This Is Halloween: Meave Gallagher on ghostly gourds, terrifying towns, eerie ELS students, chilling costumes, weird Witch Dances, and a devilish dinosaur.
My best Halloween costume was in grade school. I must have been eight or nine, and my dad helped me turn a cardboard box into a television set. With aluminum-foil rabbit-ear antennae on a headband and a pillowcase for candy, I was good to go. Halloween in these suburban United States: so silly, so fun, so obvious. This year, let’s look at the celebration from a new angle.
A little mood music, please.
That song’s a little creepier in German, isn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s about the only creepy thing about Halloween in Germany. I lived through two October 31sts, and while people know about the day’s significance in the U.S., it really hasn’t taken hold the way, say, Valentine’s Day has. Like other European countries, Germany’s big costume time is called Karneval, and it happens around the same time as the annual Mardi Gras celebrations.
Wiccans, on the other hand, do not take anything related to Samhain lightly, and they certainly don’t wear costumes. This brief educational video ought to clear up some Samhain mysteries for you.
Turns out modern-day witches aren’t scary at all; they like fall colors and cutesy fonts and cartoon pumpkins just like my Episcopalian aunt.
I don’t generally believe in ghosts, but situationally, it’s fun to let yourself get scared. Thanks to the gold rush, California has a number of ghost towns, and they are weird places. My family went to Bodie during one long summer vacation, and Bodie is one eerie place. The whole place is so remarkably well preservedthere are still sheets on a bed!that you can easily imagine the residents coming back to reclaim their homes and possessions and lives. Dun dun dun.
Oh look, it’s an English as a Second Language class celebrating their first authentic Halloween. They’ve even got a frustratingly dull Pumpkin Cutter to work on those Jack O’Lanterns. Kids, I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve sat in a room full of German as a Second Language students, muddling along in weird grammar, feeling awkward, and I was in street clothes. In comparison, you all are in your rubber masks and doing wonderfully. Is this how you imagined Halloween?
In San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, the Halloween party has gotten too big and crazy for the city to handle, so this year officials have told everyone to stay away. This means a much lower concentration of men in drag, which is a tragedy; the ESL kids might’ve had a little more fun if they realized that Halloween for grownups is less pumpkin-carving and more drunken revelry.
On the other hand, witch-themed dancing can be one of the more frightening things you’ve ever seen. Expressionist dancers are not kidding around.
Purim is that most rare of Jewish holidaysa happy one where no one was killed because of disguises and mistaken identities. Traditionally, children wore costumes of the Purim story’s hero and heroine, Mordecai and Esther, but that doesn’t limit your choices. Here, a small boy is forced to show off his Purim costume over and over until he nearly drops; such is the plight of the adorable.