Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Halloween is not just one night for me, it’s a season. As a kid, I associated Halloween with the dying fall, changing leaves, cool crisp air, the smell of chimney smoke and apple cider and pumpkin pie. It was a season of anticipation that began on October 1st and built until Halloween, a day of symbolic transformation that made every other day seem dull by comparison.
Halloween marks the end of summer on the Celtic calendar – the end of the “light half” of the year and the beginning of the “dark half.” According to legend, it was a day when the membrane between the physical world and the spirit world was at its weakest, allowing spirits (good and bad) to cross over into the land of the living. That’s where the tradition of wearing Halloween costumes comes from: We’re trying to blend in with the dead, or maybe to spook the spooks. I don’t remember ever having things explained to me that way when I was a kid, but that doesn’t mean that I was oblivious to the ideas. I understood Halloween as an acknowledgment of death and the supernatural… but it was a celebratory acknowledgment that was always fun, never truly unsettling. (I find myself suddenly thinking of John Carpenter’s comment that his movie HALLOWEEN is “a harmless little movie.”) Some of my best childhood memories are of pumpkin carving, carnival-going, and trick-or-treating on a day when death isn't scary and life is filled with wonder.
When I moved to Los Angeles in October 2006, I was disappointed about leaving the autumn weather behind. I couldn’t imagine feeling the same “Halloween spirit” in a city where it’s sunny and 70 every day, and where the trees stay green all year round. Honestly, while I don’t miss the cold weather, I miss the natural progression of the seasons. But I was thrilled to learn that L.A. celebrates Halloween to the hilt… which probably shouldn’t come as any surprise in a city where so many people make-believe for a living.
This year, it’s taken a little longer for the signs of the season to appear (maybe because of the recession?), but I’m happy to report that my neighborhood is finally beginning to look festive. First thing this morning, I took a walk around the block and snapped a few pictures of decorated lawns. Then I came home and noticed an article in today’s L.A. Times about a slew of upcoming holiday events - carnivals & haunted houses, parties & pub crawls, screenings and celebrity appearances. Suddenly I’m as giddy as a (normal) kid at Christmas. For those who need a little Halloween spirit but can’t escape the computer screen at the moment, may I recommend the following…