Halloween as a holiday has always perplexed me.
Not the actual festivities of Halloween, I’m not confused by that.
Goblins and witches, ghosts and ghouls, skeletons and pumpkins and candy corn. I get that. Ok, maybe not candy corn, but then again I don’t understand why people eat sushi or tofu either, so there’s that.
But I don’t get Halloween itself as an American holiday.
Halloween is generally believed to have begun as various pagan harvest festivals that got more or less “Christianized” when the Catholic Church showed up in the Celtic lands during the 5th and 6th centuries and decided everybody was having way too much fun.
Naturally the Church wasn’t going to allow a bunch of Celts to go around unjesusified, and so a whole bunch of pagan rituals and Christian dogma got mashed together and by the 12th Century it was was more or less known has All Saint’s Day (also variously All Hallows’ Day, Hallowmas, Hallowtide). In other words: what had been a fun pagan weekend of booze and orgies and general merriment became your standard issue grim Christian day of vigils and prayers and sermons and obligation (Now you know why so many Christian missionaries to Scotland and Ireland ended up being burned at the stake).
By Shakespeare's time it was generally believed that the souls of the departed who weren’t either immediately lofted directly to Heaven or condemned directly to Hell, were trapped for a time in Catholic Purgatory. All Hallows’ Day give those souls one final chance to select their ultimate destination.
In some places, like France, these beliefs were expanded into the idea that once a year dead souls would rise from the graveyard for a night of revelry in the danse macabre. And really, leave it to the French to have the departed dancing and carousing about like a Grateful Dead concert instead of being engaged in the grim nasty business of haunting and bodily possessions. Far be it from me to judge, but it would appear that being dead in France beats the heck out being dead anywhere else – just in case you’re the type who likes to plan ahead.
The practice of baking little treats, soul cakes, arose during this period, along with lighting candles in the windows of homes to help the lost souls find their way variously home, to heaven, or back to the graveyard (the dead have notoriously bad night vision).
The poor began going door to door where they were given sweets, soul cakes, or other small treats, supposedly as a way to help the souls get to heaven (how exactly giving poor people cake helps the dead cross over escapes me, but then again it doesn’t seem any weirder than most other religious beliefs to me, so I’m willing to roll with it). Some folks wore costumes and disguises to confuse the spirits, others dressed up as their patron Saints in order to honor God and the departed. Some folks began putting their candles into carved gourds or elaborate lanterns. There were hundreds of variations, additions and elaborations, to the rituals of All Saint’s Day across Europe, depending on the influence and inclination of the local Catholic Church and it’s difficult to pin down precisely how the whole mess evolved over the centuries.
However it happened, people being people, eventually the night before the solemn joyless business of honoring the Saints and the process of urging lost souls to go be lost somewhere else evolved into a party and people started having a little fun once again.
Naturally that didn’t sit well with the more religious types, fun being sort of the antithesis of fundamentalism and all.
Over in what had been the Celtic lands, where all of this business started, there were the Protestants, a dour and unsmiling lot who regarded the fun of All Hallows’ Eve as your basic deviltry.
The Protestants looked upon the various rituals surrounding Halloween as “popery” and the trappings of the Catholic church and/or paganism – which they, of course, were. The Protestants weren’t having any of that nonsense and so when they set off to settle the New World, they left it all behind along with the Catholics.
The first few centuries in the New World were mostly free of such things, if you disregard the occasional witch hunt.
But then the Potato Blight struck Europe, in particular those self-same Celtic lands, and a whole bunch of folks decided to immigrate to America rather than starve to death.
And they brought with them All Hallows’ Eve.
At first it was confined to ethnic neighborhoods of Irish and Scottish immigrants, but it wasn’t long before the rest of America was wondering why they shouldn’t be dressing up in funny outfits and getting themselves some tasty treats too.
By the early 20th Century, Halloween was a going concern, and naturally it got combined with the various American fall harvest festivals which added in pumpkin carving and bobbing for apples and hay rides and haunted houses and the Charlie Brown Halloween Special.
It being America, it didn’t take long for capitalism to override any lingering protestant disdain once Wall Street figured out that they could commercialize the whole thing and turn a tidy profit.
And so, here we are.
As a kid back in Michigan, I loved Halloween. We’d roam the neighborhood dressed up as ghosts and witches and comic-book characters. From previous experience and word on the street, we’d know at which houses the good treats could be found and where we’d end up with a lame old popcorn ball or a homemade cookie (which Halloween law decreed you must immediately throw away upon returning home because they would, of course, be filled with rat poison and razor blades) – or worse, the neighborhood dentist’s house where they’d hand out toothbrushes and coupons for office visits. That first night we’d eat candy until we turned green with nausea, and then we’d hoard the rest like Smaug the Dragon sleeping on top of his pile of Dwarvish gold. Over the next month the stash would diminish piece by piece, from best to worst, until there would be only an individual sized pack of sugar-free Chiclets (stupid dentist) or a lose fuzzy handful of stale candy corn in the bottom of your sock drawer.
Halloween really hits its stride in college. There’s nothing like a college Halloween kegger, is there? Or a drunken Halloween office party. And when you're a parent of small children, certainly Halloween is pretty enjoyable.
But when you’re my age? Meh. There’s nothing in it for me.
The mishmash of strange religious rituals, goofy clothing, free handouts, and fun?
I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but it sure seems like this is the one night each year where conservatives get to act like liberals do all of the time.
I don’t expect I’ll see much in the way of Trick or Treaters tonight. I live in rural Alaska, in all the time I’ve lived here I think we’ve only had one kid come to the door – one of the advantages of living on a dark, sparsely settled street and at the end of a long cold drive. Usually I pick up a couple bags of candy just in case, but since it’s likely that I’ll end up eating it all myself, I get the expensive kind I like, no candy corn or Sweet Tarts and nothing “fun sized.”
Update: I went out today to buy a bag of candy. Unfortunately, the place I went only had the giant-sized wholesale bags. So I bought one. Figuring, hey, if nobody shows up, I’ll have candy for a month. Then my wife came home, being her and knowing me, she figured she better stop on the way home and pick up some candy, just in case. And, of course, it being the 31st, it was all on sale. My wife not being one to pass up a sale, we now have enough candy to equip a good sized college frat party.
