Epic Halloween

Giada Labate and Genia Wickwire. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

“What’s your favorite season, mom?”

“I guess fall and spring.” I look up to see the first few leaves changing to a subtle hue of orange. “You?”

“Fall. Definitely.”

“Why is that?”

“I like that it is cooler and the holidays that are coming up.”

“Yeah, but your birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t until winter. Do you mean the anticipation of those holidays?”


“Yeah, but also Halloweeeeeeen.”

That’s how she says it now. She used to say it like this: “HALLOWEEN!!!!”

She used to dress up as a fairy or Scooby Doo. Now she is a preteen, Halloween has taken on a different meaning. I don’t really know what that meaning is.She explains to me that the Internet talks about Halloween pretty much start in August. 

My daughter doesn’t play video games, and until recently didn’t participate in social media. I had started a board on my Pinterest account for her haircuts and her room decoration. To be honest, she could have cared less about her hair. She is a t-shirts-and-jeans kind of kid. No fuss. No frills. 

When I asked if she liked those haircuts, she discovered things she did like. I soon had boards dedicated to superhero quotes and to the color purple. Eventually she decided she would start her own Pinterest account. 

Shortly after she discovered Tumblr. I don’t really know what Tumblr is or how it differs from Pinterest. It is more picking what you like, finding people who share your interests, and in turn them following you. Apparently everyone on Tumblr loves Halloween.

I get it. Preteen are the years that your body changes. Your skin changes, your attitudes change. Hormones, pimples. Trying to blend in rather than stand out. I rarely hear anyone say middle school was the best time of their life.

Halloween is a chance to escape all of that. For one night you can be whoever you want. A superhero, a villain. Terrifying or majestic. For one night you want people to look at you and point at you. At what age is that not a freeing feeling? 

“So what will you be this year?”

She has two costume ideas in mind. Loki, an anti hero and god of mischief, is mostly known as the brother of Thor in the recent Marvel movies. My daughter explains to me that in Greek mythology he has a whole range of other interesting characteristics.

Or she might want to be Cass, a fallen angel from the book and TV series Super Natural. A fallen angel and an anti-hero. That would have worked for me when I was in seventh grade, an age at which the cuteness falls away, replaced by some dark but not necessarily horrible thoughts and behaviors that fill the space. Very seasonal, Just like green leaves being replaced by more colorful, crisper ones.

Halloween is epic in the Hudson Valley. The costumes are hugely diverse, thoughtful, funny and frightening. I grew up in Woodstock thinking that nothing could match the craziness of Halloween there. All of the stores hand out candy. You have to compete for a creative costume with the grown-ups more than the kids. You can get your photograph taken at Center for Photography by Dion Ogust. The streets are packed. The people-watching is outrageous!

To be honest, it got too crowded for my daughter as she got to the “more candy” age. We ended up going to Kingston neighborhoods instead. Kingston has house after house all close together but spaced out enough that you can run in between and you can breathe. 

We tire out long before we have completed all of the possible houses you can go to for candy. The trick is about getting started right when people are home from work and ending exactly at curfew. It is an exhausting schedule. You can cover a couple of miles of neighborhoods by the time it is all done. 

As we drove home, I notice my kid’s carefully planned costume is in tatters, make-up smeared, the uncomfortable parts discarded. She was this strange combination of dead tired and hopped up on so much sugar. Her eyes are ablaze with a craziness that was slightly frightening. Ahhhhh, Halloween!

Most towns in the area, I have now learned, are full of sights on Halloween. New Paltz, Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Rosendale, Saugerties are all places I have heard shouted out as the best for Halloween. Half of them make the list because they have a scene, the other half because they have the best trick-or-treating. Is candy-collecting or people-watching your priority?

It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it is a night almost anyone can enjoy, whether you sit back and laugh at all the rambunctiousness surrounding this holiday or jump in and join the crowds.