Friday, October 25, 2013's not just for Kids and Martha Stewart Anymore

Martha Stewart as 'Queen of the Wild Things'
Am I the only one noticing a proliferation of Halloweeniana in my neighborhood? More houses than ever before shine with strings of orange "Christmas" lights. Cottony white blobs drip from bushes; rubber spiders hang over the street from crimson maples. Plastic tombstones sprout from lawns, set off by foam cuffed arms with clutching hands reaching desperately upward.  The real arachnids of autumn are outdone by super-sized, LED-illuminated webs pasted on front doors.

The other night, I accompanied my husband as he lectured at the fund-raiser for a local politician at a lakeside mansion. The lane to the home flickered with eerie illuminaria; a large 3-D ghoul welcomed us, chalky face, long white hair and arms with skeletal bony fingers that caught the clothes of those passing within. The entry danced with the light from blinking vignettes of haunted houses, replete with flying bats, fluttering ghosts, and sound effects of screaming and slamming doors. Piles of pumpkins graced tables, some gilded, others warty, some sparkling with sequins. A metal cut-out of an arched-spined, hissing black cat stared, frozen on the fireplace mantel.

Free party invitation from Crate and Barrel

Martha Stewart has for years embraced Halloween as her opportunity for expression, and scores of other purveyors recently joined the party. Pottery Barn tells you how to throw a Halloween soiree, with a recipe for "ghoul-a-tinis," while Crate and Barrel has embraced the Day of the Dead (actually November 1) with black skull candles ($4.95 for three) and free party invitations. Annual special issues of Martha Stewart's magazine offer pumpkin-carving designs, table-scaping ideas and costume-making innovations. Pop-up stores dot malls as summer ends, offering costumes for all, from the adorable to the skanky.

Every year, my husband and I enjoy "the Great Halloween Debate" on his radio show. I'm "for" and he's "against," saying it teaches kids to beg, inspires vandalism, and turns focus to death. I counter that it's all voluntary and great fun; that costumes bring imagination and creativity, and holiday purchases fire our economy. We'll once again enter our friendly on-air spar next Thursday. Every year I win.

Martha Stewart in her cat costume
The National Retail Federation projects a slightly smaller turnout this year--158 million participants, down from last year's all-time high of 170 million, due to "cooler weather." But the organization expects "far from a bust" as consumers will happily part with $6.9 billion for costumes, candy and accoutrements.

I think retailers will be pleasantly surprised, judging from the way my neighborhood looked even weeks before the spooky night. Ghoulish Scrooges will simply turn off their porch lights, while the rest of us smile as children fill our doorways with their excited one-word exclamations: "Trickertreeeet!"


  1. I'm sorry, I HATE Halloween. I used to think it was all fun and games, and actually when I was a kid it was. Then I had children and tried to take them trick or treating only to have MEN jump out from the bushes to scare a three year old? Now, I can't walk into Walgreen's or Mc Donald's without coming face to face with skeletons and all manner of ghoulish ghouls, not to mention that everything needs to be SERIOUSLY dusted. We tried to hand out treats but car loads of teenagers took everything. We can't stay home and NOT hand out treats because, light or no light, car loads of strangers will show up at your door. My son wants to "get into the spirit" and scare all the little children. We finally settled on a tradition: around 6:30 on Halloween night, we all head out to a nice restaurant for a peaceful dinner. Nothing too kid friendly or everyone's screaming. No, a VERY nice restaurant is the place to be on Halloween night: its deserted!! And then, my favorite time of the year comes when all the candy goes on sale, all the scary "decor" disappears and we can move on to the REAL holidays :)

  2. Do you think some of the decoration mania for Halloween is related to the lessening of decorations for Christmas. I've noticed fewer and fewer homes doing big Christmas displays or lights. Is it "cool" to celebrate Halloween and politically incorrect to be Christian?