There’s nothing like a flying, bloody clown to put one in the mood for every dentist’s favorite holiday: Halloween. Add a few ghosties, that stringy cotton stuff that takes half a year to fully remove from trees post-rainfall, a couple of rotting corpses, and a bunch of pumpkins, and lucky children all over Weehawken have got a full gathering of ghouls to walk through on Oct. 31.
One spot not to be missed? Neil DeCosmis’ house at 40 El Dorado Place. In fact, it’s hard to miss the lawn packed with a giant blowup skeleton coachman and buggy, dancing ghosts in a cauldron, and other giant scary things, blow-up and otherwise.
“My mother used to decorate every year for every holiday since we moved here 40 years ago,” DeCosmis said. Though Antoinette passed away 33 years ago, DeCosmis has taken it upon himself to continue the family tradition.
“By the time 8:30 rolls around, we run out of candy.” – Neil DeCosmis
“It’s part of the deal when you sign the lease,” he laughed. “By the time 8:30 rolls around, we run out of candy. It’s a lot of fun, and everyone really gets into it.”
Tenants Debbie Denatille, Dee and Bobby Calman dress to the nines and really play up their chosen roles (a witch and two vampires, respectively) and DeCosmis’ father, Neil Senior, fixes whatever décor happens to fall into disrepair in his workshop in back of the house.
“It’s incredible how many people stop and take pictures,” De Cosmis said. “It’s a longstanding tradition and every year we try to do it bigger and better.”
Pelt costume, anyone?
Halloween wasn’t always the brightly-colored candy and costume extravaganza it is today.
Two centuries ago, the Celtic people held a festival known as “Samhain” the day before their new year began on Nov. 1. It marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of a cold, starving season during which folks braced for the inevitability of death.
In fact, the Celts believed that on the evening of Oct. 31, the divide between the world of the living and the world of the dead disappeared entirely, setting the stage for a plethora of superstitious rituals.
Eventually the Celtic festival crossed into other cultures who added their own charming touches, like large bonfires and animal sacrifice for instance.
The very first costume tradition resulted when some celebrants chose to wear the pelts of their animal sacrifices as disguises against death.
Colonists brought All-Hallows Eve to America, and the practice of feasting and trading food began as immigrants fled the famine of their former countries and discovered the bounty of their new land.
Combine all of these traditions, mix in a healthy dose of capitalism and an obsession with sugar, and modern-day Halloween was born.
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Gennarose Pope may be reached at email@example.com