Hmmm, maybe I better look up the number of the neighborhood dentist.
How about you folks?
What do you do for Halloween? Stay in? Go out? Dress up and get drunk on candy corn?
Well, you could make like gummi bears and drench them in vodka if you're into that sort of thing. Never seen it done with candy corn, though.ReplyDelete
Oh I like that idea! Vodka being my poison of choice and gummi bears are, well, not too bad;)...Delete
Back in the bad old days of my 20's we used to celebrate Halloween by dumping pixie sticks into shots of Vodka. Oddly enough it works best with the blue ones, although after a while it hardly matters.Delete
As A Brit, I sneer disdainfully at your Halloween. Here we celebrate a different festival, that of Bonfire Night, involving the burning in effigy of one Guido Fwakes. Thus giving rise to the alternate name of GuyFwakes Night. For weeks before November Fifth we would build large piles of wood and inflammable objects in various pieces of common land and local backgardens upon the top of which, we would place lovingly created Dummies of Guy Fwakes. These also played an important part in the runup to the much anticipated night. We would put them in old prams and on carts, to beg for money with the old British street cry of, "Penny for The Guy!". The money thus collected was hoarded and eventually spent on what was the main event, Fireworks! Ahh yes fireworks, we had bangers, essentially heavy cardboard tubes filled with blackpowder that went BANG very loudly. Unfortunately not allowed any more, due to their propensity, when held by small people to remove fingers and thumbs. A lot of this tradition has been added to Halloween including the bonfires and fireworks.Delete
I'm with you Jim. Halloween eludes me. Growing up in the north (Whitehorse) my costume, whatever it was supposed to be, always ended up crushed under a parka, mittens and a toque. Plus, with 8 older siblings, I would consider myself lucky to be left with the razor-filled popcorn ball.ReplyDelete
We now live in a very urban part of Toronto so no kid would bother to trick-or-treat around here. The smart ones are at Rob Ford's house looking for dime-bags. Just kidding ... mostly.
Hope all those that enjoy the freak show have a wonderful, safe and happy halloween!
Beth in Toronto
I grew up in Wyoming, and my husband grew up in Montana and Wyoming. Halloween in God's back yard is COLD. Always. The worst is the wind. It's a lazy wind - lazy in that it just goes straight through you without bothering to go around. It laughs gleefully at your layers, your thermal underwear, your down jacket.Delete
It made coming up with Halloween costumes a real challenge. My personal favorite was when I decided to go as a boom box. Great big box painted to look like one of those portable stereos everyone had (remember, the long narrow ones with round speakers at each end and a cassette tape door in the middle?). The best part was that I could basically stuff the box with newspaper, which makes a great insulator. The cassette door opened, and people could just dump candy in where it would slide down to the waiting bag.
My mother-in-law, however, wins the prize. She made a Superman costume for my husband. It was several sizes too big...on purpose. Turns out that if you put a Superman costume on OVER a down jacket, all those tucks and bulges kind of look like muscles. OK, they also kind of look like Superman's been on a bit of a bender for several years and has gotten a bit puffy...but still, genius!
Apparently I finish putting the glue into the window frame/doorway I made for her pottery studio this afternoon. That is *after* I made dinner and we watched an episode of the 'show we're retro-watching this month'. Yep...we're living large in our corner of the boons. Also it's been dumping rain all day. That plus us in no-mans land = zero ghouls and goblins. Just wet cats.ReplyDelete
Well as I have come to understand it as a Medeivalist and BIG fan of Halloween, the original holiday was Samhain (pronounced Sa wen) Celtic New Year! And while the Church tried to claim and change it, many of the Celtic cultures secretly kept the traditions of this Pagan holiday and when they came to the New World (new to the Europeans anyway), it was transfered here. I personaly love this Holiday because as an artist it has always allowed me to decorate myself and my home (room whatever) and othrs as well. The conection to the "other world" or the "spirits" is just fun and always had some deep meaning to me. We have lived in our house for 13 years and in all that time we have had maybe 5 trick or treaters (one one year and 4 another). But I still decorate most years, because I enjoy doing it. I used to love the candy too but now as a diabetic I ignore that part. Oh, and as a kid, the old couple on our steet that made homemade poopcorn balls was my favorite!! You do know that all the razor blades and poison in Halloween candy is fake! They either were done by the parents after the fact or where a lie (again by parents).ReplyDelete
Anyway, Happy Samhain (think of it as New Years Eve with dead people partying)
It's not pronounced 'Sa wen' despite what the Interweb will tell you. In Irish the 'mh' construction generally becomes silent when followed by a broad vowel. So in this case it is pronounced more like sah'n. In Scots Gaelic and Ulster Irish the construction retains it's earlier form of a 'v' sound so the word becomes pronounced more like 'sa ven'.Delete
Originally Samhain was one of the great fire festivals in Ireland and, as you say, marked the Celtic New Year. The word translates as 'Summer's End'. In fact it was a 3 night festival centred around 3 events: A Solar event (sun down), a Lunar event (The Dark Moon) and a Sidereal event (the rising of the Pleiades at dawn in the East).
Thus, the Neo-Pagan idea that Samhain is somehow tied to Oct 31 is manifestly wrong. Indeed, the Gregorian Calendar didn't even exist until 1582.
Doesn't matter whether its not exactly right. A lot of Neo-Pagans, myself included, celebrate it on or around the 31st. Hence the Neo in Neo-Pagan. Most of us go by the Gregorian calendar because we're modern people. It doesn't really matter anyway, people celebrate how they will, and that's fine. We're celebrating in the spirit of our ancestors, we're not trying to be them or turn back the clock.Delete
It may not matter to you but, as an Irishwoman, it matters to me. The idea that you can selectively take from a Tradition and bend it to what you want is, to me, Cultural Theft. Indeed it has been done so many times it could even be termed Cultural Rape.Delete
Aside from that, it's downright bloody hypocritical. Apparently it's OK for Neo-Pagans to take what they like from Native Traditions yet they are the first to scream "Unfair" when addressing the fact that that is exactly what the Abrahamic Religions have done.
