Despite my love for winter sports, the early snowfall and cold temperatures brought on an acute sense of panic that my most coveted holiday, Halloween, might be obscured by an early winter. I have been assured that it will be melted off in time for the evening of hallows. Thank goodness.
Despite my love for this dark holiday, my husband is indifferent. I have been trying to come up with an equivalent name for his “Ebenezer Scrooge-like” position on Halloween. A “Halloween Scrooge, Jack-o-lameness, Ghoulish Grump, Creepy Killjoy, Casper the Curmudgeon?” One of the key survival tips for marriage is to always remember: Your happiness does not depend on your partner. Therefore, I go into Halloween full tilt, because it brings me joy. If he wants to join in, great. But if not, I can’t let that stop my fun.
Last year, the Methow Valley Community Center hosted a wonderful Dia de Los Muertos gathering. Given that we can’t gather in this manner this year, we made space for the tradition in our home and our family altar is perched above our hearth. I am deeply moved by this Mexican tradition where remembering and honoring our lost loved ones is openly showcased. Methow At Home is offering a one-hour virtual presentation on this tradition, hosted by Imelda Cervantes de Barndard, whose homeland in Mexico is a stronghold of this tradition. The virtual presentation will be finished once this goes to print, but it just goes to show the pandemic can’t stop tradition; culture finds a way.
Like everything else in 2020, Halloween will be different, but it too will find a way. The local churches are providing “Trunk or Treat” as a safe and socially distanced option for trick or treaters — Thank you! Methow Arts is offering a pumpkin carving contest. The most fun part of Halloween — dressing up, well, that can’t really get stopped either. And as far as candy goes — the pandemic can’t stop that either. So, despite the lack of a full-blown “trick or treating” tradition, costumes, candy, and jack-o-lanterns will endure.
In the spirit of Halloween, a ghost story seems appropriate. Unfortunately, I don’t have a new one, so I’ll share one from last year.
According to the website Ghost Towns of Washington, Alder Mine is one of 18 ghost towns in Okanogan County. The Alder Mine is located just outside Twisp. In its heyday, it was the most profitable mine in Okanogan County. The open-pit portion of the mine and the settling pond are located on private property today, so accessing the site isn’t possible. However, I have been told by former students of the old Allen Elementary, just in the shadow of the mine, that they recall stories of ghostly apparitions spotted on the hillside above the school during recess. Could these be the lurking spirits of lost miners’ souls looking to make it rich? Or just childhood stories to spark a spook? Whatever the genesis of schoolyard stories are, the thrill of mystery and curiosity into a new dimension is the allure.
Halloween gives us permission to explore our natural curiosities about death and other dimensions without too much ethos. It allows us to transform into anything we want to be for a day; to welcome the darkness with our jack-o-lanterns of light; to relish in childhood fantasy; to get loaded up with more sugary sweets than ever necessary. It’s one of those secular traditions, a blend of Christianity and traditional beliefs, that has evolved into a unifying holiday unique to American culture. Above all, Halloween has no other purpose but to just have fun. So Happy Halloween!