All hallows eve one of the very first celebrations of the harvest that has gone well, strange. It is believed that the tradition of Halloween dates back to around seven hundred B.C. all I can say about that is wow, okay maybe not just that. I can wonder about the costumes, did they dress as Cro-Magnon man, wait a minute weren’t they already Cro-Magnon man, no I’m sorry that would have been seven thousand B.C. I probably missed that in history. That must have been the year I found that girls were more fun than my school books or was that the year they found out I was more fun than their school books, whichever way it was I guess it doesn’t really matter especially to this story. Where was I; oh, yeah,
On November first the first day of their new year, the Celts celebrated a festival called Samhain (“sow-in”). Chosen to signify the end of the harvest season and the onset of winter, Samhain was also thought to be a day of the dead. As it was the end of one year and the start of another, the Celts believed that the past and present are closely linked, thus allowing the spirits of their ancestors to join them in the festival. On the eve of Samhain the Celts dressed in costumes, lit bonfires and offered food and drink to the costumed revelers. It is believed that the fires were used to drive away any bad spirits and the food placated the dead. And as Christians sometimes do they tried to change the pagan ritual, and proclaimed November first as all saints day, a day to celebrate saints that had no day of their own. It wasn’t until the Christians proclaimed November first as All Hallow Day or All Saints Day did we get the name change from Samhain. Bless them little Celts, because they didn’t stop them from celebrating Samhain they just changed the name. The night before All Saint Day was still called All Hallows Eve but was later shortened to Halloween probably by some Christian trying to put an end to the Pagan celebrations roots.
It was those crafty Irish escaping the potato famine that brought the trick or treat tradition to this country, on Halloween the Irish peasants begged for food and played practical jokes on those that refused. Eventually to avoid being tricked they would hand out cookies, candies and fruit. It was during the Pioneers days of the American west, when housewives began hand out candy to keep from being tricked, soon the children would shout, “trick or treat!”
So much for the history lesson, how about some fun what do you say about that? Huh, what‘s that, I can‘t hear you when you say yes or no as you read this, I know what you’re thinking; then why do I always ask these dang silly ass questions. I don’t know maybe just to see if you’re paying attention.
I was sitting somewhere the other day thinking about this essay and I was trying to remember some of the characters that I had dressed up as over the years and it hit me that I couldn’t really remember any of them. Well, there was the year that I was driving cab in an small city on the coast when I attempted to dress as a crash test dummy, my boss thought that it might not go over to well with the straight public, and besides that I couldn’t find anyone that would spend the time on the make up so I just put on a hat and drove as someone else. Then there was the year I was a bartender from another bar, the next I was the ghost of a bartender because of the way my partner and I acted the year before, long story remind me some time and I’ll tell it just not today. What’s that? Okay I’ll squeeze it in and your right its not really that long.
Garth, my partner in crime behind the bar went down the street and borrow a couple of their name tags, they thought ‘wow, what a cool idea,’ especially since the name tags he had borrowed were from Peggy and Cindy (I think). The names really aren’t as important as what we did. When a customer would come in we would say ‘Welcome to (the bar they worked at not ours) my name is Peggy, what can I get for you’. And as the place was notorious for their customers being ignored while the barmaids talked to someone else on staff or some guy that was tipping them often we, Garth and I, would ignore the customer for a couple of seconds at least and on and off throughout the evening. Now it was all in fun until the other bar closed and they all filtered in to ours, while some of them including the owner was aware of what we were doing the barmaids were not and as we ignored them all, the laughter began until the barmaids caught on and the evil stares began. That my friend is how it came to pass that Garth and I were mere spirits pouring spirits the next year.
The next day while driving and listening to my favorite morning show, one of the hosts was talking about her daughter that had been dressing up in her costume for over a week and she was wondering how she was going to get it off her long enough to wash it. It wasn’t the first time I had heard about children not wanting to get out of their costumes or wearing them for weeks at a time before and after Halloween. I was also sure that it would not be the last that I would hear of it. As adults the whole Halloween thing starts to become lost on us, a very sad thing too I must admit. For as adults who wouldn’t want to spend the evening or weeks at a time dressed as Superman or Spiderman or Princess Ariel or Wonder Woman or even Cinderella for that matter, anyone but who we are as adults let our inner child out and run house to house knocking on doors and yelling “Trick or Treat” and hoping that we get a candy bar or some other cool candy, just as long as it wasn’t a penny or an apple or an orange, or any other number of healthy or non-edible things that could be found in your bag-o-goodies as children. Oh, sure there are the odd costume parties that you or a friend might be having or perhaps the neighborhood bar is holding one as well, it just isn’t the same though. I have been to both put on the latter more times than I keep in my head or that I care to might be the better word and I am here to tell ya, it just ain’t the same. The excitement level just isn’t the same as putting on that other persona and walking out into the night with your pillowcase in hand, striking out to see what the end of the night will bring, besides a stomachache that is. Ah, to be ten again just the age when you know what you’re doing and yet young enough not to be thought of as too old to be out among the others. Waving your ghost flashlight around making light figures in the dark, scaring your neighbor friends or that stuck up little girl from the next street over. Somehow, you just knew that your parents were a few steps behind you watching everything you were doing and taking notes. Maybe in your case it was that girl that watched you when your parents needed to go get away from you either way your parents knew everything you did.
You never really paid any attention to what anyone else was wearing nor did you really care, well outside of your friends so that you knew what they were when they came up to you and tried to scare you back. And yet the parade of witches, ghosts, ghouls, hobos, lumberjacks with fake axes in their heads, Spiderman, Superman, Princesses, genies continued on around you as you tried to find the house with just the right candy so you could try and hit it again before you went home. With any luck you didn’t have a younger brother or sister to watch over while you were out there and you didn’t have to wait for them to catch up at every house. I guess this is where I should feel sorry for mine, NOT.
There were always the rumors of foreign objects that might be in your candy and you were always told not to eat any of it before you got home and your parents could inspect it. It was tough but somehow you made it home without eating any of it, well not any that you would say anyway. You would walk into the house with your bag dragging, more because you hated the thought of having to watch as your mom pawed over it and looked quickly at the wrappers and the outsides of the fruit that you had gotten from that weird family that you weren’t supposed to stop at, but you did anyway. When she would ask if you stopped there you told her no, but she knew you had. Your answer was always, but mom everybody else was stopping there. Before you realized what you had said she came back with that old mom-ism ‘if everyone else was jumping off a bridge I suppose you would too’. Just how is a person supposed to answer that? I think it was one of those lead don’t follow lessons that they always try to teach you in situations like that, but who are they kidding this wasn’t jumping off a bridge this was Halloween and candy. After pain staking minutes of watch her go through it and confiscating the “suspicious looking” ones you were allowed to eat some of it. One good thing about having an older brother on Halloween was when you didn’t get that much candy for whatever reason our mom made us ‘share’ our candy oh we got to pick out our favorites just before the two piles were swept together and put into one bowl. We were allowed to put our favorites back in our bag or plastic pumpkin, as I remember it when I was younger and save them for the next day. Thinking back I wonder how much of that foreign object stuff was true and how much of it was so that your parents could get the good stuff before you knew you had it.
So to you my friends and family, Pagans and Christians alike take this first celebration of the harvest as you find it. Walk out among the dead, wear your face like theirs so that they will think you’re one of them and not harm you, put on your best costume grab yourself a pillowcase and run down the street yelling “TRICK OR TREAT”.


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