Tag Archives: halloween decorations

Consider a Halloween Altar When Decorating For October!

Halloween altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

What kind of mood would you like to create?

For last year’s Halloween Altar and more information about them, visit A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations. I really tried to keep what I liked from last year and make some improvements. I’ve always wanted to time travel to the late 1800s and early 1900s to hang out with the Victorians, so in my eyes, my altar is meant to kick the atmosphere of Halloween spookiness up a notch… with a historical flair! The altar is really two surfaces in my dining room, the buffet (seen below) and the dining room table. The most noticeable additions are the two candelabras that I purchased at World Market. I LOVE THEM! If looking up close, you’ll realize their quality might not make them great for all year round, but perfect for this occasion! A special thanks goes out to Karen A. Dahlman for spotting them for me. She knew what I was looking for. With the added candles (which you KNOW I love), I decided to ditch the lamps and candle sticks that I used last year.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Something else that makes a big difference in the feel of the altar, is the addition of the Ashland brand artificial flowers from Michaels, which were 50% off.  You’ll notice there is also a vase of flowers on the dining room table. I really feel that it helps to balance out the presence of the skulls and my sitting skeleton. Some may say those things are borderline tacky… but maybe I’m borderline tacky. I love it! Halloween is such a mix of culture, traditions, and history. And now it’s mostly secular and just FUN! There are certainly “tackier” Halloween Altars out there. 

An especially nerdy addition to the altar, are pages from things like the Dennison Bogie Books and other magazines from the early 1900s. These are spread throughout the house, actually. I printed them in color on cream-colored card stock (and then trimmed them), so the yellowed antique look from the photos make them look vintage. Many of the pages I printed come from the 1920 issue and can be viewed in its entirety on PublicDomainReview.org. So it turns out my Halloween Altar can also be a history lesson.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

The woman framed above, as well as the gentleman framed on the opposite side of the buffet, were also 50% off at Michaels, and if you look closely while walking by, their images change from a stately appearance to a skeleton. The decorative leaves, which I used last year as well, are also from Michaels.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Like last year, I had a lot of fun searching for vintage photos and Halloween artwork. Most of the framed photos are from last year. I just printed them on paper and framed them in cheap frames that I picked up at both Walmart and Target, I believe. Several of the framed photos are placed in other areas in the house as well. The additional photos and artwork that I added this year include old photos of trick-or-treaters, costume parties, and just some flat-out bizarre and creepy moments captured in photographs. These were printed on the same cream-colored card stock that I mentioned earlier. For most of them, I trimmed around the photo, leaving a white (cream, actually) frame on the outside. Some of them I glued to black card stock backing to stand out.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Skeleton, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Will you give a Halloween Altar a try this year? 

What will yours look like? What mood will it set? Please contact me if you try one… or even if you find other interesting altars or decorations out there!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Halloween Memories and Nostalgia from This Generation X-er

From the moment there was a hint of fall in the air, I have been reminiscing and thinking about Halloweens growing up. Today I decided to type aloud just some of the memories and thoughts that come to mind. I bet those of you who grew up in the 70s and 80s have similar memories. Go ahead. Climb on into my Delorean and let’s travel back… back into time…

 

…to a time where Halloween meant witches with brooms, black cats, skeletons, and jack-o-lanterns with basic triangle eyes and jagged teeth. There was nothing more exciting than seeing your classroom teacher get out a big stash of black, white, and orange construction paper for craft time!

Remember scarecrows? You don’t see those guys much anymore. Maybe it was just a country thing. They were fun to make, but it was lots of itchy and scratchy work. I remember making a few with my parents and raiding my dad’s closet and drawers for just the right look.

This was the first set of Halloween cutout decorations that I remember. You can see the witch and the scarecrow centerpiece. Those were my favorites!

This was the first set of Halloween cutout decorations that we had that I remember. You can see the witch and the scarecrow centerpiece. Those were my favorites!

I remember getting so excited to go down to the basement for the box of decorations. Some 1970s cardboard cutouts for the windows were all it took. My favorite was the witch. She was so creepy. I also very much remember the honeycomb scarecrow centerpiece that we’d keep in the middle of the dinner table. I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. Then there was the giant skeleton with movable parts. My sister remembers the black cat that had similar movable appendages. Lately I’ve made several Google searches for vintage Halloween nostalgia, and when you search for decorations, I recognize almost every generation of the more popular cutouts and can tell you where I remember them from. Some of them hung in teacher classrooms.  When I see a lot of popular Halloween decorations now, like the orange and purple strings of lights (that just scream Christmas to me) and the noisy and obnoxious blow up contraptions, I just don’t understand them. But this is probably just another one of those signs of getting older and less hip. I wish they would reproduce some of the more classic decorations like they used to. Many of the popular cutouts from the 1980s were apparently reprints from the 1960s. I will say that there is one trend in the last few years that I’ve been seeing in the stores that I definitely like. Everything is glittery and sparkly now! Yes, please! I would have LOVED a glittery orange pumpkin as a kid! Oh my gosh… memories of Elmer’s glue and glitter… don’t get me started…

Remember these?

