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A crash of symbols: Is Halloween evil? Is a watermelon?

Find the evil kidsSnug Harbor gathers itself in anticipation of Halloween number two at our new home out in the sticks. Black and orange pumpkin flags flap in the breeze from their poles on the Spook1 Weather Station, bright vanguards of the coming dark circus. At night passersby may notice that our front windows glow a great deal more orange lately, and the sounds of construction whirring and pounding out of Spooky Blue’s shop last long into the night.

However, in the midst of this bustling activity flits a mosquito. Its whine is persistent, and it sounds like “pagan holiday”, “witchcraft”, and “dark side“. Some folks are so frightened of Halloween and its symbols that they simply can’t tolerate them, instead gathering together in church basements to wait out the devil, relieved when it’s finally over with and they can go home and clear a spot for the Christmas tree.

Other folks take some personal responsibility to remind revelers that what we’re doing is fundamentally wrong. Sometimes it’s a friendly note in the mailbox from a neighbor, or possibly a concerned uncle drops by to talk about Leviticus 19:31. Still others might take things a step further and resort to good old-fashioned vandalism.

While vandals and Halloween have entertwining and often entertaining histories that are worth exploring, let’s save it for another time. Are the fears of the Leviticussers justified? Is Halloween evil? I submit that if one’s intent is not evil, then his actions cannot be evil.

Our version of Halloween has been renamed and repackaged many times over the long centuries. Scary sounding people and gods and religions were involved: Druids, Pagans, Samhain. All this Druiding and Paganizing made a lot of Christians angry, not least of whom was the Pope, who endeavored to put a stop to it, and not by means of a friendly letter in the post. Over time and under oppression, their misbehavior settled into a quiet passive-aggressive kind of sedition that remains to this day, though most people don’t know why they’re being seditious and would likely argue the fact, which brings me back to one of my two points. If one’s intent is not evil, then his actions cannot be evil.

Is Halloween steeped with pagan rituals? Sure, why not. Tons of new pagan children are doubtless drafted every October by dressing up as Spiderman or Optimus Prime and going out trick-or-treating. Is Halloween filled with symbolism that glorifies witchcraft, necromancy, casting – um lots, er… frisbeetarianism, and Druiding? Now we get to the meat of this discussion. Certainly we recognize symbols like the witch, a ghost, a bat, and a pumpkin as belonging to Halloween. But what do these represent?

That is the real point. To me they represent … Halloween! Not the other way around. The profile of the witch cut from construction paper and hung in the window is dear to me. It takes me back to fun afternoons that my mother and I spent together making witches and ghosts and pumpkins and bats to hang all over the house with bits of masking tape. A cardboard cutout skeleton on a front door reminds me of a cold rainy morning walking through the doors of S. Ellen Jones Elementary School and gazing up at the big bulletin board by the front office covered with crayon-colored leaves and guarded by that same tall, grinning, cardboard skeleton.

A construction paper witch hanging in my window isn’t a license to promote, advocate, ballyhoo, implement, transact, or otherwise do witchery of any sort. It is a symbol of Halloween and represents something entirely different to me. See what I just did? The witch, like the bat, black cat, skeleton, and Jackolantern are all symbols, objects that as a whole represent the abstraction of Halloween. My Halloween isn’t necessarily someone else’s Halloween. That’s what an abstraction means, and there’s where the trouble starts.

Round about and back again to the original question: Is Halloween evil? The simple answer is: No more so than we make it. In other words, a watermelon isn’t evil because a miscreant spits seeds all over the front porch. Halloween is wrapping yourself up in an autumn quilt and sharing the warmth with your friends and family. If folks can’t understand why all this sharing has to be carried out with the help of paper mache zombies and pumpkins, then I have to wonder if they ever had any fun as kids, or if something ate up all their sense of humor later in life. In any case, if Halloween means something different to them than to me, then that’s their business.

Here’s a final question with meat on its bones. Does Halloween glorify God? You tell me. Share, warmth, family, friendship. Those words all sound a lot like “Love”.

