, and troop up to the next door, facing the unknown with a pillowcase full of Kit Kats, peanutbutter cups, and the occasional indigestible and unlabeled bargain Tootsie Roll knockoff.
Our house will offer top-of-the-line chocolate confections, hand selected and taste-tested. Bags sit on a stool by the door awaiting the first ringing of the doorbell. I’m willing to bet we get fewer than two trick and treaters, but we’ll honor them with our largesse, admire their getups, wish them a Happy Halloweenie, and retreat to the TV cave to watch Muppets Haunted Mansion or SCTV’s Count Floyd’s House of Stewardesses – very scary!