I came across this photo series the other day when someone posted it on Facebook:
It’s a series of vintage Halloween photos from presumably the Depression-era (or thereabouts). All of the costumes are home-spun and pretty damn creepy looking. The folky and agrarian settings of the pictures really make me think of the “true meaning” of Halloween. Sometimes it’s hard to think about the holiday’s deeper roots amidst the plastic Chinese-made costumes of mass-marketed superheroes and fun-sized Snickers bars, but I try to at least take note of the significance of the day one way or another. Too many of our holidays have been watered down to the point where they don’t really mean much besides what you consume that day. Come on, “Turkey Day”, for fuck’s sake???
Anyways, in the British Isles Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, whatever) more or less marked the end of the growing season and about the midpoint between the autumn equinox and winter solstice, so roughly the beginning of the point of the year where nights are longer than the day. It was like a day that straddles both life and death and a lot of folklore and traditions sprung up around this idea. We could go on and on about the roots of the holiday, but I won’t. It is very interesting though.
I always like to take note of the seasonal significance of the day to our ancestors, even if these things don’t really matter as much to us today as they did then. It’s nice to live in a place where you can observe the changes of the season and how life seems to hit a lull about now. Birds migrate, leaves fall, plants die back, animals hibernate, etc.
Culturally, as someone of almost entirely descended from the British Isles as well as mostly rural America, I really think of the day as part of my personal cultural legacy as the holiday began across the pond and really caught on in America when it was brought over. It’s distinctly British/Celtic, yet very American. I think the Americana/Celtic aspect of Halloween is very cool and something that deserves a closer look.
I always try to make a point to eat some of the foods that (in my head) would’ve been consumed hundreds of years ago during a seasonal feast. Usually that’s something like lamb, roasted root vegetables or a Welsh cawl stew (which is lamb and root vegetables) and since I’m a sucker for pumpkin stuff, maybe pumpkin pie. This year I’m thinking it’s going to be roasted goat leg, braised leeks and potatoes.
I have to work on Halloween, but I’ll probably celebrate tonight by taking the time to sit down and watch a good horror movie after I take my dogs out for the midnight stroll. I don’t make enough time to sit still and watch TV much anymore, so that is a special treat sometimes. I’m not sure what yet, but I really like the classics….
So yeah, I enjoy fun-sized candy bars and girls in revealing costumes as much as anyone, but I also like the traditional folky aspect of the holiday too. I had a pretty good time with all the Halloween-related festivities this weekend: A Descendents cover band, a band doing Misfits karaoke on Friday and then a band doing a Ramones set in costumes and one doing the Misfits on Saturday. I never really got into the Misfits, but I’ll definitely agree that they’re a great Halloween band. Oh yeah, and the girl I’ve been seeing in the cheerleader outfit was pretty nice too.