November 01, 2021

I was able to participate in our Fall Festival last Saturday Night.  Due to continuing restrictions from covid this was different than previous Festivals.  We have held the event indoors and focused on a variety of games to provide treats to the children who attend.  While this still served as the basis for the celebration, this year we held the event outside and based most of the games out of the trunks of the decorated cars that lined the parking lot where I work.  We had a good turnout and gave out a lot of treats to the children (and adults?) who attended.  We had a much better turn out than last year when we were forced to cancel due to covid (ha-ha).

Fall Festival has become synonymous for Halloween over the last several decades.  When I looked online, the word “Halloween” comes from All Hallows’ Eve and means “hallowed (or sacred) evening.”  While we generally no longer celebrate November 1st, this day is known as All Saints Day.  The combination of Halloween and All Saints Day was celebrated as a time to remember the saints who have died.  Trick-or-Treating comes from hundreds of years ago when people dressed up as saints and went door-to-door.  This was the beginning of Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating in Europe.  The tradition of knocking on doors for treats did not begin for most of America until the mid-1940’s, or after the end of World War II.  Rather than a focus on the dead, it represented a return to prosperity.

The treats that were originally given were spiced cakes rather than candy.  These little cakes were called “soul cake,” and were a popular treat in Europe during the Middle Ages.  The cakes were made from saffron, currants, and other expensive spices and were given to honor the dead.  They eventually became a treat for poor beggars who would knock on the doors of wealthier folks, offering to pray for their household’s deceased in return for these tasty cakes.  Rather than saying trick-or-treat, the poor would instead say “A soul cake, a soul cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!”  Few today remember to say trick-or-treat without parental coaxing, as the tradition continues to evolve. 

Thoughts:  I have fond memories of going door to door for treats in the small town of my childhood.  I especially prized the home-made popcorn balls, cookies, and caramel apples.  We would remember those houses and make sure to get there early before they ran out.  As a child I could make my treats last for months, tiding me over into Christmas.  Home-made treats are now discouraged, and any found in a child’s sack are immediately thrown away to protect them from harm.  Safety is also the reason for Fall Festival and trunk-or-treat events.  They provide a safe place for children to put on costumes, have fun playing games, and still receive the treats they pursue.  During covid we have been forced to make many adaptations to long-held traditions.  This does not mean they are not as fun or enjoyable, it just means they are different.  Even I would be wary if someone put a soul cake in my sack.  Follow the science.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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