Y'all, it's October again, and I just could not be any happier.
The weather is gloomy, stores are full of disposable superhero costumes for kids, and it's once more acceptable to buy copious amounts of sugary candy under the mistaken assumption that you'll be giving it away come Oct. 31. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
My childlike exuberance generally starts to build as soon as I see those first store displays featuring battery-operated laughing skulls and glittery pumpkins in mid-September, which typically correspond with the reintroduction of the so-bad-they're-good Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks.
But this year, it was a fully-stocked shelf of Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry cereal in the display aisle at Target that sent me into Halloween overdrive.
Yes, I completely understand that I have clearly been programmed to translate packaged holiday fun into a sad simulacrum of individual nostalgia and joy. I blame it on Saturday morning cartoons, E.T. and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
But in its defense, anemic as it may sound, at least Halloween knows that it's trashy and ridiculous and fun — the holiday equivalent of the family from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
But unlike those pious family-bonding holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Halloween pulls double duty every year, reveling in its more base elements while also promoting more embodied, joyful living.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to see The American Scream at Fantastic Fest and meet a couple of the featured house haunters that turn Halloween decorating into a year-round obsession. In the documentary, devoted family man and gifted house haunter Victor Bariteau states that he loves Halloween so much because it's the one holiday that encourages people to get to know their neighbors and bring joy to complete strangers.
And it is those shared communal experiences, commercial as they may be, that likewise transform me into this excitable humanist every October. I just can't get enough of watching adults turn into kids again picking out costumes, buying and handing out candy, and scaring themselves half to death at scary movies.
In my opinion, Halloween parties are the best times to meet new people, when they're out of their daily attire and wearing something more creative or adventurous. After working the Halloween rush at Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds last year, I saw firsthand how much a creative costume can showcase a shining personality. And conversely, how much an uninspired costume off the "sexy" rack will lump you in an entirely different category...
Plus, Halloween is the only night of the year that I think elementary school age children are adorable — with their little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Avengers and Tupac costumes! The expectant chorus of "Trick or Treat!" is second only to the sounds of frightened children screaming from being scared by automated yard decorations.
And let's not forget the communal aspects of pumpkin carving, cider making and watching Halloween-themed programming on TV: the month-long rotation of scary movies shown on Chiller TV and TNT, the constant screenings of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on ABC Family and the annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode on The Simpsons.
Oh, and haunted houses! Even when they're terrible, they're so great and so fun. And just Halloween yard decorations in general! Confused witches on broomsticks asking "Witch way?!" and skeletons and ghosts hanging from dead tree branches. It's the only time of year I thrill at seeing gravestones, without getting that whoosh of fear that comes from realizing my own mortality.
Clearly, I'm a proud product of the Halloween products that thankfully shaped me so many years ago, and I will continue to be a fierce lover of all things All Hallow's Eve. At least until a real life axe murderer begins to terrorize my friends and family with an unholy and deadly determination...
There are only 30 more days of fun before boring, stressful Christmas takes over our brains. So let's get out there and start making the most of this joyous Halloween season. The boys and ghouls are waiting.