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I love Halloween and love handing out candy to children. The costumes, the excitement, it’s all part of the ambiance of Halloween.
One year, we were giving out regular-sized 3 Musketeers candy bars. A little boy comes to the door and when I gave him his candy bar, he exclaimed “Oh-oh! Soft candy! My parents warned me about soft candy. People can put pins in it!” I was taken aback by his concern, but then he unwrapped the bar and standing there on our porch, ate the entire candy bar. As he wiped his lips with the last bite, he nodded, saying “It’s okay. No pins!”
Most people know that Halloween gets its name from All Saints Day
(Nov. 1), also called All Hallows, with Oct. 31 being All Hallows Eve. With over 10,000 saints, it makes sense to honor them all on a single day (just reciting the names of the saints would take about 15 hours).
But dressing up as witches and goblins was not particularly popular in early America. In the fun-loving town of Salem, knocking on a stranger’s door at night in costume could have very fiery results.
No, Halloween’s incarnation here in the States was more of a spud inspired event.
The origins of Halloween date back thousands of years, an intermingling of Roman, English and Celtic customs. Many cultures recognized the end of harvest as the beginning of darkness and so it was associated with death.
Holidays and celebrations often involved bonfires and dancing in costumes as people would sacrifice animals to appease and ward off the evil spirits. During the Celtic Samhain festival, people would put on skins and heads of dead animals, dance around and jump over fires, burn a few goats ... they really knew how to party back then.
But Halloween wasn’t celebrated here until the mid-19th century. Ireland’s potato famine prompted a hoard of immigrants to come to America. They brought with them Irish coffee, potato bread, fried potato pancakes, corned beef and cabbage, the Fighting Irish, Irish stew, Irish beer, and of course the Druid tradition of Halloween.
The custom of trick or treating is often related to the original pagan ritual of “soul begging” during Samhain. The Druids would go from house to house asking for food to appease the dead. One has to wonder, what exactly should you bake for a dead person? But in America, trick or treating did not become a popular custom until after WWII. It was fueled by articles and stories in children’s magazines, and finally implanted into the minds of children by a Walt Disney cartoon, “Trick or Treat.”
So with the babblings of Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck, an American tradition took root.
Halloween is now the second largest commercial holiday. When you tally up the candy purchases, costumes, house and lawn decorations, greeting cards and party paraphernalia, Halloween earnings are now top $5 billion a year.
Sadly, amidst all the fun, Halloween is an annual target, a reminder that some people just can’t have fun if others are enjoying life. Every year, people rise up to object and protest the celebration of Halloween. It’s the devil’s playground! It promotes the celebration of evil! It glorifies wicked behavior and teaches our children to worship the occult! What’s next? Encouraging our children to study astrology? Our schools teaching on Ouija boards and having séances? A typical rant you can find on the Internet will warn of witches’ covens in which worshipers of “the dark side” (no, nothing to do with Star Wars) drink strange brews, dance and spit out curses, cast spells, conjure evil spirits, engage in sadistic bizarre sexual rituals and orgies and offer animal and human sacrifices to the demons of the underworld.
Wow and I thought it was fun to throw wet toilet paper at parked cars when I was a kid. If I had only known.
Oddly enough, I celebrated many a Halloween and never once found myself wanting to sacrifice the neighbor’s dog to the Druid Lord of Death. I never even developed a taste for blood soaked witch’s brew.
I much prefer popcorn balls or a nice mulled cider.
Let’s face it, Halloween is mainstream America. Fear mongering about occult worship and succumbing to moral darkness has fortunately done little to dissuade the celebrations, the fun, and yes, sometimes a bit of mischief.
Hey, even Martha Stewart has joined in to revel in the joy of Halloween and elaborate pumpkin carvings have become a real art form.
The only discouraging thing about Halloween is that kids don’t really know many good tricks. So until some kid comes to my door and offers, “Pick a card, any card,” I’ll just hand out the candy.