The Evolution of Halloween

Welcome to my Howloween Blog Hop post! Anyone leaving a comment here will be in the running to win a signed, print copy of Going For Gold, the M/M Olympic themed anthology from MLR Press, including my sport horse novella, Lightning in a Bottle (if you live in the continental US) or the reader’s choice from my backlist in e-book form (if you live outside the US). Comments for the contest will be considered up until Nov 1, then a winner will be selected randomly from among the commenters.

The contest is now closed and the winner is vitajex! I’ll be contacting you via email–thanks for playing along, guys!

When I was a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I didn’t care for the Fourth of July with the fireworks and the cookouts. It took far too long to get to the park where we could see the fireworks display, and even longer getting out at the end of the evening. Ditto with New Year’s. A lot of noise and the making of resolutions no one ever keeps. Valentine’s Day was usually a bust for me too; with me complaining loudly to all who would listen that V-day was a commercial holiday orchestrated by society to force us into buying flowers and dinner out at a fancy restaurant. Thanksgiving seemed like a lot of work for an hour’s worth of good dining (though the days of leftovers helped make up for it!). Christmas Eve, in which everything was still a potential, (and nothing yet had disappointed) was always my favorite over Christmas Day.

But when I was growing up, Halloween had a special kind of magic all its own. For starters, there was the dressing up and going Trick or Treating. I don’t know about you guys, but Trick or Treating was a Big Deal when I was a kid. My grandmother had made me a tiger suit when I was very small–and being a sickly child who didn’t grow much, I was able to wear this outfit year after year. I loved my tiger suit. It fit over my entire body, compete with tail and a hoodie with ears.  My mom would draw whiskers on my face with her eyebrow pencil, and I would drape my tail over my arm as I headed out the door with my pumpkin basket to collect my candy.

Back then, Halloween was the culmination of my favorite time of the year.  I loved going back to school when I was a child. I loved that first day in September when the temperature dropped by 20 degrees and you had to take a sweater with you, ‘just in case’. I loved the crackle of dry leaves underfoot–the scratchy sound they made on the pavement as you walked through them. Even the air was different–smelling of wood smoke and damp earth, cool and crisp as a Red Delicious apple. October was all red and yellow leaves, gorgeous afternoons with bars of light that lay in heavy bands of gold across the path in the woods. November is different. By the time November arrives, the trees are bare, the afternoons are cold and rainy. Halloween is the last, best week of the most glorious time of year.

But on Halloween, everyone would pull out the stops.  People carved pumpkins and placed lighted candles within to indicate they were receptive to Trick or Treaters. We would wait, dressed in our costumes, until dusk, after which we would hit the streets. Back then, people knew their neighbors. My favorite house to visit belonged to Mrs. Hutchins–she made the most incredible gingerbread men–each individually decorated.  Not to be outdone, my mother made popcorn balls and created little airplanes out of Popsicle sticks and Lifesavers–the tube of Lifesavers making the body of the plane, and two Lifesavers were used as wheels.

Somewhere along the way, Halloween changed. Pixie stix were found to be laced with cyanide, and candy was showing up with razor blades inside. My father insisted that our candy be radiographed at the hospital where he worked before we ate it, and my parents refused to to let us eat anything that was homemade anymore. I outgrew my tiger suit, and trick or treating in the neighborhood was replaced by Halloween parties. My parents were not big party throwers, so Halloween became something to set aside, as another part of my childhood that I shelved on growing up.

I noticed the other night that in the upscale neighborhoods near my house, homes are decorated for Halloween now as seriously as some people take Christmas, with colored lights and inflatable displays that go up at the first of October and stay up until Thanksgiving (when the Christmas decorations come out). Some are gorgeously and tastefully decorated with little orange lights and garlands of brightly colored leaves winding around the railings. Some are a little more out there…

Great. One more thing that I can’t keep up with due to lack of time. As it is, I no longer decorate for Christmas. I just can’t do all that work when half the time, I’m not even there. Decorating your house for the holidays is so that you can pull up at night and see the lights glowing in the impending dusk. It sort of dampens the effect if you have to go inside and turn the lights on first, you know?

