Trick or Treat . . . All Hallows’ Evening
by Tessa Gray
I’m always fascinated by the lengths people go to when it comes to decorating their homes for Halloween. I must confess I’m a bit of a “Halloween Scrooge” about celebrating the event. My view is that Halloween is nothing more than a preamble to Thanksgiving, and we need to get it over with as quickly as possible. The decoration on this post is one my daughter, Megan, made us over twenty years ago. When you drop by our home for a visit, it’s the only sign of Halloween you’ll see.
If you’re a fan of Halloween, you have the Scots and Brits to thank because when they immigrated to America, they brought this Gaelic tradition (dating back to the Middle Ages) with them. Legend has it that people of Gaelic descent believed that on October 31st of every year, the boundaries between the living and dead overlapped when those who had passed on came back to earth, damaging crops and causing illness. I suspect people back then were as relieved to get Halloween over with as I am. I do have some Irish blood in me, so perhaps I’m channeling one of my ancestors.
Halloween began gaining momentum in America during the twentieth century, but when World War II was being fought and sugar was rationed, much of the celebration was placed on hold from April of 1942 until June of 1947. Initially Halloween was called All Hallows’ Evening but eventually, it was dubbed Halloween.
The first Halloween costume I recall wearing was a tattered, white bed sheet, as I pretended to be Casper the Friendly Ghost. As you can see, we Minnesotans didn’t plunk down a lot of money for costumes. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be about money. When I approached puberty and my foster mom wouldn’t allow me to wear make-up, I skirted around the issue by dressing up like a gypsy, piling on all the lipstick and rouge I could get my hands on! As the old saying goes, this ‘killed two birds with one stone’ because I didn’t have to spend much money, and I was allowed to wear a week’s worth of makeup in one night.
The most innovative costume I’ve ever seen was in a Lawrenceville, New Jersey school parade where a little guy dressed as a Lipton teabag. His very creative mother stuffed gorgeous, brilliantly colored leaves into a clear, plastic bag and wrote the Lipton Tea logo at the top. I wish I’d taken a picture. We Americans can be innovative, can’t we?
But as blasé’ as I am about Halloween, there is one that’s forever etched in my memory. My foster sister and I shared a bedroom and had just gone to bed and turned off the lights when we saw a large, gnarled shaped twig scraping against our window. Startled, we sat up in bed and stared at one another. The scraping continued, and before long, a low moan could be heard just outside our window. By now we were clinging to one another like passengers on a lifeboat. Within minutes, we saw my foster mother’s face appear in the window as she screamed, “Boo!”
That incident, as silly as it was, provided me with an important life lesson. My foster mother had just enough ‘kid’ in her to remind me that life is to be enjoyed; a little playfulness is always a good thing. When she passed on several years ago, I shared that impactful moment at her memorial service and it brought smiles to those who knew her well.
In the course of our lives, there are many reasons to celebrate, but in that celebration, we need to remind ourselves that as we live each day, we’re creating memories; memories that are powerful; memories that we’ll share with our loved ones. It’s important, even for me, a non-celebrator of Halloween, to remember to take time to “play.” I’m thankful for a foster mother who had enough ‘kid’ in her to teach me a valuable life lesson. As I share this memory, with you, my readers, I’ve made the decision to add a couple of decorations to the house and get into the spirit of Halloween.
Happy All Hallows’ Evening, and if you see any ghosts out there, I hope they’re as friendly as Casper.