November 2, 2020
I have lived through three different generations of celebrations around the day called Halloween (mom has me beat with four). I lived in a small town when young and we used to roam all over the north side of the one square mile town limits (split by the main street highway). We knew all the best houses and made sure to visit them. We received, full sized candy bars, caramel apples, and popcorn bars, along with penny candy. When I took my son Alex treating, we went to specific houses we knew we could trust. There were stories of people putting things in the treats and I removed anything that was not wrapped. That morphed into the trunk-or-treat locations at churches and malls.
Halloween literally means “hallowed evening,” and was previously known to early European celebrators as All Hallows’ Eve. The name was eventually shortened to “Halloween,” which we know today. Halloween falls on October 31 because the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, considered the earliest known root of Halloween, occurred on this day. It marked a pivotal time of year when seasons changed. More importantly, it was believed the boundary between this world and the next became especially thin at this time, enabling you to connect with the dead. This is also where Halloween gains its “haunted” connotations.
Treating morphed again with the coming of covid-19. Our local church stagged a modified version of trunk-or-treat. It is no longer safe to stand costumed and hand out individual candy from the trunk of a decorated car. Instead the candy and treats were placed in individual bags the week before (stored in the picture above). Cars then drove through the portico at the front door and each child was given a separate bag by a masked volunteer. I heard there were 175 bags of treats handed out. While this was different than the popcorn balls and caramel apples of my day, I am sure it was appreciated as much. Free candy is still a good thing.
Thoughts: Halloween began as the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain by at least the 4th century BCE. It has been morphing ever since. Over the last decades, there has been another change as churches have replaced Halloween parties with Harvest Festivals. The idea was to not deprive the children of the fun of games and treats yet remove the “haunted connotations.” This is not surprising. We often reinvent older traditions into modern concepts (such as Christmas?). While the festivals may continue unchanged, the meanings alter why we are doing them. Whether we gather in large groups or small families, it is the time together that is important. This holiday season we need to follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.