I think ToT night was held earlier this week in my town. Whatever, I missed it. But I had my own candy binge last night anyway with resultant sugar hangover todaReplyDelete
Sometimes a quiet party with good friends and classic horror--if you consider Hammer Studios and Roger Corman "classic." Sometimes costumes. Being a Celt, I do welcome the new year, offer a plate to "the guest" and light a candle. No tricker treaters here- one in 18 years. Rural country road, no local kids.ReplyDelete
Back in 1998 when we moved to this neighborhood, we were very excited about Halloween.ReplyDelete
Both of us had lived in areas that were either predominantly college students (who were all at the bars) or half college students, half old folks (who were also at the bar). So we looked forward to tricking out our new house (creepy Victorian) and passing out the treats.
Then we found that our Borough has Lame-Ass Halloween.
The local volunteer fire department has a Halloween parade and party, and the kids trick-or-treat - only it was last Saturday afternoon.
Yep, folks - trick or treat in broad daylight, on a Saturday, on a day that isn't even Halloween. Include me out, and ditto for my husband. Most folks on our street just park a bowl of candy on the front porch and don't even bother to hand it out. It's more of a snatch-n-grab than a trick-or-treat.
One year, the neighborhood kids got up a petition to have trick-or-treat after dark, on Halloween, the way it's supposed to be. They took it around the whole neighborhood, and even people like us (who don't have kids) signed it.
The response? "But the firemen have put so much work into the parade and party!" So no real trick-or-treat, just the same lame-ass crap they've had since before we moved here.
Apparently, nobody ever thought that you can have a parade and party, and STILL have trick-or-treat, on Halloween, after dark - like the kids (for whom the party is ostensibly intended) asked. But apparently, in my lame-ass borough, Halloween is for the firemen - and for the merchants at the local (mostly lame-ass) shopping plaza who seem to think that ruining traditional childhood fun in the name of profits is a Fine Plan (tm).
So yeah - include us out.
Parents, if you're so goddamned worried about your precious wee sprogs, go trick-or-treating with them - the way my parents, and parents from time immemorial, did. As in, get off your lazy asses and walk around the neighborhood with your kids. Or send the kids out in mixed age group, which we also did - so older siblings took the younger ones out, the parents usually congregated at somebody's house for adult beverages, and the littler kids had something to look forward to doing when they got to be old enough to take other little kids around.
But no, it's about the firemen, and the merchants. Bah, humbug!
Looking for ANY other comments. :crickets: I guess they all stayed on facebook? For me and mine, I loved Halloween as a child, even the year we had three feet of snow, and my costume made high-stepping nearly impossible. (Getting to pretend to have my little brother on a leash added immeasurably to my fun, what can I say?)ReplyDelete
Tonight, I took my rugrats to a few favorite neighborhoods, (oddly enough, most of them are places where we've roofed, or mowed, or otherwise worked, even if it was a long time ago) and we are now home, where they seem to be prepared to eat themselves into a sugar coma in the very near future. I admit, a part of me doesn't think it's really fair--we live out in the boonies, so the only folks that might come to our door are family, of which we have a current shortage in the required age range.
I hope you enjoy your candy stash. If there's really too much, maybe you can take some to work to share?
Wishing all the best to you and yours!
Gretchen in KS
I'm a college professor, so I dress up, natch (even though the kids are less and less inclined to join in. Boring). Since I'm a diction Prof, I dressed as a neutral syllable, complete with a phonetic symbol-festooned tiara. Tee-hee!ReplyDelete
But I forgot to buy candy, so I'm watching TV with the porch light off.
No, tomorrow is the day to hit the Dollar Store to see what is on sale (there is one where everything ISN'T a dollar...). Or the regular grocery stores.ReplyDelete
I use it as a day to remember those who passed this year. I'm recently grieved because of the passing of my dear Angelina (a 24-year-old(!!!) cat). Wrote something I'm going to put on my LJ.
Otherwise, we didn't get many trick-or-treaters, so I put the bowl of BlowPops (something we will not consume ever) out on the front of the porch. They all go down to Janssen Place because they have kind of a group halloween effort. (I live in Kansas City, MO. Janssen Place is pretty fabulous if you like nice, antique houses.)
Your last two paragraphs, substituting rural Mid-Coast Maine for rural Alaska, pretty well describe things here. I went into the nearby big town, pop. ~1500, to buy candy. Just in case the age frequency distribution curve had run into some sort of time-space anomaly, and our tiny hamlet had suddenly had a cosmic burp and become less geriatric. Then the heavy rains came.ReplyDelete
No trick-or-treaters this year. That makes it boringly typical. Fed the woodstove, hugged m'lady, talked to a couple of friends by phone, went looking for another chunk of Wright wisdom and chuckles on the steam-powered interweb. Alternating between Brahms sonatas and the John Handy Monterrey Album.
As a small aside, during the Potato Famine, Ireland was a net exporter of grain. Lots of it. The trickle down theory apparently has Celtic roots.
Ironically Ronald Reagan, who did more to create the conditions for a new Potato Famine here in America than anybody else, was descended from refugees from the Potato Famine.Delete
For the record, I have no idea why it said there were no comments before I posted mine. Reading the other comments is frequently half the fun! Happy Halloween!ReplyDelete
Gretchen in KS
I get to work. Second shift with a small Telecom company you have probably never heard of - logo looks like a checkmark. Anyway, stupid computers.ReplyDelete
Other than that, no visitors in my backwoods abode for years - though I usually do exactly what you do with the candy. Somehow managed to fail at it this year though.
As a kid Halloween was always my favorite holiday. I liked the creativity factor. No store bought costume for me. I rummaged through the house for old clothes and props to use for whatever I decided to BE. A pirate one year...a hobo the next. Like you and most kids, my siblings and I plotted our course through our town for the MCH...maximum candy haul!`ReplyDelete
The best Halloweens were when my kids were young. Again the creativity factor came into play. We would decorate the house with carved pumpkins, spooky things like a crawling hand in the candy bowl (the younger kids loved that one) and even dry ice to create a fog over our front porch. I would sit out there in my costume and hand out the treats.
The funniest moment was when our nervous clumber spaniel decided to greet each kid by jumping up on them trying to lick their chocolate smeared faces while at the same time peeing down their boots. My wife and I still laugh about that one. We were too embarrassed to say anything after the fact. My children are grown now and we don't do much for Halloween now days. Maybe if we have grandchildren. Now where did I put that crawling hand?
