It was 1978 the first time I saw the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village. My friend Arthur had told me about it and we walked down Seventh Avenue in search of it. Back then, there were just a few 100 people in the entire parade that wandered around the streets in an unofficial path adding an additional layer of whimsy. The costumes were amazing with puppetry and elaborate detail while a ragtag little band followed. I don’t remember any police there to keep things “orderly” as it was the 1970’s when the city had an air of wildness about it. Drug wars kept the men in blue occupied uptown while the rest of us felt rules were meant to be broken and unbridled spontaneity celebrated. I was in my first year of college and Arthur was a High School friend who was attending the same school. We leaned against a car on what I believe now was 10th Street. I had never seen anything like that parade before and the memory of that particular one still remains one of my more magical moments. It was like the Pied Piper of creativity and I would have danced behind it for eternity if that were at all possible.
Fast-forward 35 years and the parade has grown into a huge affair with fifty thousand people participating and 2 million attending. The streets are shut down as early as 7 in the morning and most are blocked that boarder 6th Avenue. The parade was regulated to a strict path years ago. As a local resident, I will be the first to admit the neighborhood becomes an inconvenient madhouse. Over the years, I’ve sometimes watched and other times marched in the parade. The parade is best when you are part of it. No matter what your costume is, throngs of people will still cheer you on. It’s exhilarating.
Lately I confess I escape the crowds to the West Village where local children trick or treat with parents who are also dressed in costume. It’s not just the stores that give out candy but also the residents of the Brownstones who sit out front and offer up bowls of goodness. Over at Abingdon Square, carved pumpkins gather on the lawn where they are lit with candles. It’s very sweet as children bring their carved works of art to the park. A group I can only describe as “mild in nature” gathers to marvel at the Jack-O-Lanterns that vary in size and detail. We take in the last night of October which has a crisp undertone of weather yet to come. It’s there this year where I found the creative holiday magic that is Halloween.
I’m hoping all of you have had a wonderful day and that you too found a bit of magic.