It’s a shame that for so many kids throughout North America, this year’s Halloween celebrations will probably pass largely unnoticed, due to Hurricane Sandy. I always loved going out trick-or-treating. It wasn’t even so much all the candy we got. It was the preparations. Deciding ‘who’ I wanted to be. Deciding on a costume. Buying all the candy for the kids who came to our house. Carving our pumpkin (which none of us at my house were all that good at). Toasting the pumpkin seeds.
And then, on the night, itself. Rushing home from school. The inevitable grumbling, because I was too excited to eat dinner, and my parents insisted. And got their way. Finally, getting started. My mother, helping with my make-up. Getting dressed in my costume. Again, disagreeing with the parents, who wanted me to wear a coat because it was cold; and me refusing because then my costume would be hidden. Eventually compromising on sweaters, worn under the costume.
My parents would take turns. My father would take me out first. My mother would stay home, clean up the dinner dishes and handle the answering-the-door-and-handing-out-candy duties. When my bag was too full (or he’d had enough, whichever came first), my dad and I would head home. I’d empty the bag and he and my mother would trade places. She’d come with me and he’d answer the door at home.
Once home for the night, the real negotiating would start. First my mother would make me wait until she’d examined all my ‘loot’, to make sure it was safe to eat. Then we’d haggle over how much I could eat that night, before bed. Not very much, as I recall. Then the rest was safely stored away.
I’d get a couple of treats in my lunch bags and there’d be a couple after dinner, until we either ran out, or the remains were dumped in the garbage. My favourites were the special Halloween molasses kisses. You could only buy them, once a year, at Halloween. I haven’t seen them in years. I wonder if they’re still available.
When I was too old for costumes, I went out collecting money for Unicef, instead. That lasted for a couple of years, until I decided I was too old even for that. One year, when I was in my late teens, I was invited to a Halloween party. I went as a flapper (roaring 20’s) and wore a dress of my grandmother’s, that she’d saved from the good old days. It was gorgeous, and I loved it.
Greyish mauve, with layers and layers of beads. Each layer was scalloped, as was the hem. She had a picture of herself, wearing the dress. She looked so beautiful.
Occasionally I do get into the spirit, even now. A few years ago, when we still had our ad agency, I decided to wear a costume to the office. I went as Raggedy Ann, complete with neon orange braided hair. You should have seen the looks I got as I was walking to work; and when I stopped off for a coffee on my way.
In fact, Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, which is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries. There are those who believe it was originally influenced by western European harvest festivals and festivals of the dead, with possible pagan roots. Talk about spooky!
In pre-Christian times it was believed that the spirits from the underworld and ghosts of dead people could visit the living on the night of October 31. It was also believed that they’d either harm them, or take them back to the underworld. And it is for this reason, people started dressing up as ghosts and spirits. So they could leave their homes, without being snatched.