Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en!


Now a secular holiday for children, and fun loving adults, Hallowe'en or All Hallows Eve, began as a religious Celtic holiday, and then took on Christian overtones of showing respect for the dead, and became connected to All Souls and All Saints Days. These days, only Wiccans seem to give it much religious attention. In all traditions, Hallowe'en is related to the increasing darkness of fall, and the time of the death of nature, as the leaves fall and plants go dormant. This is supposed to be the evening when the worlds of the dead and living collide, ghosts walk the earth, witches and evil spirits are out in full force, black magic is dominant. Trickery and treachery loom!


Instead, now Hallowe'en is mainly a time for children to enjoy dressing up, being whoever they imagine themselves to be, expressing their creativity, and getting a reaction out of adults! The best reaction of course, is after the daycare or school costume party, and going door to door, wherever there is a Jack O'Lantern shining, and saying, "Anything for Hallowe'en? Trick or Treat!", and getting candy in return. According to my sister, who is a primary school teacher, Hallowe'en is more important and more exciting for children than any other holiday. All the children, including Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus she has taught, take the same delight in dressup and the costume party at school, that usually involves games and candy, too. Not all go out  in the evening, depending on their parents' wishes, but the only ones who don't dress up for school are either Jehovah's Witnesses, or certain fundamentalist Christians, but they are in a very small minority.


Teens and adults enjoy costume parties, and some workplaces have a dressup day. Many have costume and pumpkin carving contests, and candy is in abundance. Teens and adults are also the ones manning the doors when the younger children come around. While home-made treats used to be common, and candy apples most prized, these days most parents only give out, and allow their children to eat, pre-packaged treats, which most often are candy, but may be small packets of potato chips or popcorn. I like to dress up (as a friendly witch) to give out candy, because the children are initially surprised, and then think it is a lot of fun that I do. I always tell the children how cute they look, or how terrifying, or that I would never have guess who was in the costume! Among my favourites are the ones who are so little they don't really understand, but are delighted! Some try to give me a candy in return, and some really persist until I take it, thank them profusely, and surreptitionsly return it to their mom.


New immigrants often seek guidance from teachers, neighbours, and friends as this is a particularly North American custom. My favourite new Canadian visitor was a Hispanic boy--with 6 adults in tow, all having a wonderful time, accompanying the one nephew on his loot collecting adventure. Hallowe'en is important enough to North Americans that expats usually organize parties for their children, and sometimes for themselves. When I was living in Hong Kong an American and a Canadian mother sent a notice around the building complex saying the children would be going through the building trick or treating and anyone who wanted to participate should put a decoration on their door, and they would only stop at those flats. Needless to say, many children from around the world had their first Hallowe'en experience--as did some parents!


Growing up, I liked to dress as a something involving minimal clothing and warm weather--eg, a dancing gypsy peasant girl, a hula dancer, a flamenco dancer...Alas neither my mother nor the climate cooperated with the exact realization of my imaginings. My mother insisted on my not freezing to death, which meant sweaterS over or under a costume. Definite crimp in my dancing style! The last year I went out, I was 12, and dressed as Cleopatra--long gold lamé dress, the least number of sweaters possible, a lot of blue eyeshadow, and my then waist-length hair flowing. For once it was relatively mild, and I was relatively unencumbered! I guess all done up I looked older than 12, and some mothers made remarks as if I were too old to be out trick or treating. My sister got the same remarks, even though she was only 10 and tall for her age. Needless to say, our family policy is to cheerfully greet all children of whatever age, size, and maturity level! Good thing too, because the last giant high school football player who came trick or treating was really the 10-year-old from down the street!


One fun Hallowe'en was the year my sister-in-law was visiting from Morocco. Her only Hallowe'en experience until then was watching the film ET. We carved pumpkins and put them in the window; and then, since we were in a condo where the "committee" were giving out the candy in the lobby, we were free to go out and walk around the neighbourhood. I insisted that we go to watch the children, and she was delighted with all the costumes, the enthusiasm and joy, and the decorated homes. Too bad she refused to dress up! We could have gone as Inuit dancers!


How about you?
Have you or do you celebrate Hallowe'en?
What are your favourite Hallowe'en memories/ activities?
What was your best costume?
What are your plans this year?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

4 comments:

coolred38 said...

Unfortunately my father didnt let my sisters and I participate in actual trick or treating. We were only allowed to attend the parties that were held during actual school hours. Those only lasted in elementary school years as highschool tends to have after school parties etc.

