Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Steve Vernon on Halloween

Hey folks, I have been so busy launching and signing and reading from Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories From Old Nova Scotia that I haven’t had much of a chance to light and take a look around, but the good folks at Nimbus asked me to stick my beard in here and say a few words about Halloween, my favourite time of year.

The Celts had a word for this time of year. They called it Samhain, “Summer’s end”. How true this is. Halloween is the doorway between the summer and the winter and I pass through it with a grin and a bit of regret. Just yesterday, while crossing the street from Little Mysteries to the coffee shop, I was jumped by a few wandering snowflakes as a brief rain shower turned momentarily into a flurry. Before too long we’ll all be wielding snow shovels and toting bags of salt and rubbing our hands together and muttering angry words at the weatherman. It will be quiet downtown as the winter wears on. There won’t be as many tourists and business will relax (after Christmas, anyways).

But first, Halloween.

This is my favourite day of the year. I usually dress the house up with a homemade graveyard of famous horror authors and actors, a Frankenstein monster on a lab table complete with juice jug IVs, scarecrows, a flying witch and a big full moon, and whatever else my brain can come up with.

I remember the year I dressed as a hobo. I remember the year I dressed as a Frankenstein monster. I remember Halloween in the small town of Capreol, wearing good walking sneakers so as to cover as many blocks as possible. Filling pillowcases full of candy, and trying to look for the good houses, the ones that gave you chocolate bars and chips.

Halloween is a time of putting on masks, and we all wear so many of them. The mask you wear at work, and the mask you wear at the grocery store, some of them very close to each other, some of them so very different. Halloween is a time of year when we all can put on new masks and grin at each other and say “Trick or Treat.” Halloween is a time of year when kids are just a little closer to their childhood, and a little less hip or cool. It’s okay to dress up like an astronaut or a ghost or a Headless Horseman. Halloween is a time when we all remember when it was okay to play Tag and Hide and go Seek.

This Halloween I’ll be busy at three different readings at the Halifax Rehab (6:30 p.m.), the Seahorse (8 p.m.), and Ginger’s (10 p.m.). I’ll be telling tales and reading a bit of poetry and peddling the book, of course. A writer has to be three parts travelling salesman, ready with a grin, a spiel, and a happy pitch.

Well, I am off to go to a school this Halloween morning, to tell a ghost story and teach the kids a little bit about storytelling, and if you see a kid grinning from behind my beard with a pillowcase in his hand saying “Trick or Treat”, throw him a bag of potato chips or a good chocolate bar. No apples please, my grandmother will only make them into apple sauce.

Happy Halloween.