This morning I had a rather distressing conversation with one of our regular library patrons. She works at Hobby Lobby, and I mentioned to her that I had to get over there to see what Halloween decorations they had this year. She mentioned that she wasn't sure if they had any out...and if they did, it was a very small amount.
I've noticed a trend around these parts for the last few years. Every store's Halloween selections have grown cheaper and more plastic, the Halloween department shrinking significantly. A few years ago, Target had a Domo-Kun themed Halloween, and their selection of decorations were amazing...gorgeous vintage reproductions, classy door signs and wreaths...I wanted to buy more than I ever could have afforded. Last year, it seemed Halloween had transformed into Ed Hardy-land at Target...glittered skulls and tattoo-script plates...but at least the department was still stocked-full and thriving. This year, we checked Target a week ago, and it was the saddest thing...a half-empty corner of the store, displaying last year's leftover Ed Hardy items. I couldn't find a single thing that tempted me to buy it at all.
It has increasingly seemed like Halloween keeps getting shoved back further into the corners of stores to make way for Christmas. After all, if money is the bottom line, the biggest moneymaker of Halloween is the candy, and as long as that's supplied, why waste money and time on making nice decorations? I should point out here that I tend to be a Halloween snob...I care neither for the fake graphic bloody grossness you can find at most Halloween USA stores, nor the twee cutesy stuff you can pick up at Michaels Craft Stores...I like classic retro vintage style Halloween items...think Martha Stewart's impeccable Halloween taste. That sort of item just doesn't seem to be available anywhere anymore, except for sadly over my budget online at Grandin Road.
Back to the conversation this morning, I lamented to the patron exactly what I said above...that it seems that Halloween is being increasingly marginalized and dismissed, at least in this small Ohio city. She agreed, and said that it was likely due to a combination of two major factors: the repeated rumors of poisoned candy and razors in apples (which, by the way, never happened, in case you didn't know), and the churches in the area becoming increasingly vigilant toward calling Halloween out as the Devil's holiday, a night best ignored.
I have a strange history with the holiday of Halloween, which is part of why I love it so much now. Growing up, my parents were extremely conservative in their Christian beliefs and practices. So, of course, there was absolutely no Halloween festivity for us (incidentally, this may have also been one reason for my adult love of costuming). We never got to go trick-or-treating, never came home with Halloween candy. I specifically recall one year when we were home on Beggars' Night, sitting on the couch with all the lights off (so no trick-or-treaters would come to our door) and staring longingly out the window at the kids walking by in their plastic masks and plastic costumes. laughing and swinging their buckets full of candies. Our church would sometimes hold a Halloween alternative event, with apple bobbing and a small amount of treats, but never costumes. But even these events were often in short supply...the church in the mid-80s hadn't yet discovered the need to distract kids from what they were missing on October 31st.
When my coworker, Shelly, first came to Ohio last autumn from her home in Portland, Oregon, she was confused by Central-Ohio's Beggar's Night. She purchased her Halloween candy, and she and her husband settled down for an evening's relaxation, when there was a ring of the doorbell. It was a kid all dressed up in costume, and as she looked out at the street she saw kids walking around with their buckets. "But it wasn't Halloween!" she exclaimed, when she told the story later to someone at the post office. A stranger then walked up to her and explained "we never hold our Beggar's Night on Halloween. That's the night when the evil spirits come out, and we don't want our children to be exposed to them." Shelly had a hard time subduing her laughter and incredulity, but the woman was entirely serious. And it's true...in Central Ohio, I don't remember the last Beggar's Night we've had scheduled that was actually held on October 31st. And no one seems to have any real or rational explanation as to why.
So more and more, it seems to be a struggle to fight the good fight for Halloween's sake. I don't know about you, but I plan to keep dressing up, holding parties, decorating my entire house, and celebrating Halloween until they come to take this wicked witch away with their pitchforks and torches. Keep Christ in Chrismas. Keep the Hallowed in Halloween.
(Photoshop by Amanda Pants, done for me October 2009)