Halloween is Coming Again

Note: This post is actually one I wrote in 2013, but now that Halloween is creeping up on us again, it’s fun to remember how it used to be back in the “olden days” when my friends and I went trick-or-treating out in the moonlit night of Halloweens long ago.

I grew up in the ’50s when there were no bike helmets, no designer kid clothes, no expensive family vacations, and no computers/iPods/iPhones/tablets/Kindles, etc. The only blackberries we knew about were the ones growing wild that we picked and ate during high summer.

Halloween was as sacred a holiday to us kids as Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn’t know anyone who wore a “store-bought” costume; most of us dressed up as hobos, fortune-tellers, witches and ghosts, using borrowed clothes and imagination.

The best costume I ever had was my black cat outfit. Mom and Dad made a giant *papier mache cat head, painted it black and pink, with big green eyes and eyelashes. I wore it with black tights, a black sweater, black shoes and pinned on a black tail (one of Mom’s dark stockings stuffed with rags). It was great.

Almost as much fun as actual trick or treating was the costume parade. After a cookies-and-punch party at school (back then, no one knew or cared about peanut allergies, gluten, fats, sugar, or germs), we were allowed to get in costume and parade down Main Street. We all laughed and showed off, and people clapped and cheered.

Official trick or treating started right after supper. It was a struggle to sit still and eat the meatloaf and mashed potatoes Mom made when all I wanted to do was get out of the house and collect all the candy I could. I went out with my best friend, and we roamed the streets with our bags and flashlights, collecting candy from our neighbors.

Back then a lot of people made homemade goodies such as cookies and popcorn balls wrapped in plastic wrap, as well as store-bought candy. Others gave out apples, which we politely accepted but seldom ate. It was a small town, and we only went to houses we knew—it was considered rude to knock on someone’s door you didn’t know and ask for treats. Once you got your treat, you always said thank you.

Mischief happened, of course–windows got soaped, cars got egged, and trees got TP’d. It was understood that, if you did any of this, you showed up in the morning to clean it up. I never took part in it; it was more of a boy thing, and also because  I was told not to. Back then, you listened to your parents, and no meant no.

When it was all over, we’d trudge home, tired and dirty, but happy and full of licorice whips, Milky Way bars, squirrel nut zippers, mint juleps, chocolate drops, Hershey bars, Bonomo taffy, molasses kisses, M &Ms, french nougats, peanut butter cups, coconut marshmallows, pixie stix, Junior Mints, jelly beans and the aforementioned homemade treats. But it wasn’t over just yet.

The finale of the evening happened after we  came home, and Dad drove us up to Mirror Lake where my grandparents lived. My grandmother always made “treat bundles” — homemade cookies and candy wrapped in large holiday napkins and tied with ribbons. She would make a tray of them, with two enormous ones in the middle for my best friend and me.

After we were admired for our costumes, she gave us each one of those huge bundles, then pressed the rest on us. It was the real bonanza of the evening.

Post-Halloween in our house meant unloading all the treats into my mom’s biggest wooden salad bowl. After Mom and Dad picked out what they liked, they let me have a few pieces of candy, then the bowl went up on the refrigerator. It would slowly be eaten during the next few weeks.

Usually I would sneak in and grab a few pieces to squirrel away under my pillow for later. Why I never thought to hide some of the candy BEFORE I brought it home is beyond me.

Halloween was always the official start to the holiday season. I loved it for the treats, of course, but most of all for the fun and mystery of dressing up as someone else for one night. Scuffling through mounds of fallen leaves in the dark, it was easy to imagine great black bats circling overhead, witches cackling as they rode their broomsticks in the light of the moon, scarecrows come to life for a night, and ghosts sneaking up behind you and wrapping you in their cold, clammy embrace. It was exciting and just a little bit scary.

As much as I hated for it all to end, I was always happy to be home in bed, cleaned up, full of candy and memories, drifting off to sleep as witches chased, but never caught me.

*Blow up a big balloon, cover it lightly with Vasoline, then strips of wet newspaper and let it dry. When dry, pop the balloon and pull it out. Paint it, then cut out eye and mouth holes and you’re good to go.

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