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Hallowed eves of old

I don’t think of myself as old. I often think of myself as a big kid, never quite having grown up. So many memories of how much fun I had as a child are still so vivid in my mind.

I wonder, is the imagination still an active organ? With images supplied for almost everything today, where is the chance for mystery and magic? Hallowe’en is a perfect example of that. I do hope people can still enjoy a good old-fashioned scare.

My dad was a good-natured fellow, but he was also the youngest of four children with two much older brothers. From the stories he told my brother and me, he was scared plenty of times thanks to his vivid imagination, his sister’s equally healthy creative mind and his brothers’ ability to sound really creepy.

The anticipation of what might be under the stairs or behind the door or lurking “out there” in the dark is the scariest part. Apparently studies have shown that we can come up with much scarier things that we will see on a screen. I know I have. I hated the dark as a kid. I am still not fond of it; I just learned how not to think about it.

Gathering a pillowcase of candy while skipping from house to house all dressed up, yelling “Hallowe’en Apples!” – it was good entertainment with a suitably cool reward. But now that I am a big kid, I like to know the story behind the tradition.

Perhaps it is the respectful tone of the day that I admire. Even if one isn’t interested in pagan rituals, it’s hard not to appreciate all the thought that goes into them.

At its heart, Hallowe’en comes from the ancient celebrations of the harvest – the end of the growing season and all its life, and the coming of the darker, winter season with its shorter days.

Festival of the Fires is Ireland’s oldest festival – a celebration of Irish culture, art, heritage, music, ceremony and sport which has been held at the historic Hill of Uisneach for over 1,400 years.

Legend has it that this transition is when the veil is thinnest between the worlds of the living and the dead.

  • Wearing a disguise or costume was a way to avoid being recognized by evil spirits.
  • Food was also put out, or possibly given, to spirits as a way to placate them. Today we call that trick-or-treating.
  • Carving pumpkins today is done because of a fellow named Jack who tried to outsmart the Devil, if you believe the legend. Jack was left to wander the earth with a hollowed-out turnip lit with a lump of burning coal as his lantern.

I come from a childhood full of mist and smoke and fairy dust. The legends I learned made the world I lived in even more special. I hope the children out there tonight will find something special as they gather their treats. They deserve to have a good old-fashioned scare, and to believe in something bigger than all of us.

May your soul be safe under the light of the Blue Moon.

Hallowe’en Apples!

This is truly a day for the children in all of us. Whether you like to eat the candy, dress up in costume, or you enjoy  being scared speechless it is all about the thrill of being a bit outside the box. In the interest of bringing back great memories for all of us big kids, I am going to share some of my favourites…

I think for me it started with the first Hallowe’en costume I remember, when I was three. My Mom sewed up a leopard costume, complete with a hat that had cute little ears, and a puffy tail. She painted a cat nose and whiskers on my face with paint and sent me out with my Dad, carrying my pumpkin treat bucket. everyone said I made a lovely leopard, and they filled my bucket with goodies.  What’s not to love?! I wish I had a picture but all those old shots are on slides.

When I got older, I had a younger brother to take trick-or-treating, so he wore the leopard suit that I had grown out of, and I wore a newly sewn clown suit. Since I was a tall kid, the clown suit was a good fit; I was a bit clumsy anyway, and from a practical standpoint it was more adaptable. When I got taller,  Mom added stockings so that the short legs wouldn’t look the wrong kind of funny. The other practical change was using pillow cases instead of those pumpkin tubs – you could stay out longer and not have to go home to dump out your loot.

Mom and Dad had to approve your loot before you ate it. You weren’t allowed to eat anything en route, and you were to beware of homemade goodies that people put in your bag; apples could have razor blades in them. There was one elderly lady on our block that made puffed rice squares that we could eat,  because we knew her and she put her address on the saran-wrapped packages. Mom and Dad told us it wasn’t a good idea to eat all the treats right away – wouldn’t it ruin the fun if we threw up all those Tootsie rolls and chocolate bars? But when I was a kid, no one gave out healthy treats. This was an honest-to-goodness junk food occasion.

In university the parties became a bit crazier; in those days jello shots and yucca flux were cool. We still bobbed for apples, but the guys were more concerned with impressing the girls than actually grabbing an apple. One year I went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show with friends. We dressed up as characters, and brought props to take part. We put up our umbrellas and sprinkled water from spray jugs when Barry Bostwick gets out of the car to fix the tire. When someone at the grand table, says “A toast, we must have a toast!” we all threw toast. It was completely irreverent, a totally appropriate Halloween experience. In case you haven’t ever seen this film in a theatre with others, here are some tips for you when you do 🙂

I think the theme of Hallowe’en  is the same as with many other celebrations – you just need to believe in the essence of the occasion. Let yourself be scared, step outside your comfort zone and see what it’s like to be different. Enjoy the thrill.

Need a reminder of how to make the most of Hallowe’en, or why it’s important to believe? Who better than Linus to tell us…

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