Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I wonder how it is that Halloween is now the second most popular holiday in America. It seems kind of unlikely that a holiday devoted to scaring people half to death while feeding them huge quantities of candy could be so beloved.

I remember being told in Catholic grade school that the origin of the holiday – whose name means “all hallows eve” because it falls on the eve of All Saints Day – was that some people believed that the souls of the departed were allowed to come back on that night to beg for prayers to be said for them at Mass the next day. I don’t know if that’s true, it sounds like a retrofit explanation to me.

I have lots of happy memories of childhood Halloweens. We always went trick or treating in our home-made costumes. My mother was an excellent seamstress, so our costumes were a step above the bedsheet-as-ghost variety. I remember a gypsy costume I wore one year. It had a frieze of cards around the hem and I was thrilled to wear gold earrings to complete the look. I remember a clown costume I wore when I was very young – four or five – but what I remember most about it is that the lipstick on my face wouldn’t come off even with cold cream!

When we moved to the big city my brother and his chums would go out trick-or-treating with pillow cases. They’d be gone for hours and come home with an enormous quantity of candy.

I was disappointed when my husband and I moved to the suburbs and landed in a neighborhood where trick-or-treaters were few and far between. It was always such a pleasure watching the different costumes and eager faces of the children coming to our door in South Minneapolis.

One of my favorite parts of celebrating the holiday was carving a pumpkin. My Jack-O-Lanterns were pretty good and it was always sort of sad when, after a few days, they collapsed and were thrown away. Even as an adult, I liked carving them, and when Pumpkin Masters started offering wonderful patterns, I bought a new edition each year and would sometimes carve two Jack-O-Lanterns. But it took hours to produce one and again, after a short life, they were discarded. Then I discovered artificial pumpkins at Michael’s. No longer would my masterworks last only a few days. But: now they last forever. When we moved from our townhouse to an apartment, I culled my collection, and donated most of the rest to the co-op to use decorating the party room. I think I’m pretty much over my Jack-O-Lantern habit, but I couldn’t resist the pattern on this page this year.

What’s your favorite Halloween memory or custom?


Carol S said...

Carving pumpkins is a favorite of mine also, alas the number of kids trick-or-treating at our almost-out-in-the-country area is smaller each year. My USA flag pumpkin after 9/11 got the most rave reviews.

Betty Hechtman said...

We used to live a few blocks from our current house and never got even one trick or treater. In this house we literally get hundreds. Sometimes when I look out into the street on Halloween, there are so many people walking, you can't see across the street.

I used to decorate. Now, it's all I can to answer the door.

Monica Ferris said...

Betty, it's nice to know that in some neighborhoods the old custom of trick or treating lives on. We live in a secure building now, so we don't get any at all. Kind of sad.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Halloween was my favorite holiday when I was a kid, Betty. It's still a lot of fun, especially seeing how others decorate and choose costumes. We seldom get trick-or-treaters now, which is a shame, but I did attend a costume party held early in my neighborhood this year.