Rob in Philly
I stay home... and write horror fiction.ReplyDelete
A lot of it.
Sweeney Todd (Broadway version) in the DVD player & a bowl of candy by the door. We did mix it up a little this year by watching Boondock Saints first.This year my son (21) did most of the candy dispersal, but I got the late arrivals. A few of those were little tykes just barely too young to understand what this was all about; their parents trying to get them to say "Thank you" or "Trick or Treat" or ANYTHING; their eyes huge & round looking at all these people giving them candy! Exactly like my boy looked 20 years ago tonight when I first took him trick or treating at 1 1/2 years old. I almost teared up.ReplyDelete
Anyway, we of the First Church of the Inaccurate Contraception do not believe in all this ghost and ghoulies claptrap. We do, however, believe in chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate...
And now I am perusing Halloween-related music posted by FB friends - Jerry Garcia doing "Werewolves of London" , "Snacks and Candy" by Miracle legion, and... wait... is... that... OINGO BOINGO?Delete
I posted Oingo Boingo's Dead Man's Party to Facebook first thing on Halloween. It's not Halloween without Oingo Boingo.Delete
halloween was a great time of my youth living in Minneapolis. one year a few of us stole a bunch of jackolanterns off the porches in Nordeast Mpls, (this was way after all the trick or treaters had gone to bed) I was about 13 at the time. we made a wall across St Anthony Blvd. out of all these pumpkins and made sure the candles were lit, then waited for like 40 mins for a car to come up the hill and around the blind curve. no damage done to the car, but we all about peed on our selves laughing about it. 10 or 12 days later there was an articule in the Mpls. Star about the city having to clean up 10 blocks of smashed pumpkinsReplyDelete
Yes I was the kid that the moms wouldn't let their kids play with, i knew too much (fire, explosives, trains, floating down the mississippi on the broken up spring ice) you get the picture.Delete
Our idea of Halloween for the last 7 years is to turn our front yard into a faux graveyard with styrofoam grave stones, plastic skeleton bones, halloween colored lights, glowing spiders and ghosts. Those usually go up with weekend before Halloween and light up the yard nightly through Halloween night. On Halloween we drag the little portable fire pit to the bottom of the driveway, plug in a percolator and fill it with apple cider, and then the non-trick or treating parent hands out candy and cider to all the visitors. Usually in Wisconsin it's cold enough on Halloween that a fire and a cup of hot apple cider is a nice addition to your evening. This year, however, it rained all damned day so we huddled inside and handed out candy through the screen door. Once this holiday is over we have 30 days of front yard evening darkness until we can turn on the Christmas lights we set up after Thanksgiving.ReplyDelete
The real reason, I think, for candles and lights and bonfires in the autumn through Christmas season is that it's so damned dark a yard full of pretty lights makes the darkness easier to bear.
I grew up in a spot 5 miles from nowhere, so trick-or-treat wasn't on the cards. (I now live somewhere a bit similar, and I've had a grand total of four trick-or-treaters - the neighbor's kid, his cousin, and two junior-high girls - in the seven years I've lived in my current place.)ReplyDelete
The porch light is still on - after I got home from work and the two dim-looking 16-year-olds with Super Soakers went by - and the bag of chocolate eyeballs is on the dresser by the door, but I'm not expecting much.
it ain't the holiday it used to be. :-(ReplyDelete
always before, we bought decent candy that we didn't mind finishing up ourselves, but the first year in *this city* i became disillusioned by all the un-costumed teens who came by (more than once) for their handout.... the second year was worse, with "Crack Mama" smoking a cigarette expecting a contribution to the pillow-case in her hand, as well as what her kids raked in. we don't turn on the porch light anymore.
If memory serves, the Anglicans weren't too terribly uptight. It was just the Lutherans and various Calvinists who frowned on enjoying anything.ReplyDelete
Halloween has always been the best holiday. You could make it whatever you wanted. You could make it scary, cute, or just plain silly.
I also remember as a kid the scare over razor blade in candy. Mu dad always dutifully checked our candy after we went trick-or-treating. Looking back, he really just picked over our haul and took his favorites.
Some things never change...Dad, always looked over our haul...and then we negotiated the terms of the tribute to Dad...all in an night's work...Delete
I stay at home. There are no kids on my rural road, but I generally have my lights out anyway, just in case. This year I have no water, so I got to go out in the rain and drive to my sister's house to get a shower. Such fun!ReplyDelete
We, as empty nesters, don't observe it ourselves. I don't even carve a Jack 'O' lantern any more and haven't for over 15 years, but we get some candy to hand out and turn on the porch light. We live on the busiest road in our small town though, (the north-south state highway) and have no young kids in our neighborhood, so we rarely get more than three or four groups of two or three trick-or-treaters. A tradition borne out again this year.ReplyDelete
@Gregor: Having grown up Lutheran, I will offer the following: "All things in moderation. Including excess."ReplyDelete
Having grown up Heinlein: Moderation is for monks, take big bites.Delete
@Jim: The older I get, the less I like Heinlein...but that line endures.Delete
All things in moderation. Including moderation.Delete
See, the problem with trick-or-treating is that it's instant & effortless gratification. There should be more of a sense of adventure to it. I mean, they're already dressed up in costumes, c'mon. They should come up to the front porch to find a bowl full of folded notes. Upon opening theirs, it should read: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to proceed to coordinates: 33.978243,-84.331055 (Every child should learn the lat/long coordinate system and, when there's candy involved, they're motivated). You will find a drop-box under the park bench that will contain further instructions. Be sure you're not followed." This is teaching valuable communication skills in the new era of the NSA; just ask Angela Merkel.ReplyDelete
After jumping them through whatever number of hoops you feel sufficient, perhaps having them crack a simple substitution cipher (hey, crypto's a hot field, these days; preparation, my young ones), you eventually lead them around to the neighbors' house, where they're instructed to ring the doorbell, knock twice & whistle like a wood finch (just threw in that last part for shits & giggles) and say, "Trick or treat" when the door is answered. Problem solved & no need to buy candy.
My Halloween consists now of taking my son out Trick or Treating. He's 6, so he's raw enthusiasm about going out and getting tanked on sugar like a Bostonian rampages around the Boston pubs on St Patrick's Day.ReplyDelete
I also consider it an important holiday, as it's Samhain for us pagans...kinda like our New Year, and a time to honor our ancestors.
