Halloween, Chickadee Gardens Style

Halloween is a holiday I adore. The costumes, the pumpkins, the memories as a child, the spookiness, the history, the mystery. While I did not decorate this year as we don't host trick-or-treaters out here, we still appreciate the holiday, and I look to nature for my decorations. 

Musquee de Provence pumpkins, although not completely ripe, are the quintessential Halloween symbol for me.  

Plenty of webs around this year.

Rosa glauca hips, hanging on for weeks now. 

Corn stalks are right up there with pumpkins for spooky imagery. 

We have real ones in the garden that can be heard from time to time. 

I was on a quest for orange in the garden, not a difficult thing to do this time of year. Calendula 'Strawberry Blonde' are still going strong.

Our native vine maple, Acer circunatum has turned lovely shades of pumpkin.

 Regular ol' mums to adorn the house this year. 

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'

Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'

Echinacea purpurea in full Halloween mode. The birds do love these seeds. We have seen goldfinches feasting on these. 

 Lagerstroemia 'Natchez' - crape myrtle.

 Asparagus in the vegetable garden.

The sunflowers have been pretty well picked over by the birds. Still, I like their spooky shapes so leave them as long as they are still standing, which won't be for long.

 Cotinus 'Grace'

Unknown Hydrangea paniculata foliage. 

Columnar apple

The squash harvest was good this year. 

 Color on Rhamnus purshiana, our native cascara tree.

 While this is a bit of a cheat (from a few years ago) we still have the scarecrow and FM still wears a lot of orange, homage to our Orange Friends from The Netherlands (wink wink, Stella and Walter!). 

I thought I would include a couple more exotic locales in this post. Here, a Día de los Muertos altar in Mexico City is lovingly adorned with representations of the deceased's favorite foods, music, drink and more. 

 The festival in Mexico City included thousands of party-goers dressed to the nines. 

 Even our bed-and-breakfast, the Condesa Haus, got in on the act.

 A fabulous Catrina costume. You can read more about our trip to Mexico City for Halloween and Day of the Dead here.

Another place that brings to mind all things spooky is Avebury, England from our trip at this time last year. I include a photo of the Red Lion, for I stayed here with a friend several years ago when it was still a bed-and-breakfast. As it's the only pub inside a prehistoric stone circle (the entire village is), you may think it could be haunted. It is! You can revisit my post from last year here.

On the same trip we stayed in Tintagel on the Cornwall coast and stopped at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in the cute village of Boscastle. That post can be revisited here.

 And in Glastonbury, a very spiritual place, we found this goddess sculpture in an old apple orchard at Glastonbury Abbey. That post can be revisited here.

Speaking of Glastonbury, while there I picked up a copy of The Oracle (October 2018) and read a bit of Halloween history by Atasha Fyfe.

At this time of year, as the days get darker and the nights get longer, it’s easy to be more aware of the mysterious side of life. Fear of the unknown is an important part of Hallowe'en, Samhain and even Guy Fawkes Night. The ancient purpose of these rituals has always been to keep us safe from the dangers of the coming darkness. The word Halloween comes from the Christian festival of All Hallows Eve. However, this seasonal ritual began centuries before Christianity. Originally called Samhain (pronounced Sow’en), it marked the turning point between the end of summer and the start of winter.

Even with a good harvest stored away, people feared the deadly powers of winter on the way. So this was a time to make offerings of thanks to the sun god Baal – both for the bounty of the past summer, and for continued protection through the winter. People said this turning point of the year caused the veil between the worlds to become thin, bringing a time of danger, excitement and wonder. Charms and spells would be especially powerful at Samhain. Evil spirits could also come through, seeking humans to possess or destroy. Druid priests performed special rituals at this time to appease the spirits of the dead.

For additional protection, on the eve of Samhain the private home fires were put out. This made the houses look empty, so that malignant forces would pass them by. Instead, the people built a huge communal fire outside. They then feasted and danced around it, wearing fearsome masks and animal disguises of skins, horns and antlers to drive away the horrors of the dark.

The custom of trick or treat also has prehistoric roots. It began with people putting  food in front of their houses to placate the demons then roaming the land looking for sustenance, preferably in human form. People later began to act out that drama themselves. They masqueraded as demons, going from house to house demanding offerings, with threats of retribution if unsatisfied – a bit like an early protection racket. The masked children who knock on doors at Halloween are performing the same ritual, still fresh from the wild side of the human psyche.

Much like our modern electoral system, in ancient times the tribe chose a leader to reign for just one year. During this year, their temporary king had every luxury available. Then they sacrificed him and chose a replacement. The sacrifice of the old year’s king was a central purpose of the Samhain fire. It was called the bone fire because when it was over, the shaman read the dead king’s bones in the ashes for good or bad omens. With one letter dropped, it’s now our merry bonfire. The annual burning of a man’s effigy on Guy Fawkes Night is a direct echo of this arcane ritual. 

Our early winter festivals are like a gnarled old tree. While their roots still go down to these ancient terrors, the festivals these days are more about fun than fear. It feels good to thrill to the mysteries of life when we feel perfectly safe. Or are we? Maybe the veils between the worlds really are thinner at this time of year. Wishing everyone a joyfully spooky Halloween, Samhain, and bonfire night!

What an interesting history! Thank you, Atasha.

I end this blog post with a photo of our own Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos altar we created last year. Perhaps we shall do the same this year, honoring those who have come before us, family, friends, furry and otherwise.

We hope you have a wonderful Halloween, whether it's all about peanut-butter cups, cauldrons, ghosts or pumpkins. For me, it's primarily about the natural world, but I love the idea of honoring the dead, so that has become part of our own ritual.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you!


  1. Happy Halloween, Tamara! I enjoyed reading Atasha's history, thanks for including it. You guys put together a very nice Dia de los Muertos altar. It looks like you gave Lucy pride of place last year. I have a very morbid side, so I have an affinity for Halloween.

    1. Happy Halloween to you, Alison! Isn't that a cool summary of the history? Love it.

      Lucy will have pride of place this year, too xoxo

      I love your morbid side, by the way. Halloween rocks!

  2. Thanks for sharing your beautiful fall garden, Tamara, and Happy Halloween! Here, construction workers have kept all thoughts of the holiday at bay. I even forgot to buy candy this year. We get few if any trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood even when I have decorations up, so that shouldn't be a problem but...who knows!

    1. Happy Halloween to you, Kris! Gosh, too bad about workers but hopefully it will all be worth it. Well, if you did get last minute candy and there were no trick-or-treaters - then YOU WIN!

  3. Oh! I had forgotten about Samhain. That is an excellent history. I did not know the origin of Trick or Treating before. I like the owl lantern and the Glastonbury goddess. Both could easily find a place in my garden!

    1. Isn't that a cool history, Jane? The Glastonbury goddess is special - on the other side she is hollow and apples pour out of her. It's really cool. Happy Halloween!

  4. Wonderful post Tamara, the sunny garden photos and your travel history. Too bad you don't get trick or treaters, I bet you could have a lot of fun with them.


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