If you know me, you know I’m not into Halloween. At all. Five children, and we’ve never once gotten costumes and gone trick-or-treating. Not our thing. But I do like local festivals. And history. And literature. And I love St. Charles, MO. So, when I found out that St. Charles was having a new Legends and Lanterns event this year, focusing on the rituals and customs of Halloween through the years, as well as some of the more macabre characters from history and literature, I figured we should go, regardless of our feelings on Halloween.
Actually, I almost didn’t find out about the event at all. I only happened to see a reference to it on social media, and I did some investigating. But after that, I discovered that three of the children had heard about it on the radio (yes, on a station I was listening to…I guess that just shows how much I actually listen to the background noise I put on!), and knew all about it. None of them thought it necessary to tell me about it, though, so I guess they’re lucky I heard about it at all!
So, yesterday we drove out to St. Charles. Our yearly visit for Christmas Traditions is still over a month away, and yet there were things that were familiar. There were characters to visit (although they were handing out stickers instead of cards), and we actually found them all! The cast of characters included Edgar Allan Poe, Lizzie Borden, Vlad (The Impaler) Tepes, Baba Yaga, Guy Fawkes, Abigail Williams, Madame Esmeralda, La Catrina (The Spirit of Dia De Los Muertos), a Druid Priestess, Stingy Jack, the Gingerbread Witch, Igor (servant of Dr. Frankenstein), Ichabod Crane, and a hoard of angry villagers (who, while peasants, were also talented singers!).
One thing that I thought was really well done was the fact that each character had a “post.” There was a unique lantern stand for each character, and if they weren’t there, a sign explained their absence. This made it really easy to keep track of which characters we had seen, and which we had missed. I think the Christmas Traditions festival might benefit from something similar…perhaps static posts for the most popular characters, which would make them easy to locate, and the rest of the characters wandering as they currently do, which is fun from a scavenger hunt point-of-view.
The stickers that each character gave out were meant to be placed in a booklet, which was available (for free!) at the Visitors’ Center on Main Street. The only stickers we didn’t get were for the hayride (which we could have gone on, but we wanted to walk instead), and the Victorian Mourning Exhibit. In addition to a description of each character in the booklet, there were also activities…word searches, crafts, even recipes. This is a another fun idea which reminded me of the long-ago days when Christmas Traditions used to offer a coloring book.
Main Street was a beautiful sight to see, just as it is a Christmastime:
The Dia de los Muertos Plaza was a busy place, and also very colorful!
At Christmas, Main Street has a gingerbread house completion. Yesterday, we found a scarecrow contest…it was hard to pick a favorite!
The was the first year of Legends and Lanterns (although it was so well-organized, you certainly couldn’t tell that they haven’t done it before!), but if the crowd we saw was any indication, it certainly won’t be the last! I think this festival has the potential to become a highly anticipated annual event in St. Charles, and another great thing for the community!