Halloween has a varied and interesting history

Published 5:31 am Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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Have you recovered from Tuesday’s Halloween fun?

I know it’s not everyone’s favorite, but I happen to have a husband who is a tremendous amateur actor and who absolutely loves Halloween, where he can engage his considerable talents. He has always been one to make his own costumes, and for a man who has just the basic sewing skills, he has always done incredibly well.

Several years ago, he dressed as a burglar. He had the striped shirt, black pants, gloves, black cap and the mask on his face. He slung the bag of candy over his shoulder. When kids would come to the door, he would open it and back out, tiptoeing, then turn, startled to find he’d been caught. He’d offer the kids candy if they would let him get away.

For three years now, a neighbor’s child has come to our door looking for the burglar.

It’s a fun holiday, when we all can have the chance to be something or someone we are not. It is also an ancient celebration that began as All Hallows’ Eve, the night before All Saints Day. It comes from medieval Christianity, and hallows means both holy and saint in Middle and Old English. It was believed that All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween was the time when the veil between this life and the next was thinnest, and communication with loved ones on the other side was the most possible.

And while that is a lovely idea, it is also how we made the leap to believing Halloween is haunted. Because it’s ghosts that are allegedly on the other side.

Jack-o-lanterns were incorporated from the Gaelic festival of Samhain, and is considered the first known secular roots of our current Halloween. Not only did the carved pumpkins come from that, but so did bonfires and costumes.

So it is both a religious and pagan holiday in its origin, but truly, never evil.

Trick or treating had an interesting start, called “souling,” in which people went door to door asking for “soul cakes,” similar to biscuits these days, in exchange for prayers for the souls in purgatory to be released to heaven.

In the early to mid-1900s here in the states, it evolved into families giving children candy to prevent them from playing pranks or tricks.

In recent years, many communities have Trunk or Treats or a city-sponsored event downtown now, and I think that is in part a response to safety concerns, and that makes me sad. How bad has it gotten that we cannot let our children go house to house in our own neighborhood to collect costume admiration and candy from people we know?

Are we really that disconnected, that the world is that unsafe? It seems we feel that way. And that is disappointing. Because, as I say often, if we cannot rely on and trust one another, who else is there?

Nonetheless, I look forward to Halloween, and in part, the thrills and chills that come with it. I am not a fan of movies that exist only to have blood splattered everywhere and people killed left and right and a hanging ending so there can be a sequel or five (think Halloween or Friday the 13th). I know those have their fans and they can have them.

Give me suspense. My favorite Halloween thriller, though it’s not about Halloween at all, is Jagged Edge, with Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges. It does have adult themes, so if you have younger kids, it’s a bit much, but if you have never seen it, get to streaming. My other favorite is an old one – The Haunting, made in 1963, and perhaps the best of the three versions though they are all decent. The plot relies on psychological terror instead of the usual visual gore.

I think the reason I prefer these and stories like them is because I have never been afraid of monsters or goblins or vampires, but I am afraid of people. Real humans who, for whatever reason, let the bad overrule the good. The idea that their negative energy lasts even when the body is gone bothers me, truly frightens me. Energy, once created, is here to stay, and though I don’t believe so much in ghosts, I do believe negative energy sticks around and can fill up a space.

Dracula and I could have been friends, as long as he understood I was not the snack he was looking for. The monster under my bed can have bedtime cookies as long as he please does not snore too loudly.

But the cruel person who hurts others and tries to justify it, or worse, does it because they get some benefit – self confidence, pleasure, whatever – nope, I’m out. Ted Bundy was never gonna be a friend.

I hope your scares were truly more startles, that make you laugh afterward, and no actual frights that caused harm. I hope you dodged any tricks, and that if anyone crossed the veil to visit Tuesday night, it was someone you needed to hear from, and it brought you love.