To be clear, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what the autumnal equinox was in the 1980s. Halloween? Sure, every kid knew about that wonderful night. Autumn? Of course! It was my favorite season. But the autumnal equinox…I can’t recall ever having a big blowout party for Mabon. It’s within the realm of possibility that some science teacher along the way explained that it’s one of the two times during the year when the sun is directly over the equator, giving us equal (equinox…equal…get it?) day and night cycles. They may have further explained it marks the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. But if a teacher ever told me, I forgot as quickly as I ran out of the school at 2:25.
Whether or not I celebrated in the ‘80s, I absolutely have celebrated every year of my adult life. As a Halloween-loving horror fan, how could I not? The first day of autumn is the gateway to Spooky Season. This is the time of year when I truly start to feel the Halloween spirit.
I can almost hear the readers tripping over this last statement, exclaiming, “What are you talking about? I started celebrating in July!” Or maybe, “Halloween is every day!”
Let’s cover those in order. First, yes, the big bad conglomeration of holiday pushers has started selling Halloween merchandise earlier and earlier as Halloween seemingly exploded in popularity over the past half decade. As much as I love the holiday, you won’t catch me buying stuff in July, or even August. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still summer, which brings us to the second point.
“Isn’t every day Halloween?” In my heart, yes. And sure, I always leave some vestige of the holiday around the house all year long (I have far too much stuff to pack it all away). But if I’m being 100% honest with myself, I just don’t feel the Halloween spirit until the weather gets a bit chilly and the leaves start to turn. Come early September, I’m dipping my toes in, pulling out decorations, lining up my blow molds, buying Monster Cereals, and preparing my Halloween and horror movie lineups. But when the autumnal equinox hits, then I am all in.
What does “all in” look like? Something like this:
Oh, and this:
Some of those pictures reveal decorations from the ‘80s, though at this point you may be asking, “what exactly would make an autumnal equinox celebration ‘80s style?”
Fair point. Most people probably wouldn’t attempt to take an already specific celebration and make it even more niche by adding a secondary theme. Most people.
I’d argue that a lot of what I do for Mabon transcends any one particular decade. For instance, I always bake either an apple pie or a pumpkin pie. I’ll usually also bake some kind of harvest bread and top it all off with a particularly autumnal dinner including things like butternut or acorn squash, hot cider, roast chicken, and things of that nature. Attempting to tie these foods to any one particular decade is ill-advised, though you could break out one of your ‘80s cookbooks (you have a stack of those like me, right?) and choose your menu from there. That surely would result in a particularly ‘80s-inspired chicken noodle casserole.
The easiest adaptation to our little soiree will most certainly be the entertainment choices. It’s not hard, after all, to cherry pick ‘80s horror movies, music, and games.
One of my personal rules for September viewing is to save all the Halloween movies for October. Some of my favorites for the autumnal equinox include Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Pumpkinhead, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and Poltergeist. I can’t watch them all in a single night, but it’s a good batch to choose from, depending on what I’m in the mood for.
For games, as I often do, I reach for my NES and grab copies of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Monster Party, and Werewolf the Last Warrior. Maybe Ghoul Patrol and Zombies Ate My Neighbors for the SNES will make an appearance too, even though they aren’t era-specific. Similarly, It from the Pit is a little outside our purview, having been made in 1992, but close enough for my party.
Outside of pop culture, I think it’s important to also mark the change of seasons in a slightly more somber way. That’s why, no matter what else I do, I always like to end the night with a roaring bonfire and autumnal beer. Sitting around the crackling fire, watching embers jump into the sky as if envious of the stars, I breathe deeply and search for those familiar scents that will soon fill the air.
Autumn is here, friends. Mark the day well and breathe deep of the night.