Tag Archive | "halloween"

East End Celebrates the Dead for Día de los Muertos

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By Tessa Raebeck

For most of us, skulls are scary, but for some Sag Harbor residents, they’re candy. Decorating candy skulls is a favored tradition of those who celebrate Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican festival honoring those who have passed.

Despite its name, Day of the Dead is far from spooky. Unlike Halloween, it is a holiday of commemoration, not commotion. The dead are not feared; they are celebrated.

“It takes the spooky out of it and shows that it’s a little bit more about honoring those who have passed rather than trying to scare people away,” said Josh Perry, the newly appointed director of the family department at Hampton Library in Bridgehampton.

Under Perry’s direction, Hampton Library will host its first Día de los Muertos program this Friday.

“The idea was to do a program for what we consider bridge kids, eight to 12 year olds,” explained Perry. “I wanted to offer something that was culturally diverse, instead of just the traditional Halloween.”

Children are invited to come learn about the holiday, listen to a short story about it and decorate their own candy skulls with paint, glitter and other provided materials. Although it’s aimed at the “bridge kids,” younger children who are capable of decorating their own skulls are also welcome.

“Really just socializing, hanging out and creating” is what kids can expect, according to Perry, who hopes to generate interest from the older kids with more diverse programming.

“We just wanted to create something that was cool and talk about it and expose the kids to maybe something that they’ve never heard before or never knew anything about,” he said.

Sag Harbor’s Ken Dorph was first exposed to the skulls in the 1990s when he spent time working in Mexico City

“This concept of celebrating death in the fall is pretty universal in the northern hemisphere,” explains Dorph.

Halloween began as an ancient Celtic harvest festival, a celestial holiday at the halfway point between the equinox and the solstice. Native Americans — in particular, the Aztecs — independently started their own annual celebration to honor the dead, Día de los Muertos, due to these same celestial roots. When the Spanish conquistadors invaded the Americas in the 16th century, they brought with them the Catholic customs and traditions of All Souls’ Day, a commemoration of the dead celebrated on November 2. Also observed on November 2, Día de los Muertos today has influences from Catholic practices as well as Aztec and Native American traditions.

“It’s not like Halloween,” explained Dorph. “Like, ‘Ahh!’ It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going to see Grandma.’ People have a great time, there’s nothing spooky.”

Although many Day of the Dead celebrations take place in graveyards, they resemble a picnic more than they do a haunted house. After dark, families and friends gather food and drink, candles, marigolds and their homemade candy skulls and visit the graves of deceased family members. They tell stories about those who have passed and celebrate their lives.

“We go usually with the gringos,” Dorph says of his family’s Día de los Muertos celebrations at Sag Harbor’s Oakland Cemetery. In addition to food and marigolds, they bring hot chocolate and make sure all skulls are bio-degradable.

Although Dorph, his friends and the local Mexican-American population celebrate Día de los Muertos in full force, many local residents are ignorant of the festivities. Perry is excited for the opportunity to teach others about the colorful candy skulls and the philosophy that death is not something to be feared, but is instead a natural transition in life.

“I’m looking forward to exposing kids to something a little different,” he said. “It’s just a day to celebrate the dead and, I guess, a day of remembrance.”

Hampton Library will host its Día de los Muertos celebration on Friday, November 1 from 4 to 5 p.m. at 2478 Main Street in Bridgehampton. Call 631-537-0015 or visit hamptonlibrary.org for more information.

Satisfying an Appetite for the Ghoulish

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web_BH Lions Halloween Carving Contest '10_7151

By Emily J Weitz

As the sun sets earlier and the leaves swirl down the quiet streets, the time of year to explore the dark side has arrived. Halloween is a holiday devoted to the human fascination with magic and make-believe as well as gore and guts, and Sag Harbor has a little bit of everything to honor the occasion.

One thing our community prides itself on is its creativity. As a result, you might notice the pumpkin carving contests are a little more high-brow; the haunted houses a tad more authentic. These factors combined with the growing number of people spending their late October weekends here make Sag Harbor the place to be to celebrate the spookiest time of the year.

The Ragamuffin Parade is when people young and old get to showcase their creativity by getting out into the street and flaunting their costumes. You’ll see everything from the walking dead to little baby fairies marching down Main Street.

