Archive for Thursday, October 29, 2009

All Hallow’s Eve

October 29, 2009

On Saturday night the streets will be teeming with a variety of ghosts, goblins, witches, monsters and other small, scary creatures all going from door-to-door to collect bags of treats. Yes, Halloween night is a very big day for youngsters throughout the country and, for that matter, many other areas of the world. It is a time to collect as much candy as possible and to utter those now famous words, “trick or treat.”

Motorists need to use extra caution on Halloween night. Youngsters will be excited and can forget traffic safety rules and dart across the street. In fact, to me the scary part of Halloween is when I have to be driving somewhere.

I’m a strong believer that adults should accompany kids when they go out seeking treats. Also, parents need to follow the Halloween safety rules including not using masks that inhibit vision. Costumes should be made of flame inhibiting material if possible. I just read a list of safety tips for homeowners, which I hadn’t thought about. Be sure that your yard is free of hazards such as hoses or rakes and other garden tools that could cause falls.

I remember in Halloween’s past trick-or-treating with our daughters and evenings spent carving jack-o-lanterns.

I recently came across a couple of interesting statistics: 90 percent of young children dress up on Halloween and go to an event where they can receive treats. The large number includes the traditional trick-or-treaters and those who attend alternate celebrations such as “trunk or treat” parties sponsored by churches.

It is interesting to note that the idea for trick-or-treating goes back to ancient Ireland and England, according to one source I found. It seems that children and poor people would go door-to-door and ask for gifts. The night visitors might say a prayer for the household or children would sing a song and in return would receive a cake. The practice was called “souling.”

The idea of trick-or-treating didn’t get off to a fast start in the United States. While the early English and Irish settlers probably enjoyed the practice, it wasn’t until the 20th century that it became part of the holiday celebration. A Web site I came across stated that the first mention of trick-or-treating in the media was in 1911 in a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario. While the practice was becoming more popular in the 1920s and 1930s, it didn’t get big until after World War II. One source said that stories in “Jack and Jill” and “Children’s Activities,” both popular periodicals for youngsters, featured articles about the practice. In addition, popular radio shows such as “Baby Snooks” and “Jack Benny” had Halloween programs that popularized the Halloween custom.

My guess is the post-war prosperity and growth of suburbs played a major role, too. Whatever the case, trick-or-treating is a popular Halloween custom.

I also came across an explanation for persons wearing costumes at Halloween. At one time, the celebration of the dead was part of the New Year’s festivities, and it was thought that ghosts would inhabit homes on that special night. To get the ghosts out of town, residents would dress up in a variety of scary costumes representing the dead. Then, these costumed residents would lead the errant spirits on a parade to the city limits. I guess once the spirits were out of town, they moved on to the next community.

Another explanation is that in the medieval days, All Hallows Eve was celebrated by churches. Some of the smaller churches did not have religious relics so parishioners dressed up and paraded around the church yard to ward off evil spirits.

Hopefully, you will have a safe and enjoyable Halloween. That’s certainly possible if you use good judgment and common sense.


Jason Bailey 8 years, 6 months ago

Clausie, I just read this op-ed as of November 2nd. I am surprised to say the least that I didn't smack a kid while driving around on Saturday night. After all, I hadn't been admonished to pay attention and without reading your warning beforehand, I'm alarmed that perhaps I did hit a child and didn't even notice.

What is it with journalists thinking your readers are a bunch of morons who must be told the obvious. Perhaps your next op-ed could be a reinforcement piece on the importance of breathing.


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