Updated: Oct 27, 2019
Apple cider, falling leaves, cooler weather, the approaching holiday season, chili, soup, pumpkin-spiced EVERYTHING… The list goes on. There’s just nothing that I don’t love about autumn, and I’d be lying to say that Halloween is not somewhere around the very top of that list.
Each year (way too early by many people’s standards) as soon as the temps drop to a more tolerable degree, I drag out boxes and boxes of decorative “stuff” to celebrate the smells, sights and sounds of fall. My kitchen soon becomes a source of sensory overload, filled with cinnamon and apple flavored coffees and baked goods, and every kind of fall-scented candle and hand soap available on the market.
And each year, I ask myself, “Why do I go to this much trouble?”
Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble
Meet my cousin, Debi (pictured above, right). She and I share the same love of all-things-Halloween, but Debi takes it to an entirely new level. Every September, she schlepps from her storage unit 75 boxes in order to decorate nearly every inch of her Houston area home. Walking through her house is like walking through a ghostly make-believe wonderland of Department 56 collectables.
Debi says she’s been collecting her village pieces for 11 years and has over 500 pieces. She finds her pieces from E-Bay, retail, resale and neighborhood sites. Some are gifts. Her first Halloween village came into existence after her brother, Alex, passed away. It began as a kind of tribute to the memories of their childhood years in her hometown of Brenham, Texas.
Debi explains, “By building my villages, both Christmas and Halloween, I try to recreate the serenity of those memories each year. It takes me back to a much simpler, carefree time, when kids could just be kids.”
Debi still remembers the old woman on the hill who would leave popcorn balls or caramel apples on her front porch, on the honor-system. "I would take only one and drop it into my bag; then later, I’d have to pick stuck wrapped candy off of it before I could eat it."
Click on the arrow to play video. Make sure your volume is turned up!
Debi's villages fill her entire dining room and part of her office, where she keeps the more traditional items. Pieces like the three black-and-white shown above depict small-town-USA, circa 1960s, . She says, "Some of the various décor items have been around for over 40 years, the little jack-o-lantern was just like the one I had in the mid-1960s."
The dining room fright-fest, however, is filled with ghosts and goblins, skeletons, monsters and every spooky Halloween scene possible. Many of the pieces are animated, complete with the creepy sounds of haunted houses, witches and things that go bump in the night.
Debi says seeing the amazement and wonder in people’s faces, both adults and kids, when they see her home or one of her villages for the first time makes all of the work involved worthwhile. They come back annually to spot a new addition, or lay their eyes on a piece they've not yet seen,.
Click on the arrow to play video. Make sure your volume is turned up!
"A few years back I realized that I am now part of the Halloween stories that the kids of today who come to see my village year after year will be telling," says Debi. "That gives me encouragement to make it better and different each year."
But it's not solely about the villages. Every room of her Copperfield home has the sights, sounds and scents of Halloween.
(Click the arrow on the image below to scroll through photos.)
My decorations pale by comparison, but they have always suited my tastes. This year for my birthday, Debi gifted me the Lemax Haunted Library.
And so it begins…
Hi-Ho, Silver! Away!
While Debi’s most embarrassing childhood costume event came in the form of a poodle skirt and saddle shoes with “temporary” tattoos that didn’t come off for two weeks, I’d trade her humiliation-for-humiliation in a heartbeat! My “costume” was a Lone Ranger face mask.
“Why,” you ask, “was that your costume?”
I have no idea. It wasn’t like each Halloween I’d beg to be The Lone Ranger. I had no silver bullets, no Tonto to be my sidekick, and had never even been close to a horse, let alone set out on the open range to fight the bad guys.
Yet for years, there I was— killin’ it, in my red (not black), twenty-five-cents-from-Perry-Brothers mask and a plastic pop gun, apparently ready to take on any crime committed in the Old West.
The scratchy mask that looped around my ears, plus a brown grocery sack, was the only indication that I was Trick-or-Treat ready to hit the neighborhood in Hi-Hopes of getting lots of candy.
