I typically don’t like orange. I don’t own an orange shirt, I don’t like orange appliances or decor. Heck, I live in a State whose heritage includes “Big Orange” as a part of their athletic identity and I still don’t like it. I grew up loving the cooler colors of nature, blues and greens, the soft subdued and soothing hues of a beautiful Spring evening. Orange, for me, was angry, hot, dangerous, unwelcoming, and bright. Not aspects that I desired to associate myself as a child.
At the same time, I loved Halloween. I loved hauling out the sometimes musty decorations out of the shed and dusting off old blow molds and costumes. Many of which were blazing orange. So how on earth do I reconcile my affinity and love for the orange of Halloween, and my distaste for the uncomfortable and irritating orange of everyday life?
There certainly is a difference between, say, Tennessee Orange and Halloween Orange. For one, and it may seem simple enough, they represent completely different things. The University of Tennessee’s distinctive orange tone comes from the orange and white daisies on the campus, which inspired the 1889 athletics association president to adopt it’s warm and vibrant color for the department.1 That orange reminds me of hot summer football and “good-ole” boys. That orange serves the purpose of camaraderie and group identity.
Halloween orange is something else entirely.
The orange that has become so distinctive to the Halloween season represents a number of things including pumpkins and other harvest vegetables, fire, and the turning leaves. Halloween orange is warm, yes, but inviting. It promises good food and good fortune. This orange is approachable and positive.
Beistle and Dennison
What then popularized the orange that is so often synonymous with Halloween? Mostly, the company’s “Beistle” and “Dennison” are to blame for that. Over the past 100 years, Beistle has created affordable holiday decoration and toys for the world to enjoy. Beistle, die cut manufacturer out of Pennsylvania, has created “over 1000 different designs and decorations” that “have been added since 1921 ranging from witches, black cats, bats, owls, spiders and jack o lanterns. The company produced many popular die cut Halloween paper items and helped popularize Halloween decoration in America.” 2
Dennison is a die cast holiday manufacturer in Massachusetts. Like Beistle, they too are responsible for the early 20th century’s vision of Halloween. Dennison made their share of decorations, but they are best known for their line of Halloween catalogs called “Bogie Books”. The first bogie book was released in 1909, and continued almost yearly on into the 1930s.3 These magazines, like Beistle and Dennison’s die cut decorations, helped establish the look, and for our purposes here, color of the season. They included advertisements for paper costumes and decorations, halloween party ideas and games, as well as a guiding force in the trends for the Halloween season.
Halloween adopted the early 1900s color of orange as a part of itself. Never would a Halloween again go by without its warm, eerie glow. But for me, Halloween orange is best summed up by a slow, cool Autumn sunset. The sky is ablaze in orange, yet the coming night air feels refreshing. The hard day is winding down and the promise of quiet and darkness soothes the mind and refreshes the soul. Halloween orange remains, still, an otherworldly glow of nostalgia, nature, and fun.