The Great Halloween To-Do List

Halloween is finally upon us. In the brief window between seeing leaves at peak season and seeing Christmas decorations in CVS, I recommend accomplishing these four things.

Halloween is finally upon us. When this time of year rolls around — and in that brief window between seeing leaves at peak season and seeing Christmas decorations in CVS — I recommend accomplishing these four things:

1. See the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

Once you see the thousands of pumpkins aflame on the grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor, your neighbor’s best Halloween display — no matter how many cans of spray-on spider-webs are used — will seem like child’s play. Expert carvers transform pumpkins into aliens, pirates, witches, fairies, bumblebees, and — my personal favorite — dinosaur skeletons.

If you don’t have a chance to see it in person, check out the videos taken by visitors at the Historic Hudson Valley blog, where there’s also some good behind-the-scenes info. You don’t get to taste their hot cider sweet pumpkin pie afterwards, though.

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2. Eat Something Pumpkin-Flavored

Looking at carved pumpkins is not enough. You have to consume them. Pumpkins are so rich in antioxidants that nutritionists advise eating the canned version year-round. There’s pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli, and pumpkin pie — oh my! If you’re in a pinch and can’t make the from-scratch pumpkin pie that grandma used to make, there’s nothing wrong with cracking open a package of pumpkin whoopee pies from Trader Joe’s. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can always try to make the pumpkin crème brûlée recipe that Red Hat bistro in Irvington cooked up last year. (I am not that adventurous, though I do make a mean pumpkin soup.)

3. Dress Up in a Costume

Putting together a costume — finding the exact color blue for Coraline’s hair, figuring out how to turn that wooly blanket into a Wild Thing, etc. — shows off just how creative you are. But, really, who has time to do that? For my money, I’d just go to Beyond Costumes in Yonkers. They have almost any costume you can think of — owner Yon Zweibon told me she made an entire cast of Super Mario Brothers costumes, complete with eight decoy princesses, for a summer camp production. And even if you’re not heading out to a fancy-dress party, it’s fun just to browse at the professional-level theatrical ensembles available for rental. (Many of her outfits are cast-offs from closed Broadway shows. One even has Lou Diamond Phillips’ name on the label from when he was in The King and I.) What’s shaping up to be the hot costume of the year? Michael Jackson.

4. Watch a Scary Movie

I’ve already mentioned how Paranormal Activity has this year’s horror-movie crown. In my mind, movies like that are scariest because they don’t show you too much. What you imagine is always more frightening than anything a movie can show you, and bumps in the night are more terrifying than vampires and slashers because I already have them in my house.

Looking for other movies in the Paranormal Activity vein? Check out Entertainment Weekly’s list of the “20 Scariest Movies of All Time.” Or, if you need a wider net, the American Film Institute composed a list of 100 Thrilling Films.

What are your Halloween rituals? Let me know in the comments.

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Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze

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