Tonight is Halloween. My brothers and I always loved Halloween; primarily because we loved costumes. The candy wasn't too shabby either.
In thinking about Halloween, two things came to mind today. The first is that Halloween decorations have become very high-tech and abundant.
In my day you had your black cats, bats, and pumpkins in the windows. Some industrious souls had a scarecrow sitting on the front porch or a ghost hanging from a tree. These were the same folks who would take out their standard porch light and put in a blue one. That was always cool. Today Halloween decorations are definitely over the top. I check them out just for fun, even though I don't have kids young enough to do the trick-or-treat thing anymore. There are witches and ghouls that are life size and flail about, cackle, moan, or generally threaten you when you come within reach of the sensors that activate them. There are skeletons that rattle their bones and nasty looking pirates who threaten you with a one-way trip to Davy Jones' locker. I even found a raven perched on a branch that intoned, "nevermore!" in an appropriately spooky baritone voice. I love all these clever decorations, but I wonder if your average 4 year-old might find them somewhat frightening in front of every house in the neighborhood.
The only decorations I really don't like are the blow-up plastic kind that look like some tacky advertisement for a used car dealership. It isn't that I don't appreciate the ingenuity that goes into their design and the use of air to create movement, I just think that they look stupid.
The other aspect of Halloween that occurred to me is that there is not a real repertoire of Halloween music. There is, of course, the famous opening bars of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in G minor, which has become the official theme of all things gothic and spooky, but since Halloween didn't really exist back when he wrote it, we have to considered it borrowed for the occasion rather than created for it.
There is, of course, the silly "Monster Mash" song that Boris Karloff agreed to do for unfathomable reasons toward the end of his life, thereby tainting forever what might have been considered a distinguished career. Other than those two pieces of music, I can't think of any music to speak of written specifically for Halloween.
This seems kind of unfair, if you think about it. Christmas has tons of music, both secular and non-secular. There are magnificent choral pieces and carols in numerous genres and just as many languages. Easter has lots of songs; ranging from the sublime, like Handel's Messiah, to charming little ditties about Easter Bonnets. Valentine's Day has songs - every gooey love song ever written. There is even the song, My Funny Valentine, which does not appear to have anything to do with Valentine's Day whatsoever. The Fourth of July has plenty of music, which involves thrilling military bands and tunes that make you want to march and wave flags. Even New Year's has an official theme song that is played without fail each year at midnight. All things considered, Halloween can definitely be considered the read-headed step-child of holidays when it comes to music. That standard, whoooo, oooo, ooo… stuff doesn't count, either. It is more attitude than
music. Kind of like Rap.
I kind of miss Halloween now that my last child is going to parties rather than the trick-or-treat gig. I know I complained about having to walk them all over town in the freezing cold while I was doing it, but it was one of the more enjoyable aspects of child-rearing when it is all said and done. The enthusiasm of children having fun is contagious and the memories of various Halloween excursions can always bring me a mental smile.
The variety and complexity of décor and accessories for all holidays has become overwhelming in the modern world. My mother had to hunt around in numerous gift and import shops for really beautiful and unusual Christmas ornaments when I was young. Now, you can find them everywhere and in abundance; some of them startlingly beautiful despite being mass-produced. Now you can have color coordinated décor and theme-oriented décor, and even big, plastic blow-up Santas that pop out of chimneys and wave at you. When I was a kid, just a very few houses had lawns blazing with lights and populated with numerous seasonal-appropriate figures. Now they are everywhere. I wonder sometimes if in the end, any of it makes the experience any more intense or wondrous. I don't think so, because it is the memories that stay with you forever and those memories are more about the sense of the experience rather than the physical details. Somehow, I don't really think that people will take a walk in the first snowfall of a Christmas season with snowflakes as big as marbles, smell the crisp, clean air and the faint trace of wood smoke, and be overcome with the poignant memories of a giant blow-up Santa waving at them from a plastic chimney on the front lawn.