I never lost my love of dressing up in costume, however. My mother, freed from the pressure of keeping up with the likes of Mrs. Hutchins, refused to acknowledge the day. One year, I’d come home from college for the weekend, only to find my mother heading out to a movie, house darkened, no candy available.

Well, screw that, I thought. After she left, I went to the store and bought some candy. When I got back to the house, I scrounged around until I put together an outfit that could have passed for a woman in Colonial Williamsburg–a floor length skirt, a long sleeved, high-necked blouse.  I piled my hair on top of my head and picked up a camping lantern. I left the lights off in the house, and wandered through the rooms with the lantern, pausing in windows so I could be seen from the street.  I have to admit, more than one car screeched to a stop when passing the house!

I decided that if anyone rang the doorbell, I would liberally hand out candy without speaking.  I did get a few callers, though I suspect the lights being out discouraged most of them. I do remember one small child, leaning in with her basket to receive her candy, saying in a voice filled with awe, “You’re beautiful!”

I didn’t hear that a lot when I was young. It made an impression. 🙂

Somehow, I never let go of Halloween. Even with nowhere to go, I still wanted to dress for the day. There’s something about putting on a costume that is so liberating. I tend to dress as favorite characters from movies or stories, as opposed to the Sexy Witch, or the Sexy Vampire. Dressing as a favorite character imbues you with their strengths, and for a brief period of time, you are your hero.  I’ve written about Walking like Beckett and what I’ve learned from that, but over the years, I’ve been Athena from the original Battlestar Galactica series, and I’ve worn my Star Trek Next Gen (science blue) outfit for years. I’ve purchased the short dress uniform from the Star Trek Reboot, and Starbuck’s uniform from the new Battlestar Galactica, too.

But making my own costume makes me happier than any pre-made one. There’s something about the hunt for all the right components that’s akin to searching the used bookstores for an elusive out-of-print book. Sure, you could probably find it online–but the treasure hunt is part of the fun. This year, I’ve decided to go as Peggy Carter from Captain America. My word, I love the feisty heroine! Take a strong female character (strong, not bitchy!), dress her in a WW II uniform and put lipstick on her, and I am your devoted slave. Peggy Carter is everything I would like to be–tough but feminine, purpose-driven but believing in heroes, and one helluva shot!  I loved how–period not withstanding–Peggy was not simply the love interest in the movie, but out there in the thick of things fighting with everyone else.

So for months now, I’ve been putting together a costume. An authentic uniform (or as close as I can get). Olive military jacket and skirt (wool). A white shirt. An olive tie. Silver wings. Kick-ass shoes.

I mentioned to a friend that I needed to find just the right ‘wartime red’ lipstick to finish the outfit, and she surprised me with a package the other day. She discovered that the favorite lipstick of the day was Victory Red by Elizabeth Arden, and that they still make it! She sent me a tube, along with an era authentic compact (Stratton–what ALL the English women used), and the piece de la resistance, a pendant with the likeness of Captain Steve Rogers embedded in it!

Do you know how much fun it is when your friends get involved in your fandom loves?  It’s magical.  It’s what Halloween is all about.

Be sure to leave your email in your comments so that I can contact you if you are the winner!

Going for Gold is the M/M Olympic themed anthology from MLR Press! Ice skating, diving, equestrian eventing, competitive shooting and more! There’s something for everyone (especially if you like hot athletes in Speedos, or tight breeches and tall boots!)

58 thoughts on “The Evolution of Halloween

    • Isn’t it just? I love the fact that it is era-authentic and that every Englishwoman of the day carried a Stratton compact. 🙂

      Today’s the day I put all the pieces of the costume together for a full dress rehearsal and see what the results are like–I’m very excited!

  1. That was so nice of your friend! I remember those types of Halloweens but now that I have children I have to watch them go through their candy first, though I don’t do the radiograph thing. I live in an area heavy with decorating, though, so my kids love it. We vary on the buying/making costumes though. I dunno… I was so painfully shy as a child though that Halloween was very hard for me. Asking people for things, oh no! LOL. You know, I’m right with you on Christmas Eve versus Christmas though.