So I feel both sides of this holiday, I guess...on one hand I have the sugar rush fun with my kid, and then the spiritual aspect of gratitude for having made it through another year.
Before we moved into an apartment we had the scariest front yard in the neighborhood. So scary that once it got dark people would walk across the street to avoid it. We collected ratty old dolls and mannequins at rummage sales, then exchanged limbs, embedded meat cleavers in their heads, and set them up to look like they were coming alive from under the lawn. Also because my husband is a Halloween baby, we had costume parties fairly regularly in the basement disco/bar.ReplyDelete
Luckily we moved into a neighborhood where trick or treat is on Halloween night, so now the teens get dressed up and have overnight parties.
No candy corn! Yuck! Unless it's one of these martinis http://www.drinksmixer.com/drinkab15757.html
A coma makes all the difference in that sentence.Delete
I know you dangled that out there on purpose, to see how many of your grammar/spelling nazi minions are in an actual coma.Delete
Thanks for the giggle, Lisa. Wiped tears outta my eyes.Delete
My Inupiaq step-son and I had a lot of fun figuring out excellent things to hand out to unsuspecting neighbor kids. We never did any of these, but here are some of our favorites:ReplyDelete
cold spaghetti noodles (brains)
small lengths of duct tape
cookies disguised as rat poison
pumpkin guts, just because
latex exam gloves
anyone have more suggestions?
The parties I attend are earlier in the month. (Gone are the days of ritual) But the 31st has been and always shall be about staying home and feeding the bandits.ReplyDelete
My husband and I live on a street with no sidewalks, and no kids within walking distance. We don't have kids, either. Usually, we just stay in and watch "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" on Halloween, but this year we totally forgot it was Halloween and binge-watched a few episodes of "Revolution," an engrossing "Lost"-style serial with a mysterious plot and a lot of irritating characters, especially the.main girl character, who can't figure out if she wants to be a sanctimonious angel of mercy or a matter-of-fact killer. And no candy for us, it's bad enough that I bake lots of bread and cookies.ReplyDelete
I have been doing a particular shtick for years: I sit in the front room with the lights out, listening to spooky music and maybe reading by the light of a single candle, which is set on a saucer wrapped in aluminum foil. A trick-or-treater comes up the steps; the angles are such that they can't see me through the glass of the storm door till they're right at the top, and I may stand up suddenly. My face and hair are made up, black on the right and white on the left. As I hold the candle low in my left hand, the black right side is nearly invisible.
I'm a linguistic researcher, and very good with voices and accents. In a mock Dracula accent and voice:
` ´Good efening. May I help you? (holding out bowl of candy) Please, help yourself. Vun to a customer!` ´
The little ones are often unsure. ` ´Go ahead, take vun!` ´
As they leave, or if there's a crowd at the stoop:
` ´Be careful! I don't vant your blood … on my ste-eps!` ´
* There often is. Our block in Philadelphia is residential with very little traffic and extremely popular with parents. We routinely get >100 TorTers. (No, not lawyers. Well, maybe. There was one boy tonight, maybe age 5, in a suit and tie with a trilby hat.)
Kids dress up weird; you give them candy and hope there's some left for later. Ultra-religious weirdos (like my boss) refuse to celebrate Halloween due to the Satanic implications.ReplyDelete
I see minimal flaw.
Happy Halloween, bitznatches.
Our new neighborhood in Pasadena CA, these last 7 years, is a destination for ToTers. One year we gave out over 3000 pieces, mostly one to a customer. This year, things are quieter, about 600 kids, and a lot of them were under 8, at a guess. I think they get bussed in.ReplyDelete
Growing up for a time in NYC, we would attack an apartment building with strategies that would make Patton proud. A group of about 10 could empty a 8-10 story building in 30 minutes or less, and divide up the spoils on our way to the next victim
This year and last, we set up a table outside, complete with candles in skulls, black lights, ghouls hanging from the arbor and a smoke machine for atmosphere, and handed out candy where we could see the kids and grownups going up and down the street. Got to meet some of the folks from a few streets away that we only see at times like this, which is fun.
These days, I go about my usual business on Halloween, and when anyone asks what I'm dressed up as, I try and come up with one that matches my description. Last year, I was a creepy guy in a trenchcoat. This year, I was a starving artist.ReplyDelete
The best thing about Halloween is that over the course of the next week or so, all the stores start putting their surplus Halloween candy on clearance (because they need to make room for Christmas decorations).
That said, I think I might start doing holiday-themed promotional compositions for my graphic novel project. This past Halloween, I did one where the entire female cast was dressed up as Playboy bunnies (for an advertising job, apparently). I might do exactly the same thing with the male cast come Easter.
I wish I had a witty story or insight to share, but as the hubby and I waited to have our one kid until we were both in the vicinity of 40, we spent the evening taking our toddler around the local mall and to a couple select houses of friends. We're in northern Montana, and even in 5 layers, the little one only managed 3 houses out of doors before she began shivering. We were home by 7:30, gave her a warm bath, ate pizza and some of the candy, and she proceeded to bound around like a gymnast on crack until after 11:30pm. Thankfully, 364 days until we have to do it again. :)ReplyDelete
I celebrate my dad's birthday and yell at kids to get off my lawn. (I really hate Halloween.)ReplyDelete
It's a day when you get to dress up and live as your darkest fantasy, what's not to like?ReplyDelete
Bonus points for your Smaug reference, btw...
I'm the only person on my block under the age of 60, so my Halloween consisted of assembling some shop stools that I got for my breakfast bar. Chrome legs and rung, black vinyl seat, swiveling, no back -- pretty sweet little accessories for the decor I've got going on.ReplyDelete
Suits me just as well, I don't really have any eye or sense for decoration, so. I imagine it's possible that this may change if I ever get an adventurous wife and/or a mini-monster of my own, but that's a ways off yet.
My brother, who is on a half year sabbatical in Boulder (NCAR) for now, wrote me he always put a note on their door (Wageningen, the Netherlands):ReplyDelete
Please come back for St. Martin
"On St. Martin's Day, children in Flanders, the southern and north-western parts of the Netherlands, and the Catholic areas of Germany and Austria still participate in paper lantern processions."
