I’ve never had a Halloween without carving a pumpkin, not that I can remember. Even in the Dead Years of late teenhood, when you can no longer trick or treat and aren’t yet of partying age, I made time to carve a jack o lantern. Sometimes, my final act at the end of a Halloween night was to go out in the street and smash my own pumpkin. (Smashing your own pumpkin: cool; smashing somebody else’s pumpkin: dastardly.) I grew weary of that tradition in adulthood, because I then had to go out the next morning and pick up all the pieces.
Even though I have an artistic bent, I don’t usually bother with intricate pumpkin designs. I’ve done two or three in my time, but pumpkin flesh is such a crude medium, and I lack the patience for that much scraping. I generally prefer to stick with a variation on the classic triangle eyes, or emulating the funky jack o lantern from the opening credits of Halloween 1978.
The act of carving a pumpkin is also extraordinarily messy work. As you are probably well familiar, the interior is quite gory for a vegetable. All slime and strings and seeds. Scooping out the guts and ending up with a clean, smooth interior surface is nearly impossible, and the orange goop stains your fingernails. If you mean to roast the seeds later, you deal with the agonizing task of separating them from the stringy orange detritus and washing them clean.
All this work, and your end product is something similar to a snowman – a labor of love, destined to destroy itself within days.
That’s a perfect analogy for Halloween itself. When Halloween is not a day, but a season, the arrival of October 31st is painfully fleeting. Two months of preemptive celebration, then a couple hours of trick or treating and the whole thing is over, leaving only memories. Hopefully you’ve created many of them. That’s the whole point of it all.
So, Happy Halloween dear readers. May your celebrations produce memories of two thousand twenty that are a little warmer than pandemics and confrontational politics. This may not have been an ideal Halloween, but it was a Halloween nonetheless. It wouldn’t and couldn’t be canceled.
Bonfires burning bright
Pumpkin faces in the night
I remember Halloween