When I was a little kid, my first Halloween costume was a witch outfit. The costume consisted of an ugly-looking greenish plastic face mask with a black hat attached and a long black skirt to complete the ensemble. I think my brother wore a skeleton costume.
Halloween was much simpler in those days. We wore the same costumes for a few years in a row to trick or treat up and down our block after school. As we got older, we put together our own costumes from items in our parents’ closets. One year I dressed in a long bathrobe and pink plastic hair curlers, another year I wore my dad’s U.S. Navy uniform.
The year we lived in Florida, there was a torrential rainstorm on Halloween. My brother and a neighbor kid decided that we should still go trick or treating despite the downpour. We cut holes in large trash bags to pull over our t-shirts and jeans and grabbed another plastic trash bag each to use as our trick or treat bags. The neighbors were surprised to see us on their doorsteps in such bad weather. They gave us extra candy since no other children had ventured out in the rain storm. Our plastic bags were heavy with all of that Halloween candy. I remember excitedly dumping my bag of candy onto the living room rug and watching a puddle of rain water pour out of the trash bag along with the candy.
As you may know, Halloween has its origins in ancient Celtic festivities. People wore costumes and masks, lit bonfires and carved turnips and rutabagas to place in windows and doorways to ward off evil spirits. When Irish immigrants sailed to America in the 1800’s, they brought their Halloween traditions including the old folktale of Stingy Jack. As the legend goes, old Jack tricked the devil twice and was cursed to spend eternity wandering the earth carrying a carved turnip as his lantern. To celebrate All Hallows Eve in their new country, large American pumpkins were carved into Jack-O-Lanterns (instead of turnips) for a more dramatic effect when lit from within.
By the early twentieth century, Halloween became a celebration for children. Colorful costumes, parades and haunted houses were introduced in towns and cities across the U.S. Instructions for making children’s costumes were printed in women’s magazines. Then in the early 1900’s commercially manufactured costumes became available. Ghosts, skeletons, devils and witches were the most common costumes for children. Early costume companies in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania began making paper costumes in 1910. The Ben Cooper Company in Brooklyn expanded into Halloween costumes in addition to the theatrical costumes they produced for the Cotton Club and Ziegfeld Follies dancers in 1937.
I like costume parties and candy as much as the next person, but the idea of bobbing for apples turns my stomach. Did you know that the tradition of bobbing for apples in a tub filled with water dates back to the Roman invasion of Britain? The conquering army incorporated apples into the Celtic traditions as part of All Hallows Eve festivities. The Romans brought the apple tree to Britain, a representation of the goddess of plenty, Pomona. The idea of a group of strangers taking turns trying to grab floating apples with their teeth sounds like a germ-fest to me.
Speaking of germs, don’t forget to sanitize your doorbell on November 1st after all of those trick or treaters have pressed their fingers on it on Halloween night!
Kim Kovach enjoys eating candy every day of the year. Treat yourself to a creative experience in Kim’s writing classes for adults, children and teens. www.kimkovachwrites.com