They get sweets when going door to door singing ...
Jim- "hoard" is when you keep piles of something. The "horde" are the bunch of average teens my son went out with, rampaging through our neighborhood.ReplyDelete
Shame those religious nuts had to ruin all the pagan festival fun of burning dozens of people alive and impaling dozens more. What could be more like Jesus than dying a grizzly death? The Roman historian Tacitus describes the kegger like this: 'they deemed it indeed a duty to cover their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their deities through human entrails." Perhaps the Catholic church didn't like competition.ReplyDelete
I remember the rush of dressing up and trolling our entire neighborhood (all of which knew each other and all the kids played together, even in the street) for the best goodies then getting home and having both my parents raid our stash for their favorites. I also remember bringing my own son back to my childhood neighborhood to trick or treat because it was the only place I trusted, but still followed him slowly in my car as he walked the streets, then raiding his stash for the good stuff.ReplyDelete
Now-a-days he is grown and lives far away. I moved away from my beautiful New England to end up stuck here in the hell that is southwest FL. We have no children anywhere near our 55+ park (I got lucky and the crook who ran the park in '04, who was soon fired for theft, thought I was hot, even with all my tattoos, and let me live here even though I wasn't even 40 yet at that time), and it being FL, if we did ever get any trick or treaters they'd most likely be teens scoping out old folks to see if they have any good pills on hand. No lights on here. No dressing up or even bothering to buy any candy.
We did enjoy the whole day of Ghost Adventures, with the boys doing a special Halloween episode. 2 hours at Vlad Dracula's true castle in Romania.
Is it trolling or trawling? I suppose it could be either or both. Guess if you dressed up, it would be trolling.Delete
My wife loves Halloween. One year, she made the kiddo a "Marvin the Martian" costume from fabric from a store and odds and ends. He loved it. This year, he's older, so he went around the neighborhood with his smallish horde of teens and came back with his hoard. My wife loves to hand out candy, remind kids to say "trick or treat", and praise their costumes. I got some of the left-over chocolate and we watched "World War Z" which my wife had rented for the occasion.ReplyDelete
We haven't had any trick or treaters in years. Maybe it is the "Beware of Dogs" (4) and "NO Trespassing" signs posted on our front fence. Ya think?ReplyDelete
I love Halloween. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view or my mood of the moment, I live in a tiny village in the foothills above Santa Fe, NM. Most of the houses are armed, there are no street lights to speak of, and even fewer kids. No-one knocks at a door after dark unless they are friends of the family. Thus - no trick or treaters, no costumes unless you throw a party, and no bags of candy. Sometimes I really miss the east coast.ReplyDelete
When I was a teenager in a small town in Michigan, we talked my dad into making us a coffin. You could knock it down and store it in the garage, but on Halloween night we would assemble it on the porch and I would climb into it, wearing a black cloak my mother had made. I’d lie quietly until I heard kids coming on to the porch. Then I would open the lid, sit up, and say, “Good Eeee-ven-ing.” The kids who remained got given candy.ReplyDelete
My brother and I took turns in the coffin for three years. My siblings did it for three more years after I left to join the Navy.
The best compliment we ever got was the time I heard a couple adults talking about the neat coffin decoration. I waited for them to get closer and did the bit with the lid. She screamed; he shouted, “Holy Crap!” Turns out they were from 4 blocks down the street and had decided to find out why all those screams were coming from up the road. “Now we know,” said the man. His wife blushed.
Alas, now I live in an apartment building without any children in it, so last night was very quiet.
Thanks for the history lesson, Jim! As a devoted minion, I always appreciate the education I find here, sometimes on quite unexpected topics!ReplyDelete
My Halloween? As a former theatre major and mother to another, I LOVE any excuse for dressing in costume! When my daughters were small, early in October we'd decide what they wanted to be for Halloween so I had time to put their costumes together. First costume for both -- as toddlers -- was a dalmation puppy made of size 2T white sweats with a short tail added and floppy black ears sewn on a white baseball cap with Magic Marker eyes. Some years I sewed them from "scratch" (Winnie the Pooh and Tigger), other times I scoured thrift shops for the basics (adult-size gray hoodie on a 5 year old is a great base for an elephant costume). I still remember "practicing" trick or treat behavior with my older daughter. She was supposed to knock on the door, I would answer and she would say "Trick or treat". Took a while to get the hang of it -- the first few times she just said "Gimmee candy!" She remembers it too.
Now I live on a densely populated street, near a college, though the past few years I didn't get many Halloween visitors. Wasn't feeling the spirit yesterday -- especially after reading complaints from various people on FB about teenagers and/or toddlers at the door. Decided I needed an attitude adjustment and made an extra stop at the supermarket to pick up treats. Began to look at the teenagers (some from the college, I'm sure) as simply young people who enjoy dressing up in costume (like my 20-something daughters and I still do), and the parents carrying toddlers as wanting to show off their little ones -- which I also did lo, those many years ago. Interestingly I had more trick-or-treaters last night than probably the two years before combined! I'd planned for around 100, which would have meant LOTS of leftovers in other years, and ran out after about 90 mins.
While not rich, I like to feel generous now and again, and giving out treats to a few "extra" people seems like the right thing to do, rather than judging the "worthy" and the "unworthy". It helps that all my visitors of every age were respectful and polite. Some -- discerning youngsters that they were -- even complimented the beauty of one of my cats, who could be seen through the glass fronted door. She likes being admired (from afar, thankyouverymuch) while the other two just hid.
And maybe the wine helped too.
Well, I just had to reply here since you made me smile.Delete
I live in Colorado Springs in the downtown area, Liberal Arts College and K-12 grammar school just a block from my little Victorian(ish) abode. My first Halloween there were hordes and hordes of children and pre-teens in very creative and outlandish costumes. Because, at the intersection 3 houses down we have a little neighborhood market (think 50s) that sponsors a costume contest for the kiddles. So, yes big bags of candy were purchased to meet the demand for quite a few years (20 or so) until the demand began to decline. I bought way too much this year and plan on donating the remainder to a senior center or somewhere that will hopefully take it before I start working on it.
