Hallow e'en (All Hallows Eve) varies from culture to culture, region, city, neighborhood, house, in poly-celebratory USA.
Here in what was once Spanish Colonial upper-Mexico (now California) the Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) is still publicly and privately obsrved with the inclusion of indigenous Mexican practices - family altars, costumes, edible sugar-candy skeleton dolls, etc. Family altars display photos of their dead, their favorite belongings, offerings of their favorite foods, etc. as tho they were due back shortly after a trip. Professional artists even make art-altars to demonstrate their degree of congruity with or respect for the tradition.
For the second year now, in San Francisco's notably gay Castro neighborhood, civil and commercial authorites are urging people to celebrate Hallowe'en together, entirely at home, rather than outdoors in the streets (Mardi Gras-style), in the hopes of decreasing one-on-one violence and general public disorder.
For the third year now, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) www.sfso.com marks El Dia with a Dia De Los Muertos family concert (this year, Nov. 6, 2010, 2pm) celebrating the music of Mexico and the Spanish-speaking world; discount tickets for under 17s. Displays, refreshments and children's activities fill Davies Hall's lobbies. Resident Conductor Donato Cabrera concucts a suite from Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas's ballet La Coronella - with dancers. Supported by S.F. Arts Commission, Univision, Telefutura, SFMuni, El Mensajero.
666 miles north of San Francisco, in Portland, Oregon, bilingual theater group Milagro/Miracle puts on its annual Dia De Los Muertos verse and musical play, this year (28 Oct.-14 Nov.) !Viva Don Juan! by Martin Milagro (the collaborative group's pseudonym), art-directed by Olga Sanchez; the dead Don returns on El Dia to earn an annual altar for both himself and his lost love from their convent-sequestered daughter; living and dead redeem and celebrate each other
[Back East] In chilly New England (I was born in Salem, raised next to it in Lynn, Massachusetts), commercially-made death-image paraphenalia offer no guarantee that the dead are happily coming back.
But - instead - that malicious (demented) evil spirts are and must be defended against, coppered/warded-off by young children's dressing up in traditional Hallowe'en costumes and trick-or-treating from door-to-door in one's own neighborhood which has now become a defensive perimeter, the fear of child abuse having grown in the past few decades, so that only commercially-wrapped candies are acceptable as ghost-gelt; unadulterated apples seem to be OK, too.
[Back West] Presbyterians in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale, California) are offering a safe church parking-lot located "Trunk-or-Treat" one day earlier, on October 30th, at 7pm.
Roman Catholics (I was, until 20), probably maintain a relatively benevolent relationship with deadery, with maybe even some tolerance for teenagers "Trick or Treating" dressed up as vampires, hoping that "That, too, will soon pass - tomorrow!" Tolerance does have limits.
Prohibitively devout neo-conservative Baptist Christians (in 7-sisters collegiate Wellesley, Massachusetts) insist on dressing their children up as 'little saints' for Hallowe'en-replacing Little Saints Nights held at their churches to which No (real or imaginary) Witches Need Apply. For them, a now unacceptable All Hallows Eve has brightened before an already glorious All Saints Day, traditionally the next day.
Not far away, fabled Salem, Massachusetts (where I was born), the location of the Great Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692 (over which an ancestor of Salem fictioneer Nathaniel Hawthorne presided, to his lifelong shame) has (incredibly) now become a wicca-tolerating tourist-bus venue, presided over by Salem's principal witch Laurie Cabot (whom I've never seen or met.) Contemporary wicca is proving itself to be a perennially beneficial draw to Salem's year-round tourist biz. So go there!
My wife Carolin Combs (who died on Jan. 26th, 2007) delighted in dressing up in a white owl-like commercial artfully-pinked cloth costume to greet children coming to our door in Wellesley Massachusets and again in Santa Clara California. Her costume scared (at most) a few small children. (I have color-photos of her in that winsomely owly white costume before the spider-image decorated front-door of a friend's house in San Jose California.)
Originally written, at her request, for Ann Wainwright's TypePad cakecakecake blog edited from Leven nr Beverley, nr Hull, Humberside, England GB; also in The [S.F.] Bay Citizen www.baycitizen.org Citizen Blog section.