The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening, also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve. With all the traditions to which we have become accustomed, (carving pumpkins, dressing up, handing out candy, eating food that feels squishy and screaming for fun), according to www.halloweenhistory.org, Halloween’s origins are born from the Gaelic culture preparing for winter.
“The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.”
That just cries out for candy, doesn’t it?
The custom of children dressing in costume and going “trick or treating” is likely the most recognized symbol of the Halloween holiday. Often now said as one word “trikortreet,” the children today may not think too deeply about the fact that they are actually giving the innocent homeowner an option. With their innocent little smiles, the children are actually asking, “Do you want me to t.p. your lovely landscaping and egg your new car, or would you prefer to give me snak-size candy bar and then watch me head for your neighbor’s house?”
Trick or treating originated from more honorable intentions back in the medieval days when the practice of mumming or souling was common. Mumming, more prevalent in Germany, involved people who dressed up and entered homes to dance or play games in silence. If only we could get our own relatives to do these things in silence, right?
Souling involved groups of people who went from one parish to another begging the rich people for small cakes in exchange for saying a prayer said about the souls of departed loved ones (which is how the small cakes became known as Soul Cakes). But closest to what we know today is guising. In Scotland and Ireland, children disguised themselves in costume and went from door to door for food or coins. Guising doesn’t seem to have as much of an honorable background, but probably because of the food and money, that particular tradition is the one that seems to have won out.
1. Normally, children are told to be back into the house before dark. On Halloween, they aren’t allowed to leave the house until just after dark.
2. We teach our children “Stranger Danger!” But on Halloween, we tell them to go up to every strange house they have the energy to manage and “take candy from that strange man” is the motto of the evening. (Candy from strange men in vans is STILL and will always be off-limits, however).
3. Don’t play with your food! But on Halloween, we cut up pumpkins, pull out the stringy, slimy guts, carve faces into the thick skins, put candles and flashlights inside the carcass and set it on the front porch for the world to see. So go ahead, play with your food. Have a ball!
4. Seeing an ad for a Murder House makes everyone whip out their cell phone with excitement to look up the Hours of Operation.
5. 364 days of the year, being afraid shakes our sense of security to the core. But this one special night, we pile 12 of our friends into the smallest subcompact we can find and drive to The Haunted Hideaway on Route 666 and get off at exit 13. Park the car in the dirt lot with no streetlights, run – don’t walk – to the spooky house with boarded up windows guarded by a Zombie wearing a tuxedo and hand over $15 for the privilege of being startled, scared, freaked out and frantic at every last turn.
6. Adults revert back to children, “I want to be a fireman, I want to be an astronaut. I want to be a cowboy.”
7. Normally we are cautioned by the mental health community and our mothers to “act our age and don’t hide behind a façade.” However, on Halloween, we are encouraged to dress up as a Smurf, a lollipop, a pirate or the devil.
8. On March 5 (or any other innocuous day of the year), black makeup and nail polish are considered Goth – dark and creepy. On Halloween, it is suddenly fun and festive.
9. October 31 is a rare day that nuns, dead movie stars and circus clowns are operating public transportation and serving java at the nearest coffeehouse.
10. Under normal circumstances, sticking ones head in a bucket full of water in order to grab an apple is considered dangerous, desperate or just immature. On Halloween, it’s considered a party game.
11. For Easter, bring a plate of cookies that look like dead people to the family dinner will get you bounced out on your butt. However (thought I was gonna say “But” again, didn’t you?), truffles decorated to look like a pre-Visine eye and cupcakes that ooze “blood” is standard fare.
12. Dry ice in your drink? Why not?
13. 364 days, black spiders bring shrieks, shoes and exterminators. On Halloween, everyone is hiding behind a fencepost whispering, “Hey buddy, you know where I can score some bugs?”
14. Spotless houses are a thing of pride. Dirt and cobwebs are cleaned away to keep allergies at bay. On Halloween, we actually go to the store and pay good money to buy dirt, dust and cobwebs.
So release your inner child and dress up like the superhero you’ve always dreamed of being. Head off to the mall for a pretzel and high-five the werewolf at the next table. Why not – its Halloween!