Melissa Givens, you could wear a head band with those eyes on top, just color completely the eyes and go as a umlaut.ReplyDelete
After living in the sticks for 20 years, we moved to a nabe with sidewalks and lots of kids. The mister hauls the chimnea up to the front yard & builds nice fire. We pop a bottle of wine and keep a cooler of Yuengling for some favorite neighbors. Our town (not far from slavicdiva's) has a parade the Saturday before Halloween which is nice because you get a better look at the costumes. But NOTHING stands in the way of Trick or Treating here. Starts at 6 and ends at 8 when the cops cruise slowly through the neighborhoods to discourage stragglers. A few years ago, my husband who is trained as a battlefield medic, went full military moulage-- gaping wounds, scars, and bullet holes. The little kids were pretty wide-eyed, but the 10 - 12 year old were positively horrified.ReplyDelete
We live in a childless neighborhood, just turned out that way, but the neighbor's grandkids showed up, just a couple kids, and that was all for Halloween. I have a Halloween tradition with my nephew's kids. Decorating cupcakes. It really is a contest to see who can pile the most candy on the thickest frosting, there's lots of candies out there that are good decorating tools. Then when they are full of sugar, I leave. Being an aunt is a good thing.ReplyDelete
I used to have a great time coming up with interesting ways to scare kids so much that they'd leave without a treat. Old neighborhood with sidewalks and trees, lots of creative folks that would join in, so we'd attract a lot of kids. I've wired the porch for sound, made things fly out of the trees, built a graveyard in the front yard, leaped out of bushes dressed as a vampire and have a large collection of scary masks. I never give out candy, usually pencils with bats and pumpkins on them, or creepy plastic insects. Folks without costumes get mustard/ketchup/soy sauce packets instead. The volume of kids got really high - last time I gave out pencils it was over 400 of them, one to a child. The size of the kids got much larger, and the costumes vanished, and eventually the "kids" were taller than me, carrying sacks and dressed like thugs. Folks were driving from block to block, so instead of a stream of ToTers, they'd arrive in mobs of 30 or more. Sometimes they'd show up after 9pm. The last time I participated here, I was screamed at, threatened, called obscene names, my porch decorations were pulled down, and the violent, angry hordes wouldn't leave - all because I was not giving out candy. Police didn't respond, so I let the dogs out & cleared the street. It's a shame, I really had fun when trick or treating was actually for children.ReplyDelete
Here's what I don't understand in Northern VA, where there's 20lbs of traffic congestion stuffed into a 5lb sack of inadequate roads. (OK, stupid metaphor.) Anyway, I'm attempting to drive home in Loudoun County among 75,000 fellow stressed out commuters and find that the main road through town is shut for a god damn HALLOWEEN PARADE! WTF?ReplyDelete
Since when does Halloween require a parade? I already bought candy for the little bastards, now they force me on a crowded detour to get home to hand out goodies to the ingrates. My property taxes already pay for their stupid schools, and then they have the gall to block my path home for an overly hyped, artificial "holiday".
You may ask why I just don't turn out the porch lights and not participate. Cause of the spousal unit. That's why. Marital harmony requires that one evening out of the year I must interact with miniature people dressed up as princesses, pirates, skeletons and an ostrich (actually that one was cool). And no, I do not have children cause I am sure I would be in prison if I did. Happy SNAP Cut day - Tommy D
You seem like a sad person. I feel sorry for your wife... er spousal unit. Yeah, I'd be so proud if my husband called me that.Delete
Btw, who paid for your stupid school? Would change the order of those words but I refrain.Delete
I look forward to it because I get to have fun setting up stuff in the front yard and handing out goodies to the kids. Then I settle down and watch my favorite creepy flicks: Nosferatu, The Haunting (the original version), stuff like that. I just love the whole atmosphere of it.ReplyDelete
As for why Americans go nuts over it, you know, after those couple of years I spent in Seward, where the locals celebrated Cinco de Mayo, I came to a realization that we Americans are always looking for a good excuse to just have fun. And Halloween is right up there as a favorite for that reason. (The locals in Seward were doing everything they could to convince the Russians who were visiting the port that Cinco de Mayo was an official American holiday: obligatory celebrations required, like the Fourth of July. Wink. Wink.
M from MD
If you like Nosfertu, perhaps you have seen the updated version "Shadow of the Vampire." Starred Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, and Eddie Izzard. Very good, imo.Delete
I have seen it. It's excellent.Delete
Oh and we had 49 kids on Halloween!
M from MD
Halloween is a close 2nd to Christmas in our house. We visit all the stores as soon as they open and spend hours playing with the props and trying on costumes. The 12 year-old stays home to hand out candy and I take the 5 year-old out for fun times, which continue until he can't walk anymore. Last night we happened across a Halloween party and spent time in a stranger's house, eating cupcakes and drinking punch. It was a great intermission in the evening's walk.ReplyDelete
When we were kids, the neighbors up the street had a pomegranate tree, and they handed out the fruit for Halloween. We always hit them up first and last. Then they moved to Nebraska or somewhere, and the new people gave out raisins. Meh.ReplyDelete
Now we live in Michigan, where it is always variations on cold for Halloween, and this year was rainy and windy as well. We used to get quite a few kids of various ages: toddlers in costumes with their proud parents, those just learning the difference between "trick or treat" and "the other one [thank you]", teens, colleges students, etc. We hit the trick or treat rounds a few times ourselves, as we had graduate student friends who'd never done it.
The neighborhood east of us goes totally overboard for Halloween, so we get a lot fewer kids now.
However, since the first year in the house, we have had a pumpkin carving party the weekend before. Move out the furniture (except for the couch), put down drop cloths, and pot luck and carve. We ended up the repository for all the carving sets people bought over the years, as well as a hand saws-all for openings, power drill for perfect circles, and wood carving tools for the more delicate work. This year our daughter did an accurate rendition of a human heart with the carving tools, then pierced her pumpkin with the pitchfork.
It started out as an adult-only party, then we and our friends had kids, so they got included. I think we had 20 people in the house last weekend which, considering it's less than 1000 sq.ft., was quite the accomplishment.