    Anyway, thanks for the contest; I’d love a chance to win Going for Gold!
    Cia Nordwell recently posted..Howloween Blog Hop Day 1!My Profile

    • Given that so few of us really know our neighbors these days, it makes more sense to me to throw a Halloween party for your kids than to take them Trick or Treating, but darn, I miss the magic of those nights. A party at someone’s house isn’t quite the same.

      Christmas Eve is pregnant with possibility. I usually spend it quietly with the family, baking cookies, and watching some old Christmas classic, like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol. Christmas Eve is always the cinnamon smell of baking snickerdoodles and the crackle of a log on the fire, the hush that precedes lightly falling snow, and the twinkle of tiny white lights on a tree–even if none of those things are actually there that year. 🙂

      Likewise Halloween is the rasp of shoes through autumn leaves, and small figures moving in the dusk, ringing doorbells with the treble of voices calling out ‘Trick or Treat!’, and candy corn. And I don’t even like candy corn! 🙂

      You’re entered in the contest!

    • I’ve been on a mini-vacation (much needed) with friends this weekend, so I’ve been slow to answer and participate, but I’ve poured myself a cup of coffee, cracked my knuckles, and have set down to read blog posts and comment!

      You’re entered in the contest!

  2. I love your costume idea! The compact is cute! I don’t dress up or go out on Halloween so have fun for me! Thanks so much for participating in the Halloween Blog Hop!
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

    • I’m very excited about the costume this year–today’s the day I give it a full dress rehearsal too! It’s silly, I know, because I don’t have any particular reason to dress up this year–especially not to the extent that I’ve worked on this costume, but I’m hoping to get to one of the major sci-fi cons next year, and then I’ll be set.

      Besides, PEGGY CARTER! It had to be done. 🙂 You’re entered in the contest!

  3. I could relate to much of your post. It is sad to lose the joys of childhood. I am reliving them now with my grandchildren. I think it is OK to have a second childhood at my age, possibly even expected.

    • I had an interesting conversation with one of my friends last night: she said that she used to write stories but that she quit when she graduated from high school. I think *most* of us put our creative selves behind when we think we need to ‘grow up’. I know I did, and it took me years to find my secret garden of creative energy again.

      But I think that behavior is learned–that life beats that idea into us. I think the responsibilities of being an adult drum spontaneity and imagination out of us. Yet those things must serve a purpose or we wouldn’t have so much of these traits as children. So I’m all for second, third, and forth childhoods! It’s never too late! 🙂

  4. I love your idea…i’m not that creative so around Nov 1 I’m usually saying ‘what a great idea you had, I wish I had thought of something that cool’ Oh well, I’m good at other stuff 🙂 Please count me in for the contest. Thank you
    chellebee66(at)gmail(dot)com

    • I know what you mean–normally I’m seeing what clever ideas my friends had and wondering why that didn’t occur to me! This year, I started waaaaaay early, which was a measure of how much I was looking forward to taking a little time off right now!

      You’re entered in the contest!

  5. Halloween is still one of my favorite holidays. It still has the same magic for me that it did as a kid. Christmas has lost a bit of it’s glow now that I have to worry about buying presents and wrapping presents and just dealing with all the little things.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    Jyl22075 at gmail dot com

    • It is a little sad how the holidays lose some of their shine once they become something else to fit into our busy schedules, isn’t it? I’ve done poorly by Christmas the last several years running and it’s made me feel quite the Scrooge! This year, perhaps I’ll make an extra effort–if only for my benefit!

      You’re entered in the contest!

  6. We dont go overboard on the decorations – some carved turnips, sweets to give out, the kids like to dress up but its all on the day rather than long in advance

    • The dress rehearsal today was amazing! Everything came together perfectly, so I can’t wait until Halloween now! And yes, my friend is simply awesome, isn’t she? 🙂

  7. We have neighbors who go the whole blow-up Halloween decorations route every year (though not quite to the same extent as their Christmas decorations….). To be honest, it seems a little extreme to me, but at least we’re not expected to keep up.

    The shoes and the compact are gorgeous! It’s lovely when fandom brings people together like this 🙂

  8. What a wonderful Idea. I bet you’re going to look fantastic (and unique) in your costume. I stopped dressing up about quite a while back and now that my kids are grown I don’t bother with decorations either. To each its own, right? Thanks for allowing us to Hope with you!

    taina1959@yahoo.com

    • I’ve had this trouble with Christmas for several years running now–no time or energy to bother decorating. No money to buy gifts. Just one more thing in my To Do list that I can’t get done.

