Monday, October 31, 2011


Halloween comes but once a year, and fortunately the traditions don't change much... so I have no reason not to pass on this five-year-old link which explains some of the significance of things we associate with Halloween. The article begins with a quote from Bradbury's The Halloween Tree, which is itself, of course, full of information about those traditions, albeit in a fictional context.

Have you ever wondered about Bradbury's own personal experiences of Halloween? When he was interviewed for Show magazine in 1964, he associated Halloween very much with his Aunt Neva, who did so much to stimulate his imagination. He also identified the significance of rituals like Halloween and July 4th to people in small towns like Waukegan:

My aunt Neva helped bring me up in a world of let’s-pretend, in a world of masks and puppets that she made, in a world of stages and acting, in a world of special Christmases and Halloweens. It was she who read me my first fairy tales, she who read Poe aloud to me when I was seven and taught me all about fabulous mythological country from which I never quite emerged. Ten years older than myself, she was more like an older and loving sister whose art-and-dressmaking studio I hung about sniffing the watercolors and oil paints. Halloweens, she dabbed me with makeup, dressed me as a witch or monster and let me scarify at her parties. She took me roller-skating on autumn nights, in the middle of empty and abandoned concrete streets far out on the edge of town where the houses had not as yet built themselves up. I went with her to collect pumpkins and cornshocks out in farmyards far beyond the city limits and helped fill her big old house with them on October evenings [...]
I suppose when you grow up in a small town rituals like Halloween and the Fourth of July mean a heck of a lot more to you. It is much more basic than in a large city. The whole image of Halloween has changed so fantastically in the last twenty-five years. It’s not the same kind of fun. It’s become a form of bribery where you go and get candy for not doing anything. Well, that to me is not what it’s all about. I like the rawness and the nearness and the excitement of death, which went with the older vision of Halloween. In fact I’ve often wanted to do a one-hour special for TV in which I’d make a comparison between Halloween as it exists today and as it used to exist in America. And the way Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico and South America, where they have the sugar skulls with your name on it, or the name of a dead loved one, and they give you a chance to symbolize and live close by death and try to understand this mystery. We’ve lost sight of it. 
("A Portrait of Genius: Ray Bradbury". Show, December 1964.)
 That idea of a TV special would eventually be realised in The Halloween Tree. Begun as a screen treatment with animator Chuck Jones, Bradbury published it as a short novel in 1972 and later adapted it...for TV.

Happy Halloween!

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