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Not as scary as it appears

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Family’s tradition pokes fun at death while celebrating life

By Meaghan Downs

Halloween at the Holder residence isn’t just a holiday.
It’s an obsession.
Faux gravestones dot the front lawn in the Holders’ homemade cemetery at the corner of Willoughby and Canterbury streets in Lawrenceburg.
A sharp-toothed clown stands watch near a fence with posts capped in fake human skulls.
Look closely to spot red-eyed rubber rats hiding in the fallen leaves.  
Brenda, an employee in the circulation department at the Lexington Herald-Leader and Holder decorating mastermind, said she’s been crazy about Halloween since she was a little girl and has been creating a spooky trick-or-treat wonderland at her residence on and off for about 12 years.
But she didn’t start seriously decorating (the front lawn features large coffins and skeletons popping out of cemetery plots, to name a few Halloween attractions) until 8 or 9 years ago, when The Anderson News sponsored a fall decoration contest for readers.
Now Halloween is a family venture, with her daughter Nicole Holder and granddaughters Haley, 7, and Hannah, 6, joining in the decorating festivities, which begin as early as the Burgoo Festival at the end of September.
She’s even made her daughter Nicole promise to continue the tradition after Brenda dies; Brenda’s decoration collection may even end up in her will.
“I’d be very upset if she didn’t; I told her I’d come back and haunt her,” Brenda joked.
October can be a hard month for the Holders, Nicole said, because of loved ones who died during that month.
“It was kind of like my sticking my tongue out at death,” Brenda said.
Brenda explained she also enjoys scaring people, which Nicole knows from experience.
Nicole said she thinks her mother likes the suspense of having people walk through the yard, not knowing what piece of the Holder’s front yard is going to move and give them a scare.
No part of the Holder household is safe from any motion-sensor Halloween prop, Nicole said.
“I’m a grown adult, but I’m scared to go into my bathroom sometimes,” she laughed.
October is also a birthday month for Brenda and her granddaughter Hannah, who will be turning 6 today on Oct. 31.
Hannah thinks the Halloween decorations are all for her, Nicole joked.
“[It’s] the one month of the year we celebrate everything — the friends lost, the friends gained,” Nicole said.
Friends like to stop by to visit (the Holders always have snacks, Nicole said) and so do strangers — those who admire the front yard Halloween display from the street.
Nicole said she’s even overheard people in the store describing her residence’s Halloween decorations.
“You can’t help but have that small smile of pride,” Nicole said.
The holiday is more than the decorations, she said.  
Halloween is the ability to have a dark side, but not be too dark. It’s about spending time as a family discussing whether or not the curio cabinet in the living room will have a potions theme.
“In my opinion, it kind of teaches my kids you don’t have to fear,” Nicole said of her family’s love of Halloween. “It might look scary, but it’s really not.”