Homemade Halloween: The Costume We Made, the Custom We Shared

Homemade Halloween: The Costume We Made, the Custom We Shared October 11, 2019

Halloween, whatever it was or has become, was delightful when I was a boy. We dressed up, knocked on doors of neighbors we knew, and got candy. Some of the candy was good, actual Snickers bars, some was not so good, the unwrapped kind.

Mom threw away the unwrapped stuff out of vague fears of poison, razor blades, or some such. It was in the newspaper, a long form news source in hard copy no more reliable than Twitter that existed back then, that unwrapped candy did something bad someplace to somebody. The unwrapped candy, a bit furry by the time it reached home, was never any good in any case.

No loss.

I have often suspected kids planted the stories of dangerous unwrapped candy to eliminate the stuff.

Mom worked hard to make our costumes and these were often based on the stories that fascinated us. One year was especially excellent as I had fallen in love with the Frank Baum Oz books, particularly the character of the Scarecrow. I was frustrated that everyone thought of Oz as the movie, good as far as it went, but not nearly as wonderful as the book. The changes from the book to the movie, the slippers were silver not ruby, irritated little me and I wanted to dress up for Halloween as the Scarecrow in the original illustrations, not as the movie character.

This was a challenge. Mom accepted it. Daniel would go as the Cowardly Lion and with the help of Granny’s sewing machine we achieved our goal. For one glorious night, we were in Oz. Thanks, Mom.

Another year, I made an error. There were store bought costumes and surely they were better. The packaging was better and the ads were endless. We got a costume (for money!) of Frankenstein’s monster, the mask glowed in the dark, but sadly the “suit” was horrible: cheap looking, ill fitting, with “Frankenstein” printed on it. This was factually wrong and inauthentic. Mom, of course, saved the day by working up (at the last moment) a better costume, using the mask, and Halloween was saved.

We had larks and I learned that the costumes we created were better.  Somebody, someplace, changed all this, sometimes for the better (grownups get to have some larks!), often for the worse, and a whole group of somebodies began to worry about what it all Might Mean. We had meant to dress up, get candy, and have fun. Nothing awful occurred to us until the seriously worried taught us to worry about their unserious urban legends.

Even then we mostly ignored the portentous and kept having fun, just as I did with my own children, and as I hope to do with my grandchildren. As children of the Creator, we made our customs and shame to he who thinks evil of it. After all, the costumes Mom made were marvelous and the customs made memories on those glorious Halloweens.

Did our costumes resemble those of other people in other times who meant other things by them?


Most words we use meant something else in other contexts, with other cultures, long ago. I mean to go on using those words as we use them now and not let someone suggest that Friday cannot be good for a Christian, because once it was named for a pagan god.

I refuse to let marketers force me to buy costumes and adopt customs that give them custom, reducing us to consumers instead of creators. They sell us cheap crap and we can do better this glorious Halloween.

So we shall watch some Charlie Brown, carve a pumpkin, read our Bram Stoker, and quaff some ale. We will recollect absent friends and all the saints. God save our Halloween, home made.

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