On October 5, 2001, Disneyland guests experienced their first official “Nightmare.” No, the park didn’t close early, experience a multitude of mechanical breakdowns, or (gasp) run out of ice cream. This was debut day for The Nightmare Before Christmas— now an annual Holiday Overlay inspired by an Imagineer asking, “which Disney character would celebrate Christmas in the Haunted Mansion?”
The answer, of course, is Jack Skellington. As “Sandy Claws,” Skellington moves into the Mansion and shows guests what happens when two holidays, Halloween and Christmas, collide. Ironically, in 1993 when Disney first released Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, they were scared of Skellington. Fearing that the film was too dark and scary for kids, executives endeavored to distance the Disney brand by releasing the movie under its Touchstone label.
Today, the movie has a cult following and is re-released regularly under the full banner of the Disney name. Twenty-five years later, instead of viewing the film as too dark for young children, critics consider The Nightmare Before Christmas to be the “ideal first horror film for a generation of youngsters.”
But not for my generation.
When Nightmare released in 1993, I was already three decades old. But this doesn’t mean that I didn’t grow up with my own fears and my own nightmares. One Halloween in particular frightened me. Twice. The first fright came when I woke up that morning too sick to go to school. This meant missing the class Halloween party. Everyone was dressing up but I didn’t care about the costumes.
I wanted the cupcakes.
Growing up, every class party came complete with cupcakes baked by that year’s “Room Mom”. The Room Mom was always the local version of Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, and Rachel Ray rolled into one. You didn’t volunteer for this job unless you could bake. Really, really bake.
Room Moms also had to be creative. Repeats were against the rules. No Room Mom wannabe would be caught dead serving the same cupcakes twice during the same school year. Halloween cupcakes came with candy corn embedded in the frosting. Easter cupcakes might be mini Easter baskets with pipe cleaners pretending to be basket handles and jelly beans parading as Easter eggs. Christmas cupcakes were covered with snow. Coconut snow.
Whatever happened to class parties and Room Moms? If my kids have either than they have been holding out on me. I haven’t had a homemade, hand-decorated cupcake in years. I suspect the parties still take place, but today’s children know their Room Mom by the names of Albertsons, Ralphs, Publix, or Safeway.
They don’t know what they are missing. Store bought can’t compete with homemade. It’s scary to think about the artificial flavors and fake preservatives that go into grocery store goodies. Maybe the real nightmare on Elm Street isn’t Freddie Krueger but Freddie Kroger?
Just a thought.
My second fright came later that same day. Anyone too sick to go to school was also too sick to go trick-or-treating. At least that’s how Attila the Hun, i.e. my mom, saw it. Missing the class cupcakes was one thing but I also knew that Thanksgiving was coming soon enough. Another class party and another cornucopia of cupcakes was only three weeks away!
I cared about the cupcakes. But on Halloween, it’s the candy that counts. In my defense, I am a sugar addict and the sugar haul that comes on Halloween only comes around once a year. No trick-or-treating meant no Mini Snickers. No Mini Milky Ways. No Mini Musketeers.
Every addict needs his fix. Come Halloween I need my Twix!
Mom tried to reassure me with promises that my three brothers and sisters would bring enough candy home for me, too. Right. I’m not sure what family she grew up in but I am intimately familiar with the family I grew up in. On Halloween, the only thing sweeter than the candy was winning the competition between me and my siblings. Who could get the most? Who could hoard the most? Who could eat the most?
Sharing was for turkeys and, at best, saved for the Thanksgiving Holiday. A holiday that the calendar thankfully separated from the selfish celebration of Halloween by a full three weeks.
And that’s why October, especially for adults, is so scary. Halloween is here. Thanksgiving is weeks, not months, away. This means Christmas can’t be far off, either. Before we know it, everyone will wake up and it will be 2019. Another New Year.
It all happens so fast now. If time really flies when you are having fun then getting older must be really, really fun. This year, The Nightmare Before Christmas is celebrating its 25th anniversary. This means I am 55 years old. Each year goes faster and faster. I have two theories about this.
First, the longer you live the shorter each year becomes. Its simple math. At age ten, one year represents 10% of your life. At age fifty, it takes a full five years to make up that same 10%. In other words, a year feels five times faster at age fifty than it did at age ten. At least it does for me.
Secondly, everything happens sooner now. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World starts celebrating Halloween in the middle of August. Disneyland waits a little bit longer, but instead of opening in October—The Haunted Mansion Holiday Overlay now opens on the first Friday in September—just in time for Christmas at Costco!
Watching the calendar collide every year has become my new nightmare. 2018 started 10 months ago. The Ghost Host in the Mansion’s Holiday Overlay says it like this, “‘Twas a long time ago, (longer now than it seems), in a place that, perhaps, you have seen in your dreams.”
What goal, dream, or resolution kicked off your New Year? Regardless of where you are today, you still have two months worth of tomorrows to make something happen. Just because the year concludes with a collision of holidays doesn’t mean you should dismiss today and wait for another fresh start come January.
Instead, why not drink a toast to Now?
For what it is worth, I started writing The Wisdom of Walt on November 22, 2014. Once I started, I committed to not stopping until it was finished. This gave me forty days of writing, about 20% of the final manuscript, before New Year’s Day arrived.
You can do the same. Instead of starting next year with another failed resolution, why not start today and use these next two months to build momentum? If it makes you feel better, on the radio this morning I heard Dan Fogelberg’s New Year’s Eve Classic, Auld Lang Syne. And it’s only October.
Now that’s scary.