Lighting Up The Night For Halloween

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On the way home from an evening doctor’s appointment, the twilight was quickly dissipating. It was barely 7:30, but it seemed more like midnight. The more I looked out the car window, the more I yearned for those wonderful summer daylight hours just a few weeks ago.
Driving past one of the entrances to the Massapequa preserve, my wife commented on how dark the path leading to the wooded area looked. She was right. You wouldn’t want to be on that path at this time of the evening.

Heading deeper into our Massapequa neighborhood, she wanted to drive past a house on Broadway. It had some cool Halloween decorations on the front lawn.
“I’ve seen it a couple of times when walking Louie,” she said, referring to her daily walks with Louie the Labrador. “It looked creepy during the day, so I wanted to see it at night.”
We quickly found the house. It was filled with cool-looking inflatable lawn figures, giant spiders climbing the house and bodies hanging from the trees. While this wasn’t too unusual for this time of year, I noticed something odd.

Many of the homes on the block were also decorated. There were more on the next block and the block after. Most had lighted inflatable lawn figures of ghosts and pumpkins, others adorned with colored lights of the season. Unlike the red and green of Christmas, Halloween has claimed orange and purple for its own.
As a kid, you knew the homes that went all out for Halloween, adorning their walls and front lawns with many types of dead things. Some had skeletons in their trees or zombie bodies emerging in front of headstones. Other homes supplemented their horror dioramas with eerie sounds playing all night long. Everyone in the neighborhood knew where these houses were and made sure to stop there to Trick-or-Treat. You always get top-shelf candy from the people that know how to celebrate Halloween.
But those houses were few and far between. Somehow, Halloween has become a Pre-Christmas light show.

If you have visited Home Depot or Lowe’s recently, there are Halloween decorations displayed in all their glory, some as big as 20 feet tall. There are plenty of witches and goblins to go along with a full-size, horse-drawn carriage, including coffins. You can get a life-size inflatable grim reaper riding a flaming motorcycle or a skeleton that is 12 feet high. Decorations range from moving animatronics to simple ghostly statues. There are plenty of creepy (and funny) gravestones along with oversized spiders. You can even get a free-standing zombie butler that will greet guests as they approach your front door.
When our kids were little, we bundled them up during Christmas Week. We drove around the neighborhood, spending a good hour oohing and aahing at the bright, joyous decorations. If there was a particularly decorative house, we’d stop and admire their handiwork. We’ve driven to different towns to see some of the more elaborate holiday displays.

When did Halloween decorations go mainstream?
I used to spend a whole weekend decorating the outside of our house with Santa and reindeer figurines, tin soldiers, and of course, our plastic light-up Frosty the Snowman for Christmas. Lights were strung in the bushes and trees. It was a labor of love, but mostly, I wanted those ooh’s and aah’s from my kids.
But now they do it for Halloween too?

There are inflatables for Holidays like Easter, Valentine’s Day and even Thanksgiving. I guess if you have the time, money and a place to store all these things when you are not using them, more power to you. In my world, the worst part of decorating for Christmas was taking it all down after the holidays and storing it away for next year.
It’s one thing to fold up an inflatable, but what do people do with a 12-foot skeleton or a full-size horse-drawn carriage?

Paul DiSclafani’s new book, A View From The Bench, is a collection of his favorite Long Island Living columns. It’s available wherever books are sold.

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