Remember these?

Did you have classroom parties thrown by the room mothers? There was always punch, games (including the one where you have to sit on the balloon to pop it… I HATED that one), and treats tied up in those paper treat bags. By the time my younger sister went through school, they were afraid to call them “Halloween parties” and for a time they referred to them as “pumpkin parties”. Silly.

I can also remember the Christian versions of these treat bags that we were given at church. I’m not sure what Bible verse would be appropriate, but they always included one. People were encouraged to use those on Halloween, just in case anyone thought you were a devil worshiper because you were celebrating such a fun holiday. Even as a child and as a good boy, I can remember thinking “yeah, right!” and passing up the opportunity to take the Bible thumper bags. Of course, the Christian treat bags weren’t a big deal, considering a grandmother of mine, who was a strict Jehova’s Witness, lived a few houses down. She would preach about how horrible Halloween (or most holidays, for that matter) was, and I remember feeling pressured by her to not celebrate it. I loved her, but Halloween was one of those awkward times for that part of the family. 

Speaking of treats, I can almost guarantee that at some point in time, all of us were given a Tootsie Roll Pop with a white tissue wrapped over the top and tied with yarn, am I right? Mmmm… candy corn. When you went trick-or-treating, did you love or hate the popcorn ball? I didn’t get too excited about anything that was homemade, and sweet tarts and anything with marshmallow were always what I had left from my loot in February or March before I would decide to offer the rest to someone else.

A Halloween clown. I was a clown for a few years since the costume was so big. My Grandma, a master seamstress, did a great job at keeping me in costumes!

A Halloween clown. I was a clown for a few years since the costume was so big. My Grandma, a master seamstress, did a great job at keeping me in costumes!

Actually, trick-or-treating wasn’t something that I took part in for very long, and my sister actually hated it. For a few years, my parents would take me and my little sister (once she was in the picture) to the homes of family members and close friends. We’d show off our costumes, hop back in the car, and head off to the next destination before going back home to catch remaining trick-or-treaters at our own house. And actually, handing out the treats to the few visitors we did have was way more fun, in my opinion. When I was six we moved away from town and out into the country, so for me the traditional neighborhood trick-or-treating wasn’t a big thing. I remember always hearing my friends at school talk about it though, and we’d see ghosts and goblins lurking all over town when we were in the car driving from one place to the next. I’m not sure I would have ever walked up to a stranger’s house for candy. I’m sure this is due in part to the warnings of things like razors in apples and poison in candy. Those things never happened, of course, but I remember the warnings that were popular in those days.

I can't believe I found a photo of the same pattern I used to obsess over at my grandma's fabric shop!

I can’t believe I found a photo of the same pattern kit I used to obsess over at my grandma’s fabric shop!

And costumes were different in those days. Another grandmother of mine owned a fabric shop when I was young and I would “help” her clean and organize. I loved it! I remember being very interested in the McCall’s costume patterns, specifically the one pictured on the right! (I can’t believe I found a photo!) Do you remember how cool it was to pick out a make-up kit with just three basic colors? Just put some plastic vampire teeth in your mouth and it will make up for how cheap the make-up looked. No vampire teeth? That’s okay. Just stick some black wax on a few of your teeth and go as a “hobo”. Remember when dressing up as a hobo for Halloween was popular? Why did we do that? Weird. Speaking of weird, there are certain smells–like duct tape, for example–that instantly transport me back to the smell of a Halloween mask. I’ve heard others agree with me on this one, so I can’t be THAT weird.   

I’m not sure when it started or even if it was meant to be a tradition, but we usually had either chili or potato soup for dinner on Halloween. There was a year where my father somehow ended up with orange potato soup because of something weird that happened with the carrots that he added to the mix. I remember convincing my parents to let me add food coloring to the soup years later to truly make it orange. We’d listen to Monster Mash or even my favorite spooky sound effects “tape” (still have it) while setting the table for dinner. Now as an adult, I usually try to carry out the Halloween chili tradition. 

Now we live in a large suburban neighborhood, and I can’t even get home from work before they’re knocking on the door in daylight, so I make my chili the night before. We sit out front with a few decorations, candles, tiki torches, a big bowl of treats, and plenty of hot apple cider for anyone who wants it. 