Happy Halloween!

— S. Blue will be on vacation the week of Sep. 24.
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40 isn’t old – If you’re a tree

Harvest Homecoming 1970

Nobel Lumpkins & Illustrious Potentate

Shriners on little Hondas

More Shriners

Shriners in corvettes

Stephen Lutz - Harvest Homecoming

Daiv Stoner - Furry pumpkin

Stephen Lutz - Harvest Homecoming Booths

If you sawed your old pal Spooky in half you’d count 40 rings. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Harvest Homecoming street festival in New Albany, Indiana. I think there’s a certain harmony in that.

Every year leading up to the big event, the buzz at S. Ellen Jones Elementary School was intense. “I heard that some kid got stuck upside down in the Rocko-plane. Oh yeah? I heard that Frankenstein walks around an’ catches kids an’ takes ’em back to the haunted house an’ he eats ’em! Nuh-uhhh!”

I was introduced to a lot of my favorite things for the first time at the Harvest Homecoming. Parades with big firetrucks and Shriners in little cars, candy buckeyes, peanut butter fudge, buffalo burgers, corndogs drowned in mustard, a clown walking an invisible dog, five pop-gun shots for a quarter, the duck pond where you were guaranteed a spider ring or a rubber skeleton, billowing clouds of grilled chicken smoke, shop windows painted with ghosts and bats, my very first wad of cotton candy, and rides. Rides!

I called my favorite ride simply The Cars. You’ve seen them. Little corvettes going round and round in a circle under a big umbrella. Back then there was a button on the steering wheel or the dash that sounded a buzzer. “Maaak aaak aak aaak aaak!”

Five of my top 10 memories are of my brother Brian and his wife Kathy picking me up after school to go ride The Cars and the Tilt-a-Whirl, and Scrambler, and a sort of parachute-tower affair where I got a certificate because I jumped so many times.

In a couple of weeks a parade of firetrucks, marching bands, floats, politicians, thunderous old dunebuggies, older but no less thunderous Shriners, and all the rest will wind through the streets of New Albany again, just like they’ve done every year since forever ago, proving that you really can come home again.

Thanks to Daiv Stoner, Stephen Lutz, and the New Albany Free Public Library Image Archive for use of the photos.
Harvest Homecoming home page & schedule of events

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking

SpookyBlue's WorkshopWhoo? Sneak Peek into Spooky Blue’s Workshop

The zombie horde’s numbers continue to swell. I overhead this exchange between our scarecrow named The Grumble and one zombie..Grumble: “Ahh…Fred the zombie. How’s the family?”
Fred: “Belligerent and numerous.”It took me a while to figure out where I had heard that before. Zombies have a sense of humor too, sort of.

Among the rest of the assorted detritus are a pair of jackolanterns called the Moth Brothers. These two make a troublesome pair. I don’t know what’s in the water around these parts but it breeds insane mutant pumpkins.

Correction…cool insane mutant pumpkins.

Love makes the world go ’round, with a little help from intrinsic angular momentum

Everyone always said Alex was a bright boy. Blinding, really. About the only thing that would lure him out of the basement and away from his Radio Shack project kits was a Dreamsicle.  And bug zappers.  They say the sun sort of fried his brain.
Meat. A bloody burger welded to a steel plate. And lest you forget the corporate masters’ wishes, just repeat the mantra, “Meat …you’re right in liking it.”
After her husband Harold left, Jenny’s only option to put food on the table was to go to work. It didn’t take long until she finally found a steady paycheck in fast food as a drive-up speaker.
“I’ve got a taste for livin’, I’m thinkin cold Blue Ribbon, I’ve got Pabst Blue Ribbon on my mind.” And if the unprepared fish boiling in their own mercury don’t give you the trots, a sixpack of PBRs will.
This 1964 Good Housekeeping recipe shows that kitchen decor can be made to clash even with food. Or, at least what passed for food, for example this plate of what appears to be recently regurgitated peas over four enormous tobacco worms injected with Cheez Wiz.A chicken leg looks on in horror.