It’s Time to Decorate for Halloween – Just in Case!

By , October 16, 2009

It’s a classic autumn day on the homestead! Aly and I have a date to decorate the cabin for Halloween.

I love the yearly ritual of decorating, but it does strike me as a little odd. After all, there are no passers-by to see them, particularly the silhouettes that we put in our picture window. We never get any trick-or-treaters. Aly is only one of four children on the peninsula, one of which is still a toddler. It’s much too far to hike out here, although we’d love it if anyone did, and they’d be sure to receive treats.

Our decorations are purely for our own enjoyment, which is certainly enough for us.

We have to be careful, though! We have a set of yard decorations, small metal Jack-o-lanterns on stands, in which we put votive candles. One year we got a hard freeze before we could take them down. I couldn’t pull them from the frozen turf with all my strength! We finally went around and collected the Jack-o-lanterns, but not before the snow fell. We had to leave the posts in the yard till the following spring.

Jack's snowy cap.

Jack's snowy cap.

The silhouettes are a Zeiger family tradition. Ever since I can remember, we’ve taped paper cut-outs on our front windows at Halloween. My dad drew a trio of seated black cats, small, medium and large, a full moon with a somewhat worried face, a witch flying on a broomstick, and a sprinkling of bats. These to me are as essential to Halloween as a Jack o’ lantern. When Michelle and I married, as soon as we were able, we got tracings of these decorations from my parents, so we could properly decorate our own home. Since then, we’ve always had them, tracing new ones from the old as they wear out. One year, Michelle enlarged the cats to about three times their usual size, and hung them on the wall above the stairs to one of our apartments. She won the apartment complex’s decoration contest, winning $75 off that month’s rent. Back then that was a considerable boon to our finances!

That was more than 25 years ago now. Our box of Halloween decorations contains many different tracings of these silhouettes. Some years back I made templates out of hard cardboard, making replacements easier. Black construction paper is surprisingly delicate. In the cold, rainy climates in which we’ve lived most of our lives, it can blotch, leach color, and fall apart from steamy windows. It also fades in the sun. The cutouts face assaults from our cats, and from Aly when she was a toddler.

Last year we went to a craft store and purchased thin sheets of soft rubber foam that have become a popular crafting item. We traced the silhouettes on to them and cut them out with scissors and a razor blade knife. At Aly’s request we made extra bats for the other windows. These new, “high tech” decorations are a vast improvement on the old paper ones—they’ll stand up much better in the coming years, not only to being displayed, but to being stored. A family tradition now stands a better chance of surviving long enough to be passed on to the next generation, and maybe beyond.

The cat silhouettes, taken on last year's "white Halloween." The pumpkin on the right is one from our garden.

The cat silhouettes, taken on last year's "white Halloween." The pumpkin on the right is one from our garden.

I have to confess, I find the idea of a little cabin stuck far and away from everything else decorated for the holidays quite charming. I love the possibility that someone might stumble upon us, probably in a passing boat, and see a touch of the season at hand. It’s not likely that anyone will find our Halloween cabin, but putting it out there just in case pleases us.

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