      I realized that the holidays are what I bring to them–if I put less into them, I get less out of them. Sure, they might be another stressor in my life–but they can be a way of bringing a little joy and fun into my life as well.

      I think to a certain extent, my see-saw emotions regarding holidays comes from my mother’s all-or-nothing reaction to them–I’m still searching for the happy medium!

      But at least for now, I’m having a blast with Halloween this year! 🙂

  9. I’ve never really gotten into Halloween. When I was growing up it was just another day in my house. I do enjoy seeing the kids all dressed up though.
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

    • We certainly went through a long dry spell after we entered our teens–and truthfully, I rarely get Trick or Treaters anymore, which is why it fascinates me from a social aspect that people are decorating their homes more than ever!

      Got you down for the contest! Thanks!

  10. Halloween is still new to Norway and not really considered as a holiday here. We have something similar for Christmas; julebukk. It hs caught on, though, as both an excuse to dress up and party and as a spooky, fun night for the kids 🙂

    I loved reading about your childhood memories, Sarah! Fall is my favorite time of year, too, and you capture the mood of the season so well in your blog.

    I’m in love with your shoes and your lipstick and compact! That is one gorgeous shade of red!

    • Oh, that is cool–I love hearing about other countries and the similarities and differences in cultures. I find it fascinating that almost every culture has its equivalent of deep-frying batter balls and coating them in sugar. 🙂 What do you guys call doughnuts in Norway?

      I’ve returned home from my weekend trip to a 20 degree drop in temp and gloomy, blustery skies. A major storm is headed our way and they are talking significant snow on Tuesday! I might be getting some snow days here whether I want them or not–in which case I plan to hole up with hot chocolate and write to my little heart’s content! LET IT SNOW! 😉

      I love everything about the little details for the costume–and they were the final touches that really completed the outfit. What was funny was I dressed up this weekend at the hotel to let my friend tangotabby take pictures of the completed outfit. While I was waiting for her to come down from our room, I noted some young guys hanging out on the patio. When we walked past, they gradually moved themselves to our side of the building and watched our photo session–and the instant we were done, they all filed into the building behind me. I could feel their eyes upon me as I walked up the stairs to my room–very flattering on a small scale! *grins*

      • Heee!!!! Who can resist those gorgeous red lips??

        We call doughnuts for smultring in Norway. “Smult” is what we call the fat (lard, I think you call it, or maybe shortening??) it’s cooked in, and “ring” is, well, a ring….LOL

        We’ve had a few chaotic days here. The weather has been horrible! Chaos on the roads, lots of accidents etc. I have a new car that I’m not used to and I’m using studless tires for the first time. Eeeep! I think John would have been very impatient riding with me. I was NOT doing 200 miles an hour…LOL As much as I hate to admit it, it looks gorgeous here now. Snow, starry skies and a beautiful full moon 🙂 I’m perfectly happy indoors, though 🙂

        • “Smult” That’s fascinating! Yes, we’d call it either fat or shortening.

          Eeep! I’m sorry the weather is so bad where you are right now. I had studded snow tires once and I loved them, but unfortunately you can only use them a short time here and they really decrease your gas mileage, which is a problem when you drive as much as we do here in the US–everything is just so far away!

          I love your description of the night in Norway–how I’d love to see some pictures. Your towns are always lit so beautifully too!

          Stay safe and warm inside–it’s blustery and snowing lightly here, after effects of the hurricane. We’re far enough inland to not have been hit hard, though, thankfully! With any luck, we’ll keep power, though the wind is howling outside right now! 🙂

  11. When I was growing up, my mom was a very festive person. Our holiday parties started with Halloween. The party usually included a movie towards the end (probably to calm us down and get ready for the parents to come and take my friends home!
    *sigh* Those were the days.

    Great post 🙂
    Danita Minnis recently posted..Danita’s Halloween Blog Hop!My Profile

    • My mom seemed to be festive because it was expected–as soon as she felt relieved of the pressure, the parties and decorations stopped. I admit, I can see her point now myself as a person who is over-extended and has too little time. I have to remind myself that it’s the little things that make life more than mere survival. 🙂

      Your parents sound like wise people! I have you down for the contest, thanks for commenting!

