It’s a widely known fact, at least between my family and friends, that I love getting ready for the holidays. It could be a childhood thing. We had some good ones: ones that took us back to the farm, into the arms of family, filled with food and faith.
It doesn’t really explain, though, why I love to decorate for them. People do, I know, but most of theirs appear sweet and bright and sparkley. My collection seems a little macabre, a little dark, a little creepy for little kids.
For quite a few years I was a Quester, so I was surrounded by members’ vintage and antique pieces. Some are lovely enough to make you weep, true art within the collectors’ homes: old candy containers and Belsnickles from Germany, paper ornaments from Beistel, celluloid statues. Except for a few pieces in moderate condition, I could not enter the market.
But even before that, and certainly after, I’ve continued to assemble collections of Halloween and Christmas that are slightly vintage, slightly primitive, and a whole lot haunting. Oh, I have Easter, too, but it’s a lighter, springtime affair that tends away from the stories of haunting, of want, of characters that frighten, like ghosties and jack-o-lanterns and an old man who sees you when you’re sleeping, who knows when you’re awake.
Likely, my vivid imagination has allowed me to develop a world where past legends and lore collide with colonial decor. I love to read about Victorian holiday traditions, to picture children carrying carved turnips and gourds in an era when science hadn’t explained away the bogey-man and left something more terrifying – truly evil people – in his place.
No small thing, I also like that Halloween exists for candy and for children, and for celebrating the harvest after the bounty of summer. One is not required to assemble one’s family, buy gifts, then frenetically entertain. On Halloween night, as the sky deepens into purple, then black, in the brisk chill evening air, we light our porches and encourage mini ghouls and goblins up for treats. It’s magic.
If you try, you can feel an arm reaching out from the past, through the murky shadows, grasping hold, connecting us. I’m happy at Halloween.
Shots of our house. My kids like it best at this season.