My kids, on the other hand, were decked out in every elaborate costume imaginable— from Thing 1 and Thing 2 to little devils, pumpkins to Transformers— they were Halloween-ready at the very first hint of fall.
Times change, but the fun never does. As an adult, I’ve been Elvira, a witch, a wench and this year, well… TBA. (Check back after 10/31 to see just how brave and ridiculous I can be…)
I don’t believe we ever outgrow the need to let down our guard and be a kid for a couple of hours. If that comes in the form of taking the risk of looking like a complete idiot, so be it. Escaping reality among good friends is not a bad way to get it in some “play time,” unless you are totally opposed to the idea of Halloween.
Innocence or evil?
I’ve always enjoyed the festivities and, like Debi, for me it brings with it a sense of nostalgia. Cold nights, hot chocolate, candy corn (not to mention AstroPops, Fruit Stripe Gum, Cherry Sours and candy cigarettes) and the anticipation of a classroom Halloween party gave no hint that perhaps All Hallows Eve could have a sinister element to it.
But there are those who don't share our enthusiasm.
Fundamental Christian beliefs suggest that Halloween is irreverent. Many feel the occasion pays homage to Satan and is possibly a gateway into the occult. Their beliefs are based on its pagan origins, close ties to witchcraft, and emphasis on all things related to death and gore.
Those who believe strongly cite Bible verses that support their convictions. While the Bible, of course, does not mention Halloween specifically, it does refer to evil, demons, witchcraft and the occult and clearly warns against it.
Parents who feel adamantly against having their children participate usually choose to celebrate by way of a Harvest or Fall Festival— many times held at their church.
Sadly, in today’s world, there’s the safety issue that needs to be considered in making that decision.Trunk-or-treat events are also good options for folks who don’t trust that their children will be safe, walking the neighborhoods in search of goodies.
But the debate’s solution remains one of personal choice.
I happen to feel that, done in a conservative manner, there's no harm in celebrating a silly tradition. With all the violence in the news, and inappropriate media messages, our children are exposed to, I doubt that sharing in a once-a-year event is going to corrupt an impressionable young mind.
And I believe that God considers intent when it comes to "evil." It's my firm belief that a sweet little five-year-old who's dressed up like Elsa from "Frozen" in hopes of getting candy is not likely to have a red mark against her for dabbling in the occult.
Follow your conscience. If you’re uncomfortable observing a day that many see as memory-making, innocent fun, don’t participate. Or find a different way to celebrate that coincides with your beliefs. If you feel that it's in no way ominous, enjoy the festivities!
You do you.
As long as we don’t judge each others’ viewpoints, we should all be just fine.
Celebrating, the grown-up way
It may not be everybody’s cup-’o-tea to dress up, show up and “ham it up” as a make-believe character each time October 31 rolls around. Some feel more comfortable staying home, leaving the light on and doling out candy for the little ghosts and goblins.
I decorate our home, fill up the candy jars and get together with friends to prepare for the event long before the big night arrives.
This year for my birthday, Margie treated me to a Board and Brush session where we created adorable Halloween trays. It was a fun event that will be remembered each time I break out the finished product. (I'm a lucky girl to have great friends AND a September birthday!)
I guess I’ll always be a kid at heart.
When the event falls on a weekend, I love to go trick-or-treating with the grandchildren. There’s something to be said for watching their eyes light up at the thought of getting bags of sweet goodness and knowing that I can be home long before the effects of the sugar-rush sets in.
For me, making new memories really is what it's all about. That's the reason I go to the trouble of decorating both the house and myself for Halloween.
I'm very happy to say that I haven't worn the Lone Ranger mask since my days of "Fun With Dick and Jane," but there's always next year.
Who knows, maybe Debi will don her poodle skirt and saddle shoes.
Leave the light on for us. We love candy! (But wouldn't turn down tacos and a margarita...)
A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween. Erma Bombeck
For a look at the supernatural through my viewpoint, visit my previous blog post, “Ghosts: Believe It or Not.” The post contains an article I wrote after visiting numerous haunted locations.