What does Halloween mean to me? This is a great question considering I spend 364 days a year thinking about the Halloween holiday. When I started to think about this I realized that it's been awhile since I reflected on why this is such an important part of my life. It's not a simple answer such as "I like to be scared." Of course I like being scared. I don't know many fans of Halloween that don't. For me the scares are just a part of something much bigger. It's a time of memories of when everything seemed perfect.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, I have been fortunate to experience the change of the seasons. Despite the Fall being the decline of living things as we near Winter, I never feel more alive when taking a walk in late September or early October. That's when you feel that first chill in the air brought in by a strong wind that has a specific smell that I can only describe as "Fall." At 42 years old I still look forward to this experience and use it as a kick off to celebrate Halloween.
Halloween as a child shaped me as an adult. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom taking me to a local store to pick out my Halloween costume. When I was very young my parents were working hard to build a business they started. We weren't poor but we also had to be careful with what we spent. But my mom recognized how much I loved Halloween and she always let me pick out whatever costume I wanted no matter what the cost and made sure I had all of the accessories needed to make it the best costume ever. As we got closer to Halloween we would go to a local farm to pick out a pumpkin. Once back the house my dad would cut open the top. My job was to scoop out the guts and separate the seeds. After this was done my mom would begin roasting the seeds as my dad and I would figure out the design for carving our pumpkin. Once the decision was made he would add the drawing to his papers with all of the designs we had done in years past. To this day he still brings out these papers each year and adds new designs when one is created. On another night in October my Mom and I would get the Halloween decorations out and put them up. My favorite part was hanging a cardboard skeleton on the front door. By the time I was in High School it had been fixed with tape so many times it look more like a mummy than a skeleton. Another highlight would be a Friday night with my dad at the local haunted house run by the Jaycees. I was so scared sometimes that I would want to run out of there but I always acted tough because I didn't want my dad to think I was a wimp. Of course as much fun as all of this was the only thing I could think of was Halloween night. I had a group of friends that I trick or treated with each year and we had a neighborhood that yielded more candy than a human being should have in a lifetime. Once the sun went down the streets would fill with hundreds of children. I loved watching everyone else and seeing their costumes. The chill in the air and the smell of Fall always seemed to make sure it was part of our night, adding to the pleasure. Our parents let us run free, no supervision. We lived in an area where fear was unknown and trust was unquestioned. Something I miss in the same neighborhoods today. We didn't have a specific time we had to be home. My friends and I would usually be the last ones on the streets. It was a mix of our desire for the night to never end and our greed for more candy that caused us to ignore the fatigue of hours of walking the hills of Pittsburgh.
Once home I would hand over my candy to my mom for inspection and to save me from being a total pig. While she put the candy away my dad and I would sit down in front of the TV and bond watching horror films. Funny thing is he doesn't like these films but he knew they made me happy. This is where my love of horror began. My most vivid memory of Halloween movie viewing with my dad was the night we watched "Night of the Living Dead" and "Halloween." My young mind was blown and I couldn't get enough of horror films.
To this day I credit my mom and dad for my love of horror. Despite it not being their thing they provided an environment of happiness that allowed me to discover horror and as I needed to have it in my life year round they provided me the means to see the films, read the magazines and they never judged me, despite my dad having a problem with the poster of "that burned freak" on my wall. My mom would go to the video store the morning of a new release of the latest must see film and rent it while my friends and I were at school. She did this because she knew how devastated we would be if we had to wait even a day after it was released to rent the tape.
Today I get to live a horror lifestyle for the most part. I am a co-promoter of a horror convention, I helped re-open an old movie theater and get to often feature horror films, I met my girlfriend because of horror and my best friends are people I've met through horror. All of this is a result of great Halloween experiences and a great family. So the short answer to "What does Halloween mean to me" is Family.
13 days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. 13 days 'til Halloween. Silver Shamrock!