September 3, 2020: A Fine Line Between Spooky and Samhainic

Halloween Die-ary #2

Early September is the weirdest part of the long Halloween Season. The calendar flips, I jump in with both feet and a changed attitude toward life, and then September 2, September 3, September 4 happen, and—especially if they’re weekdays with the day spent at work—I wonder, what should I be doing to celebrate? Like, there’s stuff I definitely want to do, certain special movies and foods and activities I’ve been looking forward to all year, but should I run through those already or save them for deeper into the season? Or a weekend? Also, is it hotter than yesterday? And am I really celebrating if my decorations aren’t up?

And then sometimes I decide, tonight’s not a Halloween night. I’m not going to force it. And as much as I want to watch The Scream Team on Disney+, I want to be in the right mindset and make more an event out of it when I do. So instead of contriving Halloween that evening, I work on my horror novel. Practice my Cursed Objects presentation. Read a few chapters of a spooky book. Watch an episode of The X-Files. All while surrounded by year-round items that include plastic skeletons and horror movie posters and toy monsters.

Wait. Did I just celebrate a Halloween night on accident? Because if so, that means I celebrate Halloween year-round. But I know I don’t.

It’s a fine line between spooky and Halloweeny, sure. But what is that line?

1. The Color Orange. Show me your black walls with your bat sconces and skulls set just so-so on your coffin-shaped bookshelves, and I’ll just think you’re ooky. Death imagery is an aesthetic all its own. You can be into it and hate Halloween. Kind of like all the Big Bads in Buffy. Conversely, you can love all the orange—the pumpkins and leaves and candy corn—and hate horror movies and visits to graveyards.

2. Ephemeral Decorations. If your creepy decorations are made of paper and cheap plastic that only last a season or few, that might be Halloween. As ephemeral as a chilly nights. As harvest. As a rotting pumpkin or decaying corn maze. It’s the difference between an elegant stone statue of a raven, and a cardboard banner of ravens that spell out the word Halloween. Of course, these days, Halloween decorations are becoming more elaborate and more permanent-seeming, to the point that buying one can feel too much like a commitment. I regularly find myself with something that’s too nice to store in a box for ten months out of the year, but not something I want to adjust my permanent d├ęcor around.

3. Everybody Else. You know people who celebrate Halloween year-round (I mean, like in a Point 1 and 2 kind of way)? They still get excited come Fall and October. Why? Weather change, sure, but that’s not automatic for everyone in the country. It’s really because now everybody else is celebrating too. It’s one thing to carve a jack-o-lantern. It’s another thing to carve one with friends who aren’t into spooky stuff usually. Or to see a primetime commercial with Universal Monsters as spokescreatures. Or an inflatable ghoul on your neighbor’s lawn.

Watching a spooky movie is watching a spooky movie. Reading a horror novel is reading a horror novel. Hanging a painting of a skull is hanging a painting of a skull. But doing any of that surrounded by glowing orange jack-o-lanterns or temporary cotton spiderwebs or with people who normally wouldn’t do so, that makes it Halloween. Maybe.