I did dress up in school colors as a clown in my junior year of highschool. A friend of my mothers took orange and black, coincidently our school colors, and did a half and half baggy clown costume complete with pomped hat. It was actually rather good but the affect wasnt complete as I didnt have a wig or facepaint to complete the picture.

Since I rode the bus in those days and we lived away from others. I had to stand alone by the side of the rode watching cars go by waiting for the bus....and THEN ride the bus full of NON costume wearing teens as they considered dressing up kiddy stuff. *sigh*

Made it about 2 hours at school before removing the costume once and for all. For some reason...only the popular students were "allowed" to wear costumes...the rest of us were just fodder for jokes. Kids are cruel. *sigh again*

Oops...just remembered...one year my parents and little sister went hunting around Holloween so my older sis and I were home alone. We opened all the windows, played a book on record about werewolves with sound affects to die for...and had a blast answering the door and seeing all the fun. However, at some point we ran out of candy and felt ashamed to answer the door with none...so the decision was made (not by me mom) that I would quickly go trick or treating in order to get more treats for our trick or treaters. Hey...made sense then. My only available costume at such short notice was a white bedsheet over my head...no eye holes cause my life was worth more than cutting eye holes in my mothers sheet. So I stumbled around in the dark to a few houses on our block collecting as much as I could, fearing the whole time my parents would come back (gave new meaning to being scared on Holloween) and then rushed back and thanked any and all holloween spirits for protecting me. LOL

I might add that we also had a record of humpback whales sounds that came in a National Geopgraphic magazine. Considering the reaction to all the little kids that came to our door that night...humpbacks are some pretty scary sounding creatures.

Having just returned to the states before last Holloween...I havent really found my groove yet with American holidays. Still need some practice. My pumpkins are still sitting on the table unfaced...guess I need to go get busy facing them. LOL

Happy Holloween everyone.

oby said...

Here in Ohio Halloween is celebrated on several days. Different municipalities and cities have trick or treating on different days. It is the WEIRDEST thing ever and I have no idea why it is done like that as I had never heard of it before. Anyway it is very common to see carloads of kids go from place to place to trick or treat. Until this year I limited my daughter to one day only as it seemed like cheating to me. But this year her friend wanted to trick or treat in her neighborhood which was on a different day than ours so I let her go with her friend and then we hit our neighborhood yesterday. Sadly I have had a mild fever and chills so even though my joints ached I plodded along...

One year I was a caveman replete with a tiedyed t shirt of my dad's that had been cut appropriately, my brothers whiffle ball bat for my club, my hair up in a bun with a bone through it and our spotted dalmatian standing in as my trusty dinosaur. The Flintstones were big then. God love my mother who made all our costumes by hand and they were stunning. She really did a great job. One year my sister was a huge daisy! another year I was a ballerina and I was highly incensed that my mother made me wear a sweater (this was NYC area so COLD)as ballerinas never wore sweaters. There were store bought costumes but I don't remember them being as big a deal as they are now.

I used to get a shoebox and organize my candy.Sometimes we would get pennies or other small change and if we got a quarter we thought we had died and gone to heaven. I would stack all the chocolate with the chocolate, suckers with suckers, gum with gum and so on...can anyone say O.C.D?

Really great times and one I will miss when my daughter grows out of it. I quit trick or treating at about 12 or 13 voluntarily as I thought I was too old. Now teenagers some to the door! I'm thinking when your voice drops to a baritone and you wouldn't be caught dead in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume it's time to call it quits.

Majed said...

The only thing I knew about Hallowe'en, is that from the horror films, and that it is an awful and horrible day that has something to do with warewolves,Zombies,Ghosts,Vampires.

Now, I know what is Hallowe 'en, I am happy for all those who had happy times on this day specially the children.

wish you all belated happy Hallowe en.

Susanne said...

I loved reading about your Halloween experiences as a child and even now. Coolred and Oby's comments were great too! I was smiling several times. :)

Chiara, why is Halloween a particular North American holiday? Actually Samer said some German children were dressed up this year, but I don't know if they went trick or treating.

An American friend in Sarjah, UAE said their building did trick or treating. The university or maybe it was staff housing sent out a notice explaining it in English and Arabic, said to put up a sign if you were participating and that's how they did it. Not sure how many participated, but her girls seemed to have enough candy to share with mom and dad. :)

I enjoyed this post. Thank for it!

Oh, Michael was Snake Eyes - a ninja from the G.I. Joe series this year. He loves dressing up even when it's NOT Halloween. :)

What about your nephew?

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