Monday, October 31, 2005

Celebrating Halloween

Finally! My first full Halloween in Celebration!

Even though we've owned Duloc Manor for two years, we were still commuting back and forth to the Midwest. Now that we've settled into Celebration permanently, I can finally enjoy my favorite holiday properly.

I'm suffering from a Halloween deficit, having lived in a condo for almost a decade. Before that, I lived in a townhome where my husband and I put on a spectacle each year. Outside, our house looked plain and unassuming (albeit like something out of the 70s, since it was sided in a groovy shade of avocado). But once the kids knocked on the door, they'd be greeted by my husband in a tattered, bloody t-shirt with a handcuff dangling from his wrist. He'd thrust a handful of candy at them and yell, "Hurry! Take the candy and run! You've got to escape before SHE gets back." Then I'd burst out of hiding, wearing a Grim Reaper get-up, complete with bloody knife. I'd drag poor hubby back into the house and slam the door to his screams.

We built up quite a reputation among the neighborhood kids. On one notable Halloween, a group came to the door while my husband was on a potty break. They weren't satisfied with a lone Grim Reaper; they chanted, "Do the show!" I sent them away for a few minutes, and they returned when hubby was done with his pit stop.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who bought that townhome wondered why they got so many trick-or-treaters the first year or two. Meanwhile, we moved into a third-floor condo, and I went through several years of Halloween deficit. To make up for some of it, my husband and I became haunted house connesuiers. There wasn't a church, school, or community spookhouse fund raiser within 30 miles (or sometimes more) that we didn't visit.

Some of the more notable haunted houses we visited were the one with live rats, the one with a slide from the top floor to the ground floor, and the one in an abandoned church where you were locked into a claustrophobic "elevator" and buried in Chuckie Cheese-style balls (in pitch darkness, when you have no idea what's going on, it's much scarier than it sounds). We also enjoyed the "alien base" where you were blinded with a spotlight and then thrust into complete darkness, eventually finding your way out into a direct line of machine-gun fire. The most unique had to be a church-sponsored haunted house, held in a vacant store in a semi-abandoned shopping mall. In addition to the traditional scenes, there was a graphic depiction of the crucifiction, and then you had to walk over "Hell," complete with tortured souls being pitchforked by shrieking demons.

We also tried to get to Six Flags every year, although their haunted houses tended to be polarized...either really great or really awful. The scariest was the year that we got in after waiting over an hour, only to hear the announcement, "This attraction has temporarily ceased operation", that was scary! Occasionally, we'd check out the Halloween festivities as Six Flags parks in other states, and even at Cedar Point (my favorite amusement park). And of course we did Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party; the best part of that is the Headless Horseman.

Now that we have our home in Celebration, I can once again greet the trick-or-treaters. We didn't do anything too elaborate this year, as I wasn't sure how many kids would show up. Although Main Village (i.e. Downtown Celebration) tends to be a mob scene, East Village is off the beaten path, and Duloc Manor is tucked away on a cul de sac. Thus, I decided to go for modest-but-inviting. I put pumpkin lights out in the flower bed, a light-up spider in the front bush, and an inflatable black cat to guard the front door. In keeping with the cat-and-pumpkin theme, I found a perfect decorative wreath at Cracker Barrel.

Publix had an awesome giant inflatable Snoopy/Woodstock, but they were too pricey. Lo and behold, while grocery shopping today, I discovered that they were 50 percent off. Soon they were staked out on my lawn to greet the tick-or-treaters.

The days leading up to Halloween were a whirlwind. We did the Haunted Trolley Tour described in my previous blog entry, and we also went to a costume party over the weekend. I had an inflatable cowgirl-on-a-horse outfit, and I somehow talked poor hubby into wearing a hospital gown with an open back and a very prominent fake butt.

Parties are fun, but I still miss trick-or-treating (probably the voyeur in me; I enjoyed the candy, but the best part was knocking on strangers' doors and peeking into their houses). If I were given the opportunity to do just one childhood experience over again, it would have to be one of those wonderful, reckless Halloween nights. When I was a kid, we trick-or-treated for hours, traveling far from home. The only thing that stopped us was when our bulging shopping bags became too heavy to carry. We didn't worry about tainted candy; our favorite goodies were the homemade treats like caramel apples and popcorn balls.

Things are different now. Trick-or-treating is a cautious, controlled experience. I'm sure it's still fun, but I'm sad that the children of today will never know that wonderful sense of freedom.

But since I can't beg from door to door myself, I can still enliven the experience for the kiddies. I donned my inflatable horse costume, complete with a fresh set of batteries, filled up a basket with chocolate temptations, and waited for the doorbell to ring.

I had planned a quick jaunt to Main Village first, as I wanted to see the legendary crowds firsthand. Last year, my husband and I flew back to Chicago on Halloween afternoon. As we drove down Celebration Avenue on our way to the airport, we saw the mass of people already gathering. There were literally busloads of trick-or-treaters pulling into town! I was dying to stay, but that wasn't a possibility.

This year, at least I was in Florida, but I ended up having to stay around the East Village homestead. A phone company technician came out to install a new line this afternoon, since I am starting a new business this month. Unfortunately, he needed to run it from the main box in the alley, and the line was nowhere to be found. All the other lots are tagged, but ours is missing. Finally, he had to give up till tomorrow, but by that time it was too late to head out.

Oh well, it was after five, the official start time of Halloween. The candy was ready, my costume was ready, and Stitch-kitty was ready to sprint out the door the moment it opened. I brought my laptop into the front-room so I could do some work while anticipating the first little goblins of the night.

Trick-or-treat started out slow; at first, I was beginning to worry that we might not get anyone at all! There were only a few houses on my cul de sac with their porch lights on (signifying that they were handing out candy), so perhaps some of the kids didn't want to veer from the main street for a relatively small payoff. Fortunately, the children started to trickle in, and then they began arriving more steadily. I was glad that I had bought Snoopy because he is huge and he lights up. Our house is smack dab in the middle of the block, so he stood like a beacon once darkness had fallen.

I didn't get nearly as many youngsters as those in the main part of town (one person reported 500 by 7:30!). But the doorbell rang steadily from 5:30 to about 7:30, and the last group arrived a little past 8. I made it about 3/4 of the way through a 100-piece bag of candy, although I let most of the kids take more than one. Farquaad and Tooncinator stayed out of sight, but Stitch managed to escape twice. Fortunately, he doesn't go far, especially when there are admirers on hand to pet him and make a fuss over him. He's mostly black, so he makes a perfect Halloween cat.

I love seeing the kids' costumes. Superheros and Star Wars were both big this year; I liked the Batman and Spiderman costumes with light-up fiber optic logos. A lot of the youngsters were also carrying multi-colored glow sticks for safety. The kids (and some of the adults) got a kick out of my costume, too. It was rather unwieldly, since I had to maneuver a huge inflated horse head and legs in front of me while a mini fan vibrated disconcertingly on my butt, but the peoples' reactions were well worth it.

Now it's 9 o'clock, and there hasn't been a knock on the door for almost an hour. Halloween is over for another year, and the rush-rush Christmas season will burst forth in full bloom by tomorrow. But even though Thanksgiving and Christmas get all the big play, Halloween will always be my favorite. Now that I live in Celebration, it will be better than ever...I'm already planning how I'll expand my decorations next year.

Learn more about Celebration on my website:

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