  12. Always enjoy reading your posts. 🙂

    I have always lived in the country, so no trick or treaters at my house. 🙁 I still put out a few decorations, especially when my son was younger. We always go to my cousin’s house on Halloween. It is in a small town and they close down the street she lives on for trick or treaters. People in the neighborhood decorate their houses and we get to spend the night watching those that have dressed up (young and old). There have been some pretty cool costumes over the years. We always have lots of fun.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    lkbherring64(at)gmail(dot)com

    • Aw, thank you!

      I like watching people dress up in costume too–and in particular seeing the clever outfits some people come up with. Last year, a young guy dressed in a blazer with elbow patches and had covered it with campaign buttons. He had a tourniquet in his pocket and a syringe in his hand. I couldn’t guess what he was supposed to be, so I finally gave up and asked.

      “I’m a political junkie,” he said.

      TOO FUNNY! 🙂

  13. When you were describing fall… images were floating through my head, and I was like YES!! This is what fall is… I love the smell after a cool rain, and curling up in front of a fire!! Haloween used to be so pure and now it can be kind of sad. Like on Mean Girls where they say it’s an excuse to wear lingerie.. and it’s “not slutty” as long as you where animal ears… My favorite costume when I was younger was a cave woman.. My hair was down to my waist and my mom teased and teased until it was shoulder length.. I even had a real rawhide dog bone wrapped up in it…. It took me HOURS to comb the tangles out of my hair… but it was worth it because I loved my costume! I hop I can instill the true Halloween spirit into my son, because it is something that shouldn’t die out! Thank you for the stop on the blog hop!
    Maycee Majors

    • I think by making Halloween more of an adult holiday these days, we’ve taken some of the innocence away from it. I enjoy looking seductive and sexy as much as the next person, but I was a bit taken aback at some of the costumes I saw on teenagers this year–they would have been deemed risque on even a college student. And that’s just sad that these girls couldn’t find anything more compelling to dress as than the ‘sexy cop’.

      Your cave woman sounds awesome! I’m all for authenticity in costuming! And you’re right too, that it is a tradition we should try to pass on. 🙂

    • *grins*
      I hope good ideas!

      The anthology is a nice mix of stories–what I love best about it is that the stories are all novella length, so there’s plenty of time to get to know the characters and their backgrounds! 🙂

    • I’m afraid what with Hurricane Sandy, I haven’t been paying as much attention to the hop as I should, but thank you for stopping by!

    • The skull was just one of the impressive inflatable displays at this particular house! I wish I’d had the time to take more pictures that day. Thanks for dropping by–you’re entered in the contest now. 🙂

  14. Happy Halloween!! Thank you so much for the awesome hop and giveaway! 🙂 I love Halloween. Its my favorite holiday. I love the creepiness, the costumes, the candy, watching scary movies, etc. And the haunted houses are awesome! 😀
    shadowluvs2read(at)gmail(dot)com

    • Mine too, though Christmas Eve is a close second–for very different reasons though! 🙂 You’re entered in the contest!

  15. OMGosh! I had a tiger costume too! I think it was pj’s and my mom added a tail to it. I loved that costume! Later I wore it to bed and wouldn’t let my mom take the tail off….lol.

    I also dressed as Athena once….but actually as Athena the Greek goddess of wisdom. ;-D

    And, everytime I read “Walk like Beckett” I keep thinking of Carson Beckett from Stargate Atlantis! LOL Hmm…how does he actually walk? ;-P

    I don’t want to put my email in my comment as I get enough spam as it is…but if I’m lucky enough to win, I’ll get it to you somehow. Maybe through twitter in a PM? Or through LJ in a PM. ;-{D

    • I completely understand about not wanting to leave your email–if you win, we’ll figure something out!

      I confess, the first time I read the words “Walk like Beckett” I had a head-scratching moment myself! But then I got it!

      Oh, I loved my tiger suit too–I think I cried when I could no longer fit in it. I had a blast dressing like Peggy Carter today, though–got a lot of nice compliments!

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