“Last year we had over 1000 people,” says Phil Bucking, a member of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “And the costumes were fantastic.” Since Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, Bucking suspects there might be even more people.

“We’ve been doing it about fifteen years. Each year more and more people march in the parade.” Bucking attributes this growth in popularity not only to a growing awareness, but also to people’s desire for community.

“It’s a community event and a social outlet. It brings everybody together, and people get to show their creative side.”

The Ragamuffin Parade begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday, October 31. Participants will gather behind Bookhampton, and the parade will go up Main Street to the Custom House, where food and drinks will be waiting. The Food Pantry provides all refreshments and will be accepting donations.

Since Halloween falls on a weekend this year, the Ragamuffin Parade will happen in conjunction with another Halloween Day tradition: the Pumpkin Trail. This trick-or-treating extravaganza is an opportunity for kids to safely rake in as much candy as they can. Just look for the pumpkin faces in the store windows throughout the business district to find out what stores are participating. The Pumpkin Trail will be open directly following the Ragamuffin Parade.

For those looking to wander towards the more sinister this Halloween, there is ample opportunity. Two screech fests promise to really keep you up at night. The Wailing Museum here in Sag Harbor starts a new tradition of terror this year, and you couldn’t ask for a better venue. The rickety old mansion on Main Street, built in 1845, probably has ghosts in the basement anyway. And the way Zach Studenroth and the staff have decked out the premises, you’re sure to get a good scare. They’ve combined the real artifacts of the museum with creepy effects to create a haunting and realistic experience.

“We felt the architecture of this building, both outside and in, is extreme,” says Studenroth, director of the museum. “It’s conducive to doing something grotesque. We have a lot of curiosities in the collections.”

For example, old whaling pots, with diameters the size of dining room tables, act as cauldrons, from which random limbs might emerge. The winding staircase, the hanging chandeliers, and the Gothic columns are all authentic parts of the museum’s architecture. But the cannibals, the butcher shop, and the hall of mirrors – those turn a vaguely spooky setting into fright fest.

Studenroth hopes that in the future the haunted house might grow into a more complete Halloween celebration.

“It’s our first year,” he says. “And we’re having a lot of fun. Once we do it once, we can build on it. We’d love to have a costume party for adults and maybe a kids’ event on Sunday. Our inspiration is to grow it.”

The Wailing Museum is recommended for adults and kids over twelve. It takes place nightly at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum at 200 Main Street between October 27 -31 from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is $10.

Speaking of spooky settings, Mulford Farm in East Hampton, which dates back to 1680, hosts an interactive Halloween scare on over four acres of indoor and outdoor property.  Kate Mueth, who has orchestrated Haunted Mulford Farm, says “This is a theatrical event. I try to create images that are disturbing. My lighting designer is a genius.”

Some images you’ll find as you wind your way through the barns and pathways include hangings and burnings.

You’ll begin with a witch trial, and then follow a story “about the witches, the accused, and the accusers… The thing I like is the element of reality to it,” says Mueth. “Using the natural scariness of the farm, you’re transported to the 1600s – people lived and died there… I hope people will come away thinking about what happened when people were so afraid of what they didn’t understand.”

Haunted Mulford Farm is recommended for adults and kids over 12. It takes place nightfall to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Admission is $10 for families, $5 adults, $2 kids.

The annual pumpkin carving contest sponsored by the Bridgehampton Lion’s Club, which always produces a stunning array of intricately carved pumpkins, took place at the Community House in Bridgehampton on Monday night. John Musnicki, who started the contest more than 12 years ago as a private party, has since seen it grow into a major community event. Musnicki sets up a variety of categories, from Classic Jack to Punk-a-licious. “The categories are the lead-in for all this creativity,” Musnicki has said. “So the material can help [contestants] think of something. If you just give a person a pumpkin they may say – now where do I go? But if you give them something to target, it will help you. To me it’s the most creative part of doing this event.”

“We only added one new category this year: Bozo Bizarro,” says Musnicki. ”Usually we put three or four new categories, but last year was so good we didn’t want to mess around with it.”

“I carve a new pumpkin every year too, for display. Lately there have been some people who have outdone me. Some very cool stuff,” he added.

Whether you’re looking to tap into your creative juices or rustle up a good scare, there’s something for everyone in and around Sag Harbor this week.

Ragamuffin Halloween Parade

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