Reflecting on Halloween
by Melissa Minners
Ah, Halloween, the eve of All Hallows’ Day (aka: All Saints’ Day), a day of religious festivities celebrated by many as the one day of the year on which spirits can make contact with the physical world. As kids, all we knew was that on October 31st, we got to dress up in costumes after school and go from house to house, saying “Trick or Treat!” and walking home laden with goodies. If we were lucky, Halloween fell out on the weekend – twice the time to go Trick-or-Treating meant twice as many treats. As Halloween roles around again this year, I begin to reminisce on Halloweens past.
I remember my mother never wanting to buy us a Halloween costume like we saw all the other kids wearing – something you could pick up at the local Woolworth for $5.00. True, the costumes were cheaply made and my mother had a point about the masks being dangerous, but we always used to grumble about wanting to buy a costume rather than make one. My mother, not knowing how to use a sewing machine, used to make us costumes out of whatever we had around the house. Some costumes were pretty cool. My mother was pretty good at making mustaches out of eye liner and clown faces out of everyday make-up. We had some pretty cool stuff around the house. I had a plastic derby and a plastic cigar, thus, I was Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx for a Halloween or two. I had a cowboy hat and a pair of cap gun pistols and a cute cowgirl outfit was improvised out of everyday clothing making me Annie Oakley one year. The hat and pistols were used again years later and along with some eye pencil, I became a cowboy. Some costumes were cool, others, such as the garbage bag for a cape vampire costume…well, not so much. But we always had a costume which is more than I can say for some of the kids I see Trick-or-Treating these days.
When I first started Trick-or-Treating, I was confined to one street. My mom took me in the beginning. Later, when I was deemed old enough, I took my brother door to door on Halloween, I carrying my plastic pumpkin and Jon with his Casper bucket. Eventually, the Trick-or-Treating adventure went from one block to our block and across the street. Soon it was around our block and across the street. Then it extended to around the block and around the next block. Eventually, our sister Justine joined us on our trek. Sometimes, we’d get very little candy. Other times, we’d have to go back to the house a couple of times to empty out our respective buckets. It usually depended on the day of the week Halloween fell out on. No matter how big the score, we were always sure to be left with only half the loot as soon as our mom got through culling out the bad stuff. “Bad stuff” usually meant haphazardly wrapped candies, unwrapped goods, apples, etc. Years later, we would be daring enough to eat stuff we were sure our mother would push to the side as rejects. Sometimes our mother could be a bit more protective than we liked, but we always had our fair share of candy corn, M&Ms, Three Musketeers, Snickers, Hershey's, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joy, Mounds, and other assorted miniature candy treats. My parents would always bring home something from Entenmann’s – Halloween cupcakes or cake.
Of course, we always had to be in by a certain hour. After 8pm or 9pm, there were other activities afoot other than going door to door with costumes on begging for treats. Some of the kids enjoyed the “Trick” stuff more and you were bound to see droves of them in the street having egg and shaving cream wars, toilet-papering houses, pumpkin-smashing and more. For the most part, we stayed away from that stuff.
When we weren’t busy with Trick-or-Treating, there was always something fun to do. One year, we bought a huge pumpkin and tried our hand at carving it into a scary face. I don’t remember him being all that scary, but I remember eating the pumpkin seeds my mother roasted from the innards. Years later, when I was working at a local store, I would take one of the foam pumpkins we were selling, put a hat on his head and stuff a fake cigarette in his mouth. Now this was a pumpkin who was fully enjoying his Halloween, proudly displayed on the counter for all to see.
Leading up to Halloween, one could always count on scary stories being read at school. Who doesn’t remember the tale of The Teeny-Tiny Woman? The teeny-tiny woman and the voice from the Teeny-Tiny cupboard that said, “GIVE ME MY BONE!!!!” Teachers would always read a version of Washington Irving’s spooky tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. There would always be tales of ghosts, haunted houses, zombies, witches and vampires to scare the living daylights out of us. One year, we read Edgar Allen Poe’s creepy poem, The Raven. And one year, I decided to freak myself out by reading Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.
Television and the theaters always had something in the works for Halloween. Since I was a kid, the Charles Schultz classic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has always been something we watched on television. As I remember it, the 4’o’clock movies on ABC for that week were usually horror flicks featuring Vincent Price, such as The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, The Conqueror Worm and more. And you could always count on the voluptuous Elvira: Queen of the Night to star in a tongue-in-cheek Halloween special. The movie of choice in the theaters back when I was in elementary school was Halloween, a horror flick about a serial killer named Michael Myers. Years later, kids have their pick of movies to choose from – dozens of versions of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (aka: The Headless Horseman), the multitude of films in the Halloween series, Friday the 13th series, Nightmare on Elm Street series, and more.
Nowadays, I’m a tad too old to go Trick-or-Treating, though I’ve been known to wear a costume or two on Halloween. The house is always decorated with pumpkins, ghosts and vampires. There’s always a bowl of treats awaiting munchkins in costume – my favorites are the poor babies who have no clue why they are wearing such cute bulky costumes and who are way too young to eat the candy they are receiving. One day they’ll resent the fact that Mommy or Daddy dressed them up as a huge pumpkin and pushed them around in a stroller all night. After all, who is really going to eat all that candy when the Trick-or-Treating is done, huh? Certainly not baby who hasn’t even grown in teeth yet! Most of the time around Halloween, I sit myself in front of the television and watch a bunch of scary movies and wait for Trick-or-Treaters to arrive. I’m always a bit generous with the candy when the kids are bashful. Lately, most kids will just stuff their hands in your candy bowl and make off with handfuls of candy. But it’s the one or two bashful kids who mumble “Trick-or-Treat” and are polite enough to wait for you to give them their candy who get the most goodies from me. They remind me of me and my siblings at a different time patrolling the neighborhood, always aware that politeness got you the best treats.
Happy Halloween, everyone! May your treats be many, your tricks be few, and may your parents not dress you in something that no self-respecting Trick-or-Treater would ever be caught dead in!
A very special thanks to http://www.hellasmultimedia.com/webimages/ for all of the terrific graphic art images used in this story.