According to history.com, the origins of Halloween are traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated on the night of October 31st, before the beginning of their new year on November 1st. They believed that on the night before the new year the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and ghosts returned to earth. It was celebrated with huge bonfires, dressing in costumes and offering sacrifices. As Christianity spread throughout Celtic lands, the church gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites with its own holy days. November 1 became All Souls Day – also called All-hallows – and the night before, formerly Samhain, came to be known as All-hallows Eve. The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.
I know lots of people love Halloween but I’ve never been a big fan, even as a child. I liked dressing up in a costume but I didn’t really enjoy going door to door saying “trick or treat” and I didn’t like most of the “treats” that were handed out (never a big fan of junk candy either). I think the last time I went trick or treating I was around eleven and I didn’t wear a costume or carry a goodie bag – I was collecting money for UNICEF, which used to be a common thing to do on Halloween when I was a kid in the 1950’s. My Mom is an excellent seamstress and, aside from making all my clothes when I was a child, she made my Halloween costumes. I don’t remember all of them but one stands out in my memory – she turned me into a fancy colonial lady with a gown that Martha Washington would have been proud of and a “powdered” wig made of cotton balls. That beautiful dress had an encore performance when I was cast as the lead in my third grade class production of “The Laughing Princess”. Apparently I really hammed it up because the teacher told my parents that I had a “future on Broadway”! Alas, another road not taken.
By the time my son was “trick or treating” in the 1980’s I had developed a real dislike for Halloween. For one thing, there were lots of kids in our neighborhood so it cost a small fortune to buy enough bags of candy, which was a challenge for a single parent living paycheck to paycheck. Secondly, it seemed like most of the costumes were not creative or unique anymore and, the later the hour, the worse the costumes became because that’s when the teenage boys came out in scruffy clothes with dirt smeared on their faces. They didn’t even say “trick or treat”! They might as well have said “Give me my free candy”. I can remember saying on more than one occasion “What are you supposed to be?” and being told “A bum” and responding with “Oh, so just like every other day”. When I was a kid there was a sense of excitement and competition about who had the best costume and everybody’s Mom (and sometimes Dad) got involved in helping to create something unique.
One thing I do like about Halloween is the season in which it falls. I have always liked autumn, especially when I lived in New England. I loved taking a ride on country roads, enjoying the beautiful fall colors and stopping at a farm stand for fresh apples and cider. Here in Florida there isn’t much in the way of fall colors but, I manage to find them and I definitely enjoy the cooler temperatures and lower humidity that come with this time of the year. An added bonus is that the cooler weather here is not a harbinger of snow and ice – two things I don’t miss!
I promise lots of treats and no tricks at Lynda Linke Productions