First a Scent, then a Season

September 27, 2011 — We need to talk. I, uh, kind of have a confession to make. You see, I cheated on Halloween this year.

Normally, I’m semi-adamant about holding off on flirting with the Halloween season until at least after Labor Day and more ideally until both the weather and Summer’s corpse get cold. I’m also pretty hypocritical since my stance on the season is still “start celebrating early, just not too early.” However, this year, on August 6, I broke pretty much everybody’s rules by attending a Halloween party.

Well, actually, it was a marketing event that all the signage called a party.

Dubbed the Yankee Candle After-Life Party (link goes to a video), the event was held in Yankee Candle stores all over the country, ostensibly as a preview of their new Halloween-themed wares. Turns out, according to one fairy-costumed staff member that I talked to during the event, it was less a preview and more of a kicking off of the season since the stock would stay out from that point until the next holiday on the calendar usurped it in a bloody coup.

For the After-Life Party, Yankee didn’t just arrange inventory, hang up a sale sign with a macabre pun spelled out in dripping letters, and call it a day at the mall. My local Yankee Candle, at least, had half a dozen or more staff in full-on costumes as everything from witches to black cats to a guy in a ship captain’s hat whom I’m only just now realizing might have been the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island.

They had a food sampling table, were giving away sample jars of patchouli-scented Witches Brew candles with every purchase, and had a raffle for a gift basket in which you entered by having your picture taken in a cardboard cutout of spooky characters.

Of course, regardless of the fiendfare, it was still all about the merch.

And they seem to have a lot of it this year. Practically, it’s all scented candles and candle accessories like decorative holders and whatnot...basically everything you could possibly want to risk burning your house down with just to make the air smell pretty.

Thematically, though, they went in two different directions. They had classically macabre stuff involving skulls and ravens and cauldrons and spider webs. Then they had a large series of their signature ceramic Boney Bunch candle holders.

The Boney Bunch is a line of cartoonish skeletons with eyeballs and goofy grins dressed in various costumes that change each year. This season those costumes included a chainsaw murderer (I assume, the character looked like a nice guy, but lumberjacks aren’t exactly Halloween staples), a grim reaper with a clock that read, “Time’s Up!” a decapitated farmer with a pitch fork, another decapitated character bobbing for apples—and his own head—black-suited Santa Clauses, and more that I can’t remember or can’t suss out from the pictures because many of the images turned out blurry since we were taking them at the speed of embarrassment.

A lot of the stuff was pretty tempting to buy, except there’s so many Boney Bunch pieces that you run into the danger of collecting the expensive suckers instead of just picking up a few new Halloween decorations in which to burn pumpkin-scented wax.

Of course, that’s not the reason we didn’t pick any up while we were there. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to buy anything Halloween in early August even if, thanks to industrial air conditioning, lack of windows, and the After-Life Party ambiance, we were certainly able to fool ourselves into thinking it was Halloween for a few glorious minutes…until we stepped back out into the hot August sun, with the accompanying feelings of next-morning regret at what we’d done.

Like the eventual East Coast megalopolis
and the next supercontinent Pangaea Ultima,
all holidays will end up as one giant,
conglomerated, year-round celebration.

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