A note on candy corn: one year at said gourd evisceration extravaganza, a friend brought home-made candy corn. Two different variants of three-color candy corn, and each color was flavored differently. It was amazingly good! Tasty! Most excellent! and nothing like that waxy shit they sell in stores.
that sounds like a really fun tradition!Delete
So, we don't have many kids in our neighborhood so we ordered pizza and watched some good Halloween type shows like Ghostbusters, Beatlejuice and Rocky Horror (with audience participation prompts...). Overall, it was a fun, quiet evening.ReplyDelete
As a Celt, I have always clung tenaciously to the "old ways," but it's tough to have a good ol' fashioned night of debauchery without a crew of willing, saucy tarts. I have also sworn off the principal commercialized holidays (I'm more of a Festivus kind of guy) so to me, Oct. 31 is just another day...ReplyDelete
This year for Halloween I was going to be a Republican but I couldn't get my head up my ass.ReplyDelete
Oh! Thank you for that! Started my day with a belly laugh.Delete
Not to sound like an old fogie but Halloween when we were kids was much better than it is for today's kids. Our Halloween parade was in the evening, when it's supposed to be, while now they hold it in the afternoon-where's the fun in that? I remember people 6 deep enjoying the floats, bands, and various organizations that took part. It was great fun for us. And ToT was spread over a couple of nights; talk about a haul of candy! We would hit different neighborhoods each night and bring home enough loot to rot every tooth in our heads. And no parents to walk us around! We were in the city within a 4-block radius of home, in those days that was considered normal range for kids playing w/ their friends. I've been to and thrown some epic Halloween parties over the years but, like Jim, I've lost my enthusiasm for anything more than watching my fav H-ween movies, "Arsenic And Old Lace" and "Young Frankenstein". I stopped giving out candy years ago b/c greed has replaced the fun. So many "sick cousins" that can't get their own candy, toothless babies in strollers w/ ToT bags, and big kids with no costumes who come back a second time, thinking I'm too stupid to recognize them. They kick over my decorations, step on my plants, and I have to coerce them to say "Trick or Treat!"? I don't know how many years I've run out of candy in the first hour and candy has gotten so expensive to boot. Yes, I've become a Halloween humbug but I still have the memories of the great Halloweens of my childhood to warm the cockles of my twisted black heart.ReplyDelete
Pam in PA
I love Halloween. I loved it growing up, and love giving out candy now. However, the last few years we've had no kids - not in our apartment complex and not at our house. Come to find out, around here, it's very popular to take your kid to "Trunk or Treat" at church instead of trick or treating. I guess I understand that people feel better getting candy from people at their church, but I always enjoyed seeing the neighborhood kids dressed up and saying hi to their parents. I was hoping that now that we have a house, we'd get to meet more neighbors and see new kids. Bummer.ReplyDelete
Here in the UK we seem to have imported the rampantly exploitative commercialization whilst completely missing out on the underlying socially-cohesive bonhomie.ReplyDelete
Which is a pity really, 'cause it all sounds very jolly!
I spent Halloween in Houston at the world's largest (and best) quilt show. Attendees from all over the world, some of them in full costume or holiday-theme or quilty attire. 13 football fields' worth of gorgeous eye candy, both in the exhibits and in the vendors' booths. Many of the vendors had bowls of real candy, as well. Looking at some of the best quilts in the world, shopping for fabric & eating chocolate: what more could I want? I went with a group of friends (our kids are all grown) and we had a blast!ReplyDelete
It used to be my anniversary …….. http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=4515782769600261177#editor/target=post;postID=8877715052698881094;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=3;src=postnameReplyDelete
Interesting stuff Jim, I didn't realize the roots of the holiday went that far back..ReplyDelete
As a kid I used to love Halloween, and as it was back in the 1950's-60's, most parents just let
even small kids wander off with a few siblings or in a pack without much worry.
By time I got to be 12-14, it was considered a bit juvenile to trick-or-treat in a costume, so we got up to much more mischief than anything else.
Such as, filling the paper bag with shaving cream, lighting it on fire, throw it in front of the door, ring the bell, and run like hell. Owner of said dwelling would usually swear and stomp on the bag, throwing us into fits of laughter..
More evil variations were filling the bag with roofing tar or doggie doo.. that was just too mean but hey, we were kids and laughs were easy to come by
Fireworks saved up from 4th of july were big hits.. we'd wait til a group of kids were just coming up on a porch, and we'd throw a squib from behind them, and watch them jump with fright..
Our favorite trick was destructive, and of course I deplore having done this, and do NOT try this yourself as you could get badly burned.
Take a plastic ketchup bottle, fill it 1/2 full of methanol (drygas) , fill the rest up with gasoline. Proceed to a quieter street and squirt the liquid out on the the tar making a 4 foot high naughty word or two.
Stand back a bit, throw a lit match, and watch your creation spring to life... This was lots of fun, until one night someone called the cops, and we were chased for 1/2 a mile into a local swampy woods hiding in terror of being caught. The cop was MAD as hell, but couldn't find us without getting soaked and muddy so he gave up.
The truly evil kids would steal a smaller kid's bag of candy and run away, but our gang never did that from what I remember..
Such was Halloween in an unnamed small town in New Hampshire in the 1960's...
My first memory of Halloween was when I was a 10 year old Army brat at our quarters in Ft. Devens, Mass. in the late 50's. Our dependent family quarters were old converted wooden hospital wards, probably dating back to WW1. I was going around collecting candy and I came around the corner and saw that this one quarter's wooden stoop (porch deck) was on fire from a Halloween pumpkin whose candles had gone out of control. I ran up and beat on the door to alert the family. A little Asian lady stuck her head out the door, looked at me yelling at her to call the fire department (apparently without comprehension) then went inside and came out with a bucket of water - which she promptly threw directly at me. She must have thought I set the fire. So much for Halloween heroics. I sloshed home and never enjoyed Halloween much after that.ReplyDelete
I loved Halloween as a young mother and as a grandmother. Making costumes, decorating the house with jack-o-lanters, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and scarcrows. Dressing the kids up for the school parades, the mummy, a ghost, a princess, the mask crusader. All of the kids are grown now and I have given all the decorations to my neighbors who have little ones. I did keep on pumpkin that I put out, fill a large bowl with candy to hand out, I get joy seeing the little one crowd around door. This year the kiddos and the teenagers were very well mannered..They have grown up into very nice young people. I have always believed Halloween is meant kids. Trick or treat should be over by nine, the kids should be home or having a sleepover, sorting their loot and watching spooky movies.ReplyDelete