The gift of the seasons never ceases to amaze me, particularly when we’re experiencing a fall like this. Deep blue skies glowing with the warm of a sun that’ll soon wane for the rest of what remains of this year. And the colors of the leaves are flaming their rich vibrancy before they, too, end their yearly cycle of life. My memory becomes less reliable as I age, so I can’t exactly recall if this autumn is as beautiful as last year, but it doesn’t matter much because I’m relishing in the season that we have.
I can’t fathom what it would be like to live in a place where there isn’t such a dramatic, noticeable change between the seasons, like an equatorial landscape where sunlight and plant growth is measurably equal day after day, month after month. I like northwest Montana’s dramatic highs and lows – although admittedly I’m less excited about the upcoming lack of daylight and winter grays compared to the triumph of July days when it feels like the sun barely sets. Our own season of wintering, if I can borrow the term from British author Katherine May, feels good, too. That sense of hibernation, creating a sense of coziness in our homes whether with candlelight or fire, and a diet that includes more soup than salad compared to summer.
It also means spooky season is upon us, and with all the dire concerns of the world (of which there are so many. Too many?) I find that Halloween is gaining in my esteem. I love how much my Kalispell neighbors relish decorating for the holiday. Each morning as I drive my kids to school, we marvel at the new skeletons hanging from trees or the zombies burst from piles of leaves. Pumpkins and mums line the steps to doorways, fall wreaths are adorned with “trick or treat” banners, and the excitement spreads between kids and adults alike. At least in my car. We chat about costume options: my 8-year-old long set with his choice and my 3-year-old has some sort of combination of superhero, but her idea changes by the time I pick her up from school.
While religious and national holidays have their place in the fabric of our year, a non-secular (in the modern sense; I do understand Halloween’s pagan roots), communal celebratory holiday is just what we need to mark the end of summer and welcome fall. It also helps to usher in the end-of-the-year festivities, giving us that pause between the costumes and the treats, to think about the masks we wear, the ways in which being in costume gives us a release, and the sense that this is the one night where a sense of darkness is allowed. We can delight in things that might scare us or lean into how wearing a costume allows for a different type of self-expression.
Or, as my father-in-law says, for Halloween is his absolute favorite holiday, it’s all about fun. Fun for all ages, that’s something we can all get behind, right?
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