Just Saying: Jumping Jack-o’-lanterns, Fa La La La La

By Shelley Wildgen

I don’t get it. No one loves a seasonal holiday more than me but something has taken a rather wicked turn. The whole Halloween hoopla seems less about trick or treating and more about, well, I’m not sure. Orange light strings deceptively decorate front porches as bodies hang from apple trees, makeshift cemeteries pop up where friendly front yards used to be. I can feel my very soul adjusting uncomfortably while catching a quick glimpse from the corner of my eye as I blithely drive to the grocery store. Last year, the day after Halloween, I spied a girl I went to high school with gathering skulls off her front lawn. Jeepers!

When did fun go all evil? Here’s the part where I morph into the lamenting old auntie constantly whining about better days. Why, when I was a kid Halloween was about just dressing up as something different and, oh, usually not as a post-apocalyptic zombie. We were cartoon characters, lady bugs, princesses, pirates and when props were low, bedsheet-sporting ghosts. That’s as scary as it got. Since budgets were limited, some kids just dressed as hobos year after year -- grandpa’s old clothes, some fake whiskers smeared here and there and, voila, a ‘Belleville Boxcar Willie’ was born. Fast, easy and ripe for hours of candy grabbing.

Somewhere along the line the nonsensical Halloween lines got blurred and we find ourselves in 2017 dodging bloodied corpses on our dog walks. I realized not long ago that some subtle action needed to take place. It’s a quiet intervention of sorts but not one that would offend anyone. November can’t come soon enough for me but I do understand that many people love Halloween. I just don't understand them. What I do full on ‘get’ is Christmas! Oh yes. The holly, the twinkles, the happy snowman faces, frothy first snowfalls, oodles and oodles of garlands, bows and Santas or nativity scenes…all good, peaceful, and soothing.

I started my ‘Horrorween’ rebellion, as one does, with simple movements, limiting them to the confines of my own four walls. The minute I get a whiff of macabre rumblings in the neighbourhood, say early October, I head for the garage and pull out the Christmas boxes. Just setting them on the living room floor provides a certain calm. Here’s where strategy is important because I’m well aware that outdoor décor sensitivities are not mine alone. Rules must be respected. There are many who feel that Halloween is an extension of fall, followed by Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day. This wide swath of the general population has deemed that December 1, and not a moment before, is when Christmas bling can be tolerated. In deference to these folk I slowly…gingerly…start placing ornaments indoors and away from windows.

The festive pig is the first to be unloaded, ‘round about say…October 29. Passive/aggressively I wage my private war on Halloween by starting my festive internal process for about a month -- kind of a decorating advent of sorts. Each day, something new is plucked from its box. The Christmas pig is followed by the stained glass dangling Santa, then the musical snow globes, the soap dispensers, an artificial tree here and there, but never so anyone can see from outside.

This is my own personal decorating revolt and I have accomplices. Certain family members almost embrace the early efforts, which is nice but my main co-conspirators are the big box stores. Truly, I have a love/hate relationship with their early displays. See, I understand they are rooted in conspicuous consumerism and that’s more than a bit ugly, but I applaud them for kicking the corpses out of Halloween by upping the Christmas décor must-haves good and early. Since it’s important to stay on trend, within reason, I limit my new acquisitions each year. I prefer to stay with the classics for the most part but those store displays do churn the creative Christmas décor juices, conservatively, of course. Gone are my forays into life-size karaoke snowmen and sing along Santas, replaced now by an understated new focal point each year. Last year I found a mantel size wooden sign with ‘Be Merry’ spelled in wire. You know it took less than an hour to hoist that baby above the fireplace with twinkle lights!

As eccentric as my festive penchants may seem, they come from a good peace-loving place. I may not be able to erase evil from the planet as a whole but I can certainly remove the visuals from my own little world and improve my view with some friendly sparkle. Twinkling lights, happy carollers, pretty presents over skeleton bearing trees any day! But that's just me.

There is one thing I cannot change and that is the two- to three-hour window of Halloween hijinks on October 31. So, how do I battle Halloween night itself? Turn out the lights and scream ‘get off my lawn’? No, of course not. Unlike the revellers, I’m not a monster. As a peaceful protestor, holding one’s ground is essential but acknowledgement of the occasion is unavoidable. Besides, it’s not the kids, it’s the corpses – ‘member? So, here’s how it goes. We don’t put out a pumpkin so in reality we never get a caller but I do have a big ol’ bowl at the ready, just in case.

A big ol’ bowl of candy canes.

Merry Halloween.