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Halloween in a Nutshell

November 1, 2011 by · No comments

Photo: Curtis Lenihan

People from a built environment travel into a relatively natural environment, return with a physical embodiment of that environment, and display it as part of their built environment. We can see here a dichotomy of rural and urban, natural and built, and, ultimately, of nature versus culture. Bringing the pumpkins and the corn back into the city represents a movement to bring nature into, and display it as part of, culture. The tasteful, aesthetic arranging and displaying of these fruits and vegetables is in itself a cultural act. Usually, though, a cultural act is performed upon the vegetable: it is carved into a jack-o’-lantern, given an identity, and is thus connected to the other world and the supernatural. The jack-o’-lantern, as we have seen, is one of a number of marginal creatures associated with death and the underworld that inhabit All Hallows, and so we have another transformation: the nature versus culture dichotomy, defined and eased by the bringing of the pumpkin to the built environment, becomes a life versus death dichotomy by virtue of transforming the pumpkin into a man-made object that represents the world of spirits. Nature versus culture is made to stand also for life versus death.
Jack Santino, “Halloween in America”

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

AnnMarie Rudin – a student of German and Statistics at Canisius College, Buffalo, talks about her Halloween experiences

Photo: AnnMarie Rudin

AnnMarie: When I hear Halloween Party Games I immediately think about bobbing for apples, a game that I think many if not most Americans know about, but also a game that I have never played! When I was in middle school, I would host Halloween parties and invite my neighbors and my classmates. I would always have bowls of cold, cooked spaghetti mixed in with jello and peeled green grapes with small prizes in them. There should be towels over the bowls so my guests would have to reach in blindly and feel around the slippery and slimy mess to find a prize.

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

AnnMarie: Also, carving pumpkins is a big Halloween tradition, especially in my household. As a family, we would go pumpkin picking, and then lay out newspapers on the kitchen floor. It was always fun for me to scoop out the innards and then create a scary or goofy face or design into the pumpkin. Roasting pumpkin seeds is also a tradition. We’d clean out the seeds, then bake them with butter and salt and enjoy them while carving.

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

AnnMarie: This also seems to be long outdated due to blow-up yard decorations, but when I was younger, it was easy to come by these black and orange garbage bags that were designed to look like jack o lanterns. My brother and I would rake up leaves to fill the bags, and then set them in our yard as decorations. The blow-ups are now very popular, as well as other yard decorations. Fake tombstones, faux spider webs, scarcrows, strobe lights…and lots more! The weeks leading up to Halloween many houses in my neighborhood always had many such decorations.

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

AnnMarie: That being said, there were also haunted houses. A local nursery always had a haunted house, and even neighbors would arrange walk-throughs on their lawns. Halloween used to be equated with scary scarecrows.
When my German exchange student was living with me, we carved pupmkins together, and she said she had never done that before. Also, she found the decorations a bit much. She laughed, and said that you would never see anythinglike this in Germany, at least, not where she comes from (Zülpich).

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

AnnMarie: I ALWAYS celebrated Halloween as a child! It was always so much fun to plan a Halloween costume (usually one year in advance!), dress up, have Halloween parties in school, and of course, go trick-or-treating. My brother and I sometimes would coordinate costumes and go together as something. We would know which houses had the best candy, and we often carried more than one bag, just to get more! When you’re little, kids carry plastic pumpkins or ghosts to collect candy. Once you feel that you are “too old” for that, pillow cases were the “more mature” option. It’s funny to me to think back on that.

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

AnnMarie: Unfortunately, there were always so many rumors and myths surrounding Halloween. Once especially was that the candy could be poisoned or there could be razor blades hidden in the candy bars. My mother always asked us not to eat any candy until we brought it home and could inspect it for holes or openings. Any candies that could be opened and resealed were immediately thrown out.

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

Photo: Jasmina Tacheva

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