Friday, October 29, 2004


It’s Halloween weekend and that means today is the day that kids, and many adults, get dressed up in costume for school and for Halloween parties. This morning when I took the trash out I paused to look through the chain link fence at the playground next door. The kids were more squealy than usual because it’s really fun to be out in public wearing a costume! I saw butterflies and ballerinas, firemen and baseball players, and some kid that was wearing a square, bulky cardboard contraption that will inevitably make this a really long day for him before it falls apart completely.

Adults like to dress up for Halloween too. I have a friend, R. who would dress up as woman every year. He’s an architect who is married and straight, but he sure makes a purty girl. His best female rendition ever was when he came as a stewardess complete with jaunty cap and rolley bag. No matter what kind of girl he dresses as he's really into the garter belt action. I've got lots of pictures of R. flashing his various garter belts. He BUYS these things! Consequently anytime I see a guy dressed up as a girl I think that he’s probably a closeted transvestite enjoying his one night of “free” girl time.

Halloween has always been the corner I turn into fall. It's true, the actual first day of autumn was back on September 21, but living in California, summer doesn’t seem to really be over until Halloween rolls up on us. Historically Halloween is based on a pagan celebration of the end of the summer and the beginning of the dark nights. They also believed that loved ones who had died would come back for the bonfire and a last meal with them on this night and advise them. A sort of last day of summer/farewell bonfire that was called Samhein.

Is it an accident that we turn our clocks back around Halloween, plunging ourselves into darkness at 4:30 in the afternoon? Or are we just acting on a dim pagan memory?

The Catholic church celebrates All Souls day November 2nd, unless that falls on a Sunday and then it’s the 3rd, and I do believe this is where the “ghost” stories come in – the belief being that everyone who died the year before, who still have a little sin on them are barred from the “beatific vision”, which I think means heaven, and they’re stuck in purgatory, which even I know is a horrible and scary place (not so very different than this week before the election) and they need a little help from the folks back in the land of the living via prayers. The night before All Souls Day is All Hallows Eve. Get it? All Hallows Eve! Halloween! Say it with me, "Ohhhhhhhh!"

I love how Mexican culture has kept a little pagan flavor in their celebration of All Souls Day, or Day of the Dead. They honor their dead loved ones by heading out to the cemetery with flowers and a feast and have a party to remember and reflect on those who are no longer with them. They also build altars or shrines in their homes to commemorate that person. People in Mexico have been doing this since 1800 B.C. I love to go out to East L.A., to Self Help Graphics where they have the coolest Dias de los Muertos festival. The altars are amazing works of art and the food is off the hook.

Because I am not Catholic or Mexican I grew up thinking of Halloween as the grand night of candy! And dress up!! When I was a kid I liked the candy yes, but more than that I loved the opportunity to dress up. An opportunity to creatively express my inner fantasies in costume. I loved being a ballerina, a queen (never a princess), a cowgirl, a flamenco dancer – pretty much anything that called for fabulous dresses and lots of make up. These were the years when mom was a total buzz kill and made me wear a sweater over my tutu so I didn’t catch a cold. When I got a little older it was all about high heels and sexy outfits and lots of make up. Tomorrow night I’m going to a Halloween party and I haven’t got a costume. I went here for some ideas, and Jenna’s liver is looking like it would be easy and still allow me to be warm and comfortable, my current priorities when it comes to costume consideration.

Oh my God! I'm pretty sure that means I’m old!! That’s scary.

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