Last night, October 30th, Coco and I went out in search of a pumpkin for carving, for Halloween. This is a tradition I have been celebrating for as early as I can remember. I have fond memories of Halloween in Detroit from when I was growing up, and some interesting ones from Alabama and Milwaukee as well. I have been out of the country for Halloween before, twice actually while in the Navy, but that is completely different. To me Halloween has to have a pumpkin, roasted pumpkin seeds, and dried corn husks and eerie movies. Halloween means many different things to different people, and to some it means nothing at all. When I was trick-or-treating as a kid in my Star Wars costume, or Robin Hood, or as a ghost, I loved the whole atmosphere of the night. I could go collect candy, and even some money for charity, from neighbors and that would last almost to Christmas! I loved the smell of pumpkin pie, spiced apple cider, crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds, backed apples, and the smell of wet leaves on the ground. I loved watching the 1966 classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and the 1977 cartoon “The Hobbit” on TV, along with classic Hitchcock movies like “The Birds” and “Psycho”… ok maybe not the best viewing as a child but it always defined my Halloween times. I was too young to participate in Devil’s Night, a Detroit tradition, and while in Alabama the fond memories were replaced by life on the farm and in rural Christian Alabama.
As I grew up Halloween became less and less significant, it went from a fun trick-or-treat experience to that of Halloween carnivals, fall festivals, and craft shows. One thing I have come to expect is almost everyone loves Halloween, except for the ultra right-wing Christians who believe it is associated with devil worship… when facts state it is older then Christianity altogether. I always knew this, thanks in most part to my mother who insisted I understand and realize the real meaning behind everything I did as a child. I knew about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, Washing Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster from school, and those tales always came to the conscience during Halloween. So for me, the whole candy and costume thing were a little different then for most kids my age. I knew why we dressed up, to confuse the spirits of the dead, why we trick-or-treated, to take advantage of people trying to avoid bad spirits by leaving out goodies and such, and the whole connection to the fall harvest and the following day being All Saints Day, the celebration of all Catholic saints since 609 AD.
In modern times Halloween, as all our other holidays, has lost most of its meanings and explanations for its traditions and procedures. We don’t know the whys behind what the day is about and what its different parts came from. This is important because without meaning a holiday becomes just an excuse and eventually fades into nothingness… becomming hollow and not worth the trouble, except for retailers. Speaking of which, I saw that Halloween celebrations and spending are up this year. Americans have increased their participation to over 63% this year, increased form 52% in 2005 According to The Cornell Daily Sun – Americans spend Lots on Halloween by Francesca Falcon. This is a major retail boom, of 5 Billion USD compared to 3.3 Billion last year. So, just as Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving have been kidnapped by the retail markets, so has my hallowed Halloween.
For those interested in learning more about Halloween and its origins, traditions, practices, and such please visit the Answers.com for their explanation of Halloween. You will learn the whys and reasons for Jack-o-Lanterns, Scarecrows, piles of dried corn husks, bobbing for apples, trick-or-treating, and the like. This is the best time of year to help blur the line between worlds of the living and dead by rending a scary DVD, or reading an old story like The Raven, Tell Tale Heart, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Go out and have fun watching all the kids dressed up and going door to door, and remember to be watchful for any miss guided spirits that may wonder past on this eve.