The Halloween Tree, the 1993 cartoon based on Ray Bradbury’s 1972 novel, is one of my most treasured Halloween memories. The film, narrated by Ray Bradbury himself, is thoroughly enjoyable and often repeats on Cartoon Network during October. The movie’s true power is unlocking the secret meaning of Halloween. The story tells of a group of young kids who meet to go trick and treating, only to find out that their collective best friend is off to the hospital for emergency surgery. They spend the night following what appears to be his ghost. They follow him around the world and throughout time with the help of their eerie guide and personification of death Mr. Moundshroud, voiced by the incomparable Leonard Nimoy.
What I take from the movie is the palpable power of friendship and a profound understanding of Halloween. To me, Halloween is not a consumeristic holiday idolizing sugar consumption and superfluous superstition; it is a deliciously dark break from it all. In fact Halloween is about understanding that which all humanity fears and that which all humanity cannot change: death. Halloween is about taking our most intimate fears and for one night we are not haunted by them. Our fear doesn’t control us on Halloween. Halloween is a night when everything morbid or ghoulish doesn’t scare us, it delights us. For those who don costumes Halloween is a night to become all that which terrifies you; to escape the tedious consistency of fear. For one night we are not mocked by death; instead we celebrate life by dressing up as deathly creatures. My Halloween is a day to remember those we’ve lost and celebrate with those that are still here.
On October 31st I remember that which everyday life has tucked away in the back of my subconscious mind, my own mortality. I remember my grandmother’s jokes and I enjoy the company of loved ones. I am not afraid of heights or terrified of bees or held prisoner by own insecurities. In fact I rejoice in the very insecurities that make me who I am. Halloween is one night for us to laugh when we are actually scared. I don’t trick or treat, instead I celebrate Halloween by drinking hot chocolate, eating pumpkin pie, handing out candy to the neighbourhood children, and watching The Halloween Tree with those I love late into the night. I realize that this is not the established cultural definition of Halloween but what The Halloween Tree shows us is that Halloween means different things to different peoples in different places. So this October 31st, let us all reclaim our fears, remember our dearly departed, reconnect with loved ones, and rediscover what Halloween means to us.
Where Christmas time is marked by cheers of "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year", I like to remark on Halloween "C'est la vie, c'est la mort, et c'est la Halloween." That's life, that's death, and this is Halloween. Happy Halloween one and all.