Taking Back Halloween

by Kathryn Smith

Can I tell you a secret? I never used to like Halloween. It's true. I was taken out Trick
or Treating at a very young age and was scared by a jerk in a clown mask. I apparently ran away screaming and didn't want to go out the next year. I think I recovered from this in elementary school because I remember liking to dress up for class. My favorite costume -- and the one that stands out in my memory -- was Darth Vader. My mother had cut the legs off an old black jumpsuit and I had a shiny black plastic mask with an elastic in the back -- not like the swanky costumes of today.

Coincidentally, my husband informed me later that he had been Vader that same year. Talk about kismet!

Anyway, I arrived home from school (bouncing off the bus and up the drive) to see my father home
from work. He took one look at me and said, "Your grandmother's dead." And then he got in the truck and drove away. Yup, his mother had died just a few hours earlier. I was too young to grieve or to even be sympathetic.

It was decided that I should be allowed to go out Trick or Treating regardless of the sorrow
blanketing our house. One of my older sisters and her boyfriend were given the task of taking me out. No one ever should have asked this of this particular sister because she was sobbing like all get out. Regardless, I spent my evening telling people my grandmother was dead, or having them remind me of that fact as they dumped heaps of sympathy candy into my pillow case.

To say I lost my love for Halloween after that would be an understatement. Sure, I dressed up for school and went out Trick or Treating, in the years following, but it wasn't fun. Especially not when every year up until the year my parents split was a reminder of my grandmother's death -- an occasion my father marked in his own particular brand of grieving.

But a funny thing has happened. Sometime over the last... oh, ten to fifteen years I've slowly regained my love for Halloween. I love to dress up. I love the makeup, the hair, the fake teeth!
In a little bit I'm going to go outside and drive the skull lights I bought into the ground and decorate the outside of my house for the party we're having Saturday night. I have a costume to work on and cookies to bake. I bought themed plates, cups and serving dishes. I even considered a smoke machine.

How/when did this happen? When did I regain my love for quite frankly, the bestest, funnest day on the whole freaking calendar outside the wondrous anniversary of my own birth?

I have no idea how this happened, but I'm glad it did. I guess it was so gradual I barely noticed. I think much of it has to be attributed to my younger 'goth' days. I 'dressed up' most days so Halloween became an excuse to get even more outrageous. And then I made friends with people who loved this time of year and celebrated it. It no longer became something dreaded, and even though it celebrates the dead, Halloween became about fun to me and not a reminder of the grandmother I barely remembered, though I still think of her every October 31st. Now I haunt the Halloween shops, grab up discounted items at Michaels and carve pumpkins with my hubby. I even have a book signing booked for earlier that day and I'm dressing up for it!

What I want to know is have any of you lost and then regained
your love for a holiday or time of year -- or anything for that matter? Care to share?

Meanwhile, I've got a date with plastic skulls and creepy eye-lights that blink!

puppy vader courtesy of http://bboylimping.wordpress.com
Halloween lights from www.marchars.com/halloween
blinking eyes from walmart.com

Greyden Kane, the hero of When Seducing A Duke has a tragedy in his past that he needs to 'get over' too! WSAD is on shelves now and headed back for a second printing!

Kathryn Smith is the author of more than 20 books in a variety of genres. Before When Seducing a Duke, she indulged her love for all things spooky by writing about Victorian Vampires and soon the 2nd installment of her Nightmare Chronicles series will hit shelves. Look for Dark Side of Dawn on November 24th. Currently she lives in Connecticut with her husband Steve and their 4 cats -- 2.5 of which are black. ;-)


  1. That must have been a hard Halloween for you and your family. I'm glad you've discovered a new way to enjoy this holiday, one so full of make-believe.

    I've lost loved ones just before and just following Christmas, but I'm such a Christmas freak that nothing can dampen my delirium. The only thing that has suffered has been my card-sending. I've always been a greeting-card-aholic, but after my dad passed it seems I can't go near the card racks.

  2. Aww...I'm glad you can enjoy the fun of dressing up again.

    PS. I was just at the NJRW Conference and received "When Seducing a Duke". Just finished it and I really enjoyed it!!

  3. Julia, I'm so glad you don't let anything ruin your holidays! I love Christmas too. And Jennifer, thanks so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed WSAD!


  4. I've always loved Halloween - I love giving out yummy goodies to the kids who go trick or treating (when I was kid I'd go out with my younger sister then take her home when she got tired and then hit the other neighbourhoods for more candy! LOL. Totally didn't mind being on my own. Anyway - since my mom passed away - I'm not much for Christmas. Don't like decorating. I do send out e-cards - Julia - that might be something you can do. But the spirit has left me on that front. Maybe one day it'll come back. Thanks for your poignant and funny and inspiring story! Kick butt on Halloween! It really is the most fun holiday of the year.

  5. Thanks so much for this K!

    It's funny how Halloween has never been big for me... Not the same shocking memories of it as you, but being Italian it's not something I grew up with. That and Thanksgiving are a bit foreign to me - pardon the pun.

    I get quite an itch to get in costume right around February every year, which is when Italian kids celebrate Carnevale, the equivalent of Halloween... But now that I've read your post, maybe I will make an effort. Life is all about changing the way we do things. To keep things interesting...

    Happy Halloween to you. BOOOOOOO! (not yelled and not in a clown costume!)

  6. I can see why you lost your vibe for Halloween after that. Glad to year you got it back. Christmas was the one that took the hit for me, but its slowly coming back.

  7. Wow, what an intense story! How rough it must have been for you that year, and every year after. My heart goes out to you.

    I'm so glad you rediscovered Halloween. It really can be fun. My little town goes nuts, with hundreds of people converging downtown. There's a parade, all the stores give out candy to the kids and then the party lasts all night! *grin*

    I was lucky to never have a holiday affected like that. Well, except for my birthday. For me it was my sixth birthday, and the only party I remember from my early childhood. However before the party could start, my sister was playing with our family dog. Holding out a treat and then pulling it away. My mom kept shouting, "Quit teasing the dog!"

    It was bound to happen, the little terrier jumped to snap at the treat and got her nose instead. She started wailing and my mom got mad and said, "NOW YOU'VE DONE IT. WE HAVE TO CANCEL THE PARTY AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT."

    I was in shock. Dressed in my flouncy pink dress. My sister crying holding a hankie to her nose. It was the smallest nip, hardly anything but my mom was a drama queen. She called everyone to announce the party was cancelled and seemed almost gleeful and smug. It took years to realize she always competed with my sister and wanted me to reject her. She took every opportunity to blame my sister for my pain, despite the fact this was her decision.

    The most poignant moment. I'm standing in shock and the doorbell rings. Thrilled, I run to the door. A little boy is there with a present. He hands it to me and grateful, I accept it.

    My mom bustles forward and says, "Give that back, the party's cancelled." Numb, I return the present with tears in my eyes.

    I only had one other party as a child, when I was twelve. And as my birthday is a week before Christmas, parties aren't practical as most people are busy with Christmas stuff. My husband always makes it up to me though. So I do have fun. *smile*

    Really great post!

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com


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