Halloween and the City

Halloween. You could make a lengthy Discovery Channel series on the holiday—the origins, its transliteration into various cultures, religious opinions. (Oh, Wait!  They did do that!!) 

Although it makes good TV, maybe we don’t need to understand everything about Halloween. Maybe we just need to celebrate the birth of fall and the whisper of the winter to come.

For Manhattanites, Halloween has its good points and bad points. Take the big parade, which unfortunately begins after sunset, creating what might have been a colorful and extravagant showing of design and creativity, but instead seems like havoc in a dark cloudy bottle, where the police keep “regular” people out of the parade. The experience can be summed up as: There’s a crowd all around me, and there’s a crowd in the street, but the crowd in the street seems to be enjoying themselves–but I can’t tell–and those in the streets seem to be serenaded by floats–but I can’t tell, because I can’t see it. Ow! What? Who was that?? Some jerk just pushed the crap out of me. Ugh. Oh well, maybe next year it will be better. 

Also with the downtown blitz, “people” appear from of every nook and cranny like Michael Jackson’s Thriller—crazy, drunken, clown-like people—who literally forget who they are around 9 pm. Maybe it’s the result of a bad vodka concoction, but why do they insist on talking to me for some reason?

Despite all of this, I still want festivities! I want to see kids dressed up in whatever their wildest imagination has invented, and then I want to disguise myself, go to dinner and order “in character.” To me this is Halloween. It’s simple. I take a lesson from those 10 and under, and celebrate their version of Halloween—a lovely, happy, apple-bobbing, pumpkin-carving, magical and wondrous Halloween.

Thus, on the upside, Manhattan can deliver some good points during this season. The best, I believe, is the Pumpkin Festival in Central Park, where families come from all over the island and the boroughs to have the best free time one can have before Christmas. The festival sports face painting, hay rides, pumpkin picking, music, puppet shows, crafts and games. These activities are set in the center of the fall seasonal universe with its orange and yellow leaves thrown about and gathered into high piles ready for destruction. A small green market brings the educational element to the festivities, and all in all, families are able to enjoy the sheer pleasure of just being together, beyond the everyday: school in, school out, job in, job out.

I went there alone—well not completely alone—I went there with my camera. I wanted to document this joy and spectacle. I was most moved by the kids, all wonder-eyed and astonished by the giant pumpkins and jugglers.

The marionettes and their masters were also brilliant. The City may do well to expand this small stage and the benches holding the audience next year. It was a massive hit.

Yet, even with the giant pumpkins, jugglers, and puppeteers, nothing beat the grand yellow tree and the leaves it had shed below it. There wasn’t one child, one parent, nor one couple beneath that tree that didn’t experience its gifts. I bought a small quince from the market and hung out by the edge of the tree’s borders and took it all in. The tart, pineapple-tasting flesh was better than a whole pack of Starburst candies I used to get in my trick or treat bag as a kid. The leaves flew in the air; there was a crisp breeze at my back. Yes. That was truly a celebration.


(By the way, I did dress up the next day for Halloween, and with mask and all, sat in a restaurant and ordered my dinner. In my small way, it’s a grown-up trick or treat.)


—Elise McMullen a.k.a. The Galavant Girl

1 Comment

  1. Liz
    November, 2010

    What a SPLENDID day!!

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