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SCOT BELLAVIA: What’s Up With Halloween Decor?

The Harry Potter movies are crowded with inexplicables: floating candles, sentient paintings, and a sundry of fantastical creatures. Also par for the course is the Victorian style dress code for Hogwarts’ faculty, though the students were born in the 1980s. In the fourth movie, Harry blabs the reason for these unaccountable elements.

Upon entering an unassuming A-frame tent, he finds that its inside is as big as a house and with a kid-in-a-candy-store-grin exclaims, “I love magic!”

The strange phenomena contribute nothing to the plot except to remind you the events are in a world of Magic – a deficient, catchall explainer. Rowling’s world, at least where the movies represent her books, is a hodgepodge of that which is only imagined in the real world. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, only odds and ends of oddities.

The same is true of Halloween decorations. Halloween – not coincidentally one of the two biggest holidays celebrated at Hogwarts – leads people in our world to adorn their houses and lawns with an assortment of items with no otherwise discernable connection. Overly thick cobwebs, inflatable dragons, orange and black police line tape, body parts sticking out of a car’s trunk, and monsters have no uniting theme except October 31.

‘Scary’ disregards the gourds and fun children’s costumes. The jumble of decorations this time of year is too eclectic to characterize.

I’m fine with most Halloween traditions, mostly because I find it irresistible to put a costume on my toddler who is innocently unembarrassed by it and hasn’t yet discovered the allure of candy. I’ve even come to terms with my wife reading through the Potter series “to see what all the hype is about.” Still, Halloween decorations baffle me.

I recognize my confusion is entirely due to having grown up with parents who only spoke of Harry Potter and Halloween with disdain. Perhaps if I did some research, I would find that Halloween dates back to the Victorian era or that dragons once practiced witchcraft or, depending on my source, that Satan himself invented the holiday to distract from the Protestant Reformation which would account for the evil added to the festivities’ potpourri.

I’d like to make sense of these elements. How did squash, Frankenstein, spooks, and playing dress up coalesce? Someone, please explain to me the unifying factor of this holiday’s decorations because I don’t know what’s up with them.

Scot Bellavia

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