A Learning Center Halloween

We know how to have fun up here in the mountains. The multitude of creatively carved pumpkins sitting on the back porch of the Dining Hall are proof of it. I didn’t have big plans for Halloween this year. I usually eat popcorn, watch scary movies (by myself, which is always a bad idea), and end up laying in bed with the light on because I’m too scared to close my eyes. This year I decided to forego frightening myself out of a good night’s sleep. Here is what followed:

Hard at work carving pumpkins
Pumpkin carved by c12 graduate student Sahara Suval

Pumpkin carved by c12 graduate student Hillary Schwirtlich
Pumpkin carved by Julia, a friend of North Cascades Institute

For many people, especially kids, an essential part of Halloween is trick-or-treating. One North Cascades Institute family adapted this activity for their two small children by bringing them up to the Learning Center so they could “practice trick-or-treating” with the staff. The oldest, who is three years old and was dressed as a pig, travelled around the Dining Hall, knocking on chairs and wooden pillars to ask for candy from staff and grad students hiding amongst the furniture.
The adults who live at and near the Learning Center decided to dress up as well, some choosing a zombie theme. Other costumes included Frida Khalo, a canoeist, a hipster, and a TV character from the 90’s.

Zombie bride, with bridesmaids and preacher
The whole group, post pumpkin carving

A history nerd, I looked up the backstory to Halloween. The holiday came to North America during the Irish and Scottish immigration of the 19th century. Originally, jack-o’-lanterns were carved out of turnips, but once the holiday started being practiced here, pumpkins became a more common sight (they are native to this area, as well as being easier to carve due to their larger size and and softer flesh). The ancient Celts, whose New Year was November 1st, thought of October 31st as the closest day to death because it was the coldest and darkest time of year. Unlike today, for much of Halloween’s past, people dressed in costumes not to have fun and be silly, but to ward off dark spirits and ghosts who were thought to roam the land on this day.
As the days get shorter, and especially with daylight savings time ending on Sunday lights are becoming more important in both our ability to (literally) see what we’re doing as well as our general happiness as humans. Glowing pumpkins with beautiful and creative designs always put a smile on my face.

Leading photo: Glowing pumpkins carved by Institute staff and graduate students. All photos by the author.

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