Celebrated each year on October 31st, the tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve,and later Halloween, thus our annual celebration October 31st. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.
Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.
Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was revived after a few years when vandalism ruined the day and evening. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.
For me, my earliest Halloween (originally spelled Hallowe'en) celebratory memory was when I was eight years old. Having been raised as an only child and only by my mother after my father left the household when I was 16 months old, my mother, for whatever reason, thought I was old enough to go trick-or-treating and it would be fun to dress me as a girl (including wearing lipstick!) for my first trick-or-treating foray with her accompanying me in our Pittsburgh neighborhood. That "costume" was to be my fate for the next three years. I liked the candy treats and even apples and oranges garnered during that annual adventure, but I definitely didn't like the "costume". I announced that to my mother and she immediately chose to have me dress as a pirate, eye-patch and all. She told me that was a tribute to our major league baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Trick-or-treating was then much more fun for yours truly! (Although I loved her dearly, I made the candy-gathering rounds to the various neighborhood houses and apartments every October 31st thereafter without her accompaniment, from age 11 to 13, the last years I engaged in that annual ritual).
In later years, from my teens through even advanced years, I've enjoyed going to Halloween parties and dressing as much a pirate as I could or can! THAT memory and action remains!
My happiest Halloween memory was when I( was chosen in 1972 to be Grand Marshal of the Anoka, Minnesota Halloween Parade, as Anoka is known as the Halloween Capital of the World. It was an honor and indeed, my happiest Halloween memory.
Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween from all of your friends at Ebenezer.