With the approach of Halloween, my thoughts go back a few years to when my sisters and brother and I were little. As I said in my earlier post Welcome Autumn, Halloween was one of our favorite holidays. There is no surprise in that. Parent sanctioned rowdiness combined with large quantities of sugar is any child’s dream. When we were little, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, parents still let their kids trick-or-treat without supervision, roaming the neighborhood in groups and having the time of our lives. We created our own trick-or-treat bags from those purple fruit and vegetable bags from the grocery, complete with handles, using crayons to decorate the bags with pumpkins, bats, skeletons, ghosts, what have you. We always carved pumpkins and my mother would document all of our activities with photographs. Thanks to my mother’s orderly photo albums that go back decades, and the modern scanner, I have been able to electronically preserve the photos of our childhood and revel in the fond memories they recall. I feel we grew up in a wonderful time and had an especially wonderful childhood. I give my parents full credit for this, and only wish it hadn’t taken thirty years to finally thank them for it.
I have very specific and vivid memories of the moon walk of 1969. My parents gathered us around the television and had us watch as Neil Armstrong made history. I was six at the time.
My book for reference when it comes to holidays is Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, by Charles Panati (1989). Panati tells us that Halloween, All Hallows Eve, dates back to the 5th Century B.C., where dressing up ghoulishly and acting mischievously were done in deathly earnest, and by adults, not children.
According to Panati’s:
Named “All Hallows Eve”, the festival was first celebrated by the ancient Celts in Ireland in the fifth century B.C. On the night of October 31, then the official end of summer, Celtic households extinguished the fires on their hearths to deliberately make their homes cold and undesirable to disembodied spirits. They then gathered outside the village, where a Druid priest kindled a huge bonfire to simultaneously honor the sun god for the past summer’s harvest and to frighten away furtive spirits. The Celts believed that on October 31, all persons who had died in the previous year assembled to choose the body of the person or animal they would inhabit for the next twelve months, before they could pass peacefully into the afterlife. To frighten roving souls, Celtic family members dressed themselves as demons, hobgoblins, and witches.
Halloween made its way to the US with Irish immigrants. The first jack-o’-lanterns were large turnips hollowed out and carved with a demon’s face. In the new world, turnips were few and far between, but pumpkins were numerous. I love to read the origins of what we do today, and speculate as to how long the traditions will remain. I still enjoy Halloween, although I don’t dress up every year. I do carve a pumpkin annually and my neighborhood gets a lot of trick-or-treaters, which is fun. Having no children myself, the dressing up duties fell to my dog, who suffered the indignity with true character and charm. The cats remain costume free. That’s a battle I am sure to lose.
Favorite Halloween Cards