Gaining Back Autumn Traditions
Words by Nicole Zais
Photos by Jenn Bakos
Halloween is my favorite holiday. So much so that I usually find myself in great denial when it ends and the rest of the world moves on into November. It’s not over, I always say to myself. It can’t be. As someone with an overactive imagination and a great love for all things macabre, it makes sense that the modern celebrations of All Hallows’ Evening would speak deeply to me as a person. I always wish I can do all the fall activities at once, leaving nothing out. This year, having recently moved to Allston, I found that city life caused my autumn to slip away from me before I could participate in any of my October traditions.
I knew I had to remedy this situation and I retreated to the only place I knew would guarantee the safety of my Halloween and October experience: home. Leaving work early on Thursday the 31st, my dad picked me up and together we drove to my parents’ house in the suburbs. My mom was waiting for us with a big box of Halloween decorations, which we all hurriedly dug through to decorate the house as quickly as we could before the trick or treaters came. The night was so warm we left our door open with just the screen shut, allowing the sounds of a light rain and the excited shouts of children running from house to house to filter in with the comfortable night air. I ate too many Rolo’s and lost about $10 in change donating to UNICEF. While I wasn’t dressing up like some of my friends in the city and drinking beer at a bar, I found myself completely satisfied.
Work the next day passed in a blur. I was planning on going to a Halloween party with some friends that evening and while I was excited about wearing my costume, something else was bugging me. Around four that afternoon, I decided not to go to the party but to go back home instead. My dad and I arrived home after the hectic Friday evening traffic to find a dark house in the gathering dusk. As we exited the car, my mom called out to us from the backyard where she had started up our fire-pit. She had found the pumpkin spice flavored chocolate that I loved when I was a kid and we roasted s’mores around the cheery fire. It was the first of November but you couldn’t tell me that.
I woke up that Saturday to the light of the blue sky streaming in through my window. The weather was warm again for the fall, low-60s, and the air was dry and full of the yellow sun. This is what I needed; this is what I came home for. Downstairs at breakfast I turned to my mom and asked her how she would feel about doing all of October in one day. She gave me a growing smile. “You mean do all of our traditions? I think we’re up for the challenge.”
It took us twenty minutes to drive to Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow and I could almost feel all the pieces of this perfect fall day click into place. I stood in the middle of the pumpkin patch for a picture after carefully selecting three of the round, orange gourds. We walked to the farm stand and bought apple cider
and caramel apples and apple cider donuts which we all packed into the car before grabbing our picking bags and heading out into the trees to fill them up with end of the season apples. We ended up hiking around the orchards for three hours, wandering in and out of the trees, enjoying the warm sunlight, and picking apples at an idle pace, munching on one for a snack when we got hungry.
Back at the house my mom and I cut open the pumpkins and got messy up to our elbows scooping out the vegetable guts to gather the seeds and allow us to carve jack o’ lanterns. We dried the seeds outside on the porch as we went to rake some leaves down on the lawn that had been blown back onto the grass from the surrounding woods. The afternoon ended with us lighting the pumpkins and eating the roasted, salted seeds by the candle- light of the jack o’ lanterns.
Autumn, like spring, can be seen as a transitional season, a sort of bridge between summer and winter, but I think it’s more than just that. Instead, I prefer to view autumn as a time of reflection and gathering. I realized only last week, and at twenty-four years old, that any family traditions don’t have to be limited to the holiday on which they are founded. As long as the spirit of the customs is kept alive and family and love surrounds you, anything is possible. You may even be able to fit all of October into one crisp, November day.