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Commentary: 'Tis the Season

By Christina Abt

Buffalo, NY – Devastating floods. Killing wars. Political upheaval. Economic downturn.

Everywhere around me these days the world seems so distraught.

So yesterday I took a break from the realities of life and went for an evening walk around my county block, far from the maddening crowds. What I discovered along the way is that the Halloween Season is definitely upon us, and further that it has become as prolific a decorating season as any Yuletide I can recall.

At almost every house I passed there were the traditional front porch decorations of pumpkins, mums, corn stalks and scarecrows. Yet alongside the conventional I also discovered the spooky and at times macabre adornments that definitely lent a whole new meaning to Martha Stewart's "good thing" ideal of seasonal home d cor.

Strings of orange, black and purple lights highlighted archways, doorways, porch railings, lamp posts and fences, glowingly heralding the color based tradition of this trick or treat time of year.

Massive spider webs spread across porch walls fashioned from thick black lengths of yarn. Off center in the webs often sat my own worst nightmare ---multi legged, furry spiders with menacing purple glow eyes.

I saw skeletons, bats, and witches -- oh my -- all in life size proportions and all lurking menacingly around what I usually observe as cheerful and welcoming home entranceways.

Oversized nylon pumpkins, witches, and ghosts, of a scope so large that they requited tethers and stakes set in the ground, bobbled from side to side on front lawns, one after another. Their rhythmic motions made it appear as if they were engaging in some sort of spooky secret code of communication, known only to them.

Headless humans complete with detached craniums sat on usually unoccupied ornate park benches wearing their best and bloodiest attire. Alongside cardboard grave markers heralded the poor soul's RIP epitaphs.

And then of course there were the overachieving Halloween decorators who felt compelled to add ghostly sound effects and chilling howls to their overall outdoor displays.

I'm not exactly sure when we Americans made the cross over from trick or treat penny candy and dime store plastic masked costumes into a product laden Halloween season of Easter peeps morphed into Halloween pumpkins, commercially created costumes with detail and accessories to rival Hollywood's best designers, and of course those lawn decorations of a scope traditionally reserved for only Santa and Rudolph.

Perhaps the Halloween hubbub has its roots in the 1980s horrific outbreak of the poison candy/razor blades in apples that infiltrated our nation's protective radar. Sort of an anti-nasty reaction to the unimaginable defamation of the holiday.

Or maybe this recent explosion of Halloween mania has evolved as a result of the stress and strains of our ever evolving technology based world. Anything to distract our attention from the harshness of life and make it fun again.

Who's to say?

All I know is that inflated pumpkins and wild and wooly spiders aside, the singular element that will undoubtedly stir my Halloween Heart and Soul this year is when my one year old grandson puts on his brown and furry lion costume and issues his first official Halloween roar.

For my nickel, there's nothing that so truly defines Halloween like a kid in a costume standing at my back door, demanding in a voice loud and strong, "Trick or treat, money or eats."

Kind of makes you feel like bobbing for apples, doesn't it?