I love this photo. My sister was Casper and this was her first (and probably last) Halloween trick-or-treat experience. As my mom explained on the back of this photo, "Patrick is a Mexican." Don't ask...

I love this photo. My sister was Casper and this was her first (and probably last) Halloween trick-or-treat experience. As my mom explained on the back of this photo, “Patrick is a Mexican.” Don’t ask…

 

I’m sure as soon as I publish this I’m going to think of about 50 things I forgot to include, but then again only four of you probably made it this far into my reminiscing… and thank you for that! 

Please feel free to comment and share your nostalgia or Halloween memories and traditions!

 

You might also like:

HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American Tradition (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations (Big Séance)

Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) (Big Séance)

 


A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations

 

Have you ever decorated a Halloween Altar? Do you know what a Halloween Altar is? There are different types of these altars. Some are downright spooky and clearly meant to be, but others are very reverent and sometimes referred to as “Ancestor Altars”. These altars are used in the Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, but they were used by other cultures as well, like the ancient Celts and in the Gaelic festival of Samhain. In the Ancestor Altar, one would place photos or artifacts belonging to their ancestors on an elaborately decorated table, which even sometimes displayed fruits and vegetables from the harvest. According to psychic medium MarVeena Meek, in the beginning, these altars were designed out of fear that one’s recently passed family members would come back to haunt them if they didn’t show that they were honoring and remembering them. She also says that often altars were used as a plea to passed on spirits to help them (from the Other Side) make it through the winter after the harvest. The skull is almost always a part of one of these altars, and apparently they’re symbols of the wisdom that we gain with each and every life we live. Other “dark” items like this are sometimes meant to ward off evil spirits. 

By no means am I an expert on this topic, but in my research I’m finding that there are many versions of these altars, and their meanings and their personal elements depend on the tradition or culture. It seems that some modern Halloween Altars are more fun and about decorating with all sorts of trinkets, candles, and anything else that says “Halloween”. Please see my related links below for more information on Halloween or Ancestor Altars.

Now for my spin on this tradition. I wanted to try something a bit different for my first altar, but also decided to tame it down a bit while I continue to research them . Mine falls into more of a fun Halloween Altar category. I’m not even convinced I’m done with it, but let me know what you think. 

 

As you can see, I used the buffet in my dining room for the main altar. I extended the idea onto the dining room table. 

 

I love this little guy. I used him for no other reason than he looks awesome and he’s even holding his own skull. He just had to be center stage. 

 

Behind Mr. Skeleton is a still from a movie that most of you probably recognize. This photo was used in the final shots of The Shining from 1980. I’ve always loved that moment from the movie, and I thought it would add just the right amount of subtle creepiness. 

 

I want to point out that all of the photos used in my altar decorating were found online. I searched for spooky retro photos and printed them in 4X6 and 5X7 sizes, with the exception of the still from The Shining, which is an 8X10. Some of the frames I had, but many of the frames were purchased from Target and Walmart for anywhere from $1 to $3. I was going for a classic or antique look.  

I’d seen the photo above before, and though I don’t know much about it, be sure to look closely in the back off to the left. See it? Yeah. Good luck sleeping tonight.

 

Many of the other photos that I printed were simply fun (and super creepy) shots of children in costume from the old days, like the one above.

 

The other end of my altar displays two more retro photos of adults and children in costume. Candles are on my list of favorite things, so along with the other candles, I just HAD to have skulls that have the ability to bleed through the eyeballs when lit. The two center candles on the altar are bleeding candles as well, which is why they are a pinkish white color. 

 

Along with some seasonal artificial floral and beautiful leaves, the dining room table is decorated with copies of various vintage Halloween cards and ads from the turn of the century, some from old magazines. This idea was inspired by my previous Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) post. 

 

With most of these photos and printouts, my goal was to find things that would spark a conversation, like this one. You can find an easier to read page with this poem HERE

 

Finally, I took some of the remaining photos and spread them throughout the house. The one above is on a book shelf next to the front entry.

 

I just love the two pictures above. These are on my piano in the living room.

 

Anyone planning on trying a Halloween or Ancestor Altar? Let me know! Send me pictures! And if you have experience with or knowledge on these altars, please feel free to enlighten us in the comments.

 

Related Articles:

Day of the Dead, Decoded: A Joyful Celebration Of Life And Food (NPR’s The Salt)

Ancestor Altars (Psychic Medium MarVeena Meek)

Sybilees Samhain (Halloween) Altar (Sybilees Witchcraft School)

Samhain (Halloween) Altar (Jen Minkman)

 


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