Halloween is probably my favorite holiday. It has been since I was a kid.
My love for the scariest holiday is probably because my mother went all-in for Halloween when I was young, especially when it came to costumes. She was insistent on making mine, because the store-bought ones just wouldn’t do. These days, you can go to a Spirit Halloween store, Party City or Walmart and find a pretty decently made costume. This was back when the store-bought costumes for kids consisted of a jumpsuit with the consistency of a cheap garbage bag with places for your arms and legs, and a scratchy plastic mask with a string like a happy birthday hat that would break by the third time you lifted it up to make sure you could safely cross the street while trick-or-treating.
I still fondly remember her making an Oscar the Grouch costume for me with green fur from the fabric store and a trash can made from light blue posterboard with lines drawn on it in black marker and elastic straps stapled to it to hold it up. I won first place in the kindergarten costume parade that year. Later, it was homemade Batman and Ninja Turtle costumes. Those were equally awesome.
Mom may have passed down her love of Halloween, but not her sewing abilities. My kids have to rely on the store-bought costume (which are much better, albeit more expensive, these days), but the kiddos desire to embrace the entire holiday — and not just the free candy — makes my heart happy, after years of failing miserably to convince my wife it’s fun to get dressed up, then scare the bejesus out of trick-or-treaters.
One of my favorite things about Halloween is decorating the house. This is actually probably my favorite thing about Christmas too. Christmas Day is great and all, but I take a real joy in decorating the house with old school C9 lights, wrapping the columns on the front porch with red ribbon to make them look like candy canes, and filling the front yard with tinsel Santas, snowmen, reindeer and presents. Doing so seems to extend the holiday season and, for me anyway, really makes me feel the spirit of the holiday.
Halloween is the only other holiday where you can really do this. Only instead of tinsel Santas and red ribbons, styrofoam grave stones, skeletal arms coming out of the ground and spooky strobe lights and sounds effects.
A few years ago, former Times reporter Jacob deNobel, himself a Halloween enthusiast, passed along his strategy for decorating: A little bit of fake spider webs go a long way, and splurge on one nice new decoration each year. To my wallet’s detriment, I’ve done that, adding a fog machine, an animatronic pumpkin monster and, this year, a window projector. I’m still on the first bag of fake spider webs and can probably get another year out of it.
This year, though, I’ve been a bit troubled by how quickly the Christmas retail monster has not only snuck up on Halloween, in many stores it has completely overtaken it.
While shopping at a Lowe’s store in Baltimore County on Oct. 15, I decided to take a look at the Halloween decorations. They were already limited to a clearance section of projectors on an end cap, and a shelf of some pretty lame decorations. At Big Lots in Westminster earlier this week, the Halloween decorations were limited to a display in between aisles. The Target store in Carroll County had a few aisles still dedicated to Halloween in the back corner of the store a little over a week ago, but at all three stores, Christmas decorations had long taken over the seasonal aisles in a big way. (Kudos to the Eldersburg Walmart, which still had Halloween front-and-center when I stopped in last week.)
“The Christmas Creep” is a term that is used in the retail industry to describe how holiday merchandise continues to be introduced earlier and earlier each year, sometimes as soon as the fourth quarter begins on Oct. 1, as stores look to close the year with a bang. I get it, but I was taken aback this year how quickly this year it pushed Halloween to the wayside. After all, the National Retail Federation survey indicated Halloween spending to be approximately $9 billion for the second straight year. Of course, I guess that pales in comparison to the roughly $720 billion the NRF is predicting for holiday spending in November and December.
Hmm… on the other hand, “The Christmas Creep” sounds like it could be a pretty frightening Halloween costume next year. I wonder if my mom could sew it for me?