Rula suggested we dig up old pictures of ourselves in Halloween costumes to share with you all. We also agreed on a gift card giveaway to the best costume ideas you’ve pulled off on Halloween. My photo is not that old, but this is my lovely niece, Elaine, The Queen of Clean, for Halloween night and my darling two grandnieces, little pixies, don’t you think. I was supposed to be an Egyptian fortune teller. I hand out printed fortunes to all my guests each year. The shocking part is that some of their little “fortunes” come true. (It’s just a game, right?)
I wanted to dig into the research and find out what all the hubbub was about, so here I go—sharing my findings.
Halloween is the shortened version of All Hallow’s Evening, the night before All Saints Day. Most historians believe that Halloween was based on a Celtic harvest festival Samhain. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31st, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and dead overlapped and that the dead could come back and destroy their much needed crops. Their festival bonfires attracted insects which then attracted bats, which is where the bats for Halloween come from. The costumes and frightening masks were worn to scare away evil spirits. The idea of costumes and going door to door is also a Middle Ages custom that included Christmas wassailing.
Trick or Treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling” when the poor people would go door to door on Hallowmas—All Saint’s Day, receiving food in return for prayers they would pray for the dead on November 2 which was All Souls Day. However, though our country was settled for hundreds of years by the Irish and Scots who brought their traditions with them, the practice of “souling” fell out of favor. The most interesting find for me was that “trick or treating” really wasn’t practiced in this country until the 1930’s. There was very little evidence of trick or treating before 1900. In 1911 in Kingston, Ontario, a newspaper reported that the area children were allowed to go “street guising” between 6 and 7 pm. It was the Baby Boomer Generation who benefitted from national attention to Halloween. Magazines such as “Jack and Jill” and “Children’s Activities” as well as radio programs, The Jack Benny Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” established the custom in our culture. But it was UNICEF that conducted a national campaign to raise funds for the “poor children of the world” that turned trick or treating almost back to “souling.”
Today, the kids have parties. But so did we back then. We bobbed for apples and shared apple cider and donuts. We gave popcorn balls as prizes for the best costumes.
RULA: Catherine, you’re the Queen of Research! I didn’t know all of that, but I sure am glad that I’ve been scaring away evil spirits every Halloween since I was a kid! You mentioned how it’s now referred to as ‘Fall Festival’ many places…especially in schools. My kids still get to dress up and take part in a parade, but it’s not allowed to be called 'Halloween'.
Another difference that stands out to me these days is the number of store bought costumes (don’t get me started on their prices!!). Half the fun, when I was a kid, was making your own. Starting the day after Halloween, I’d start brainstorming and talking with my siblings about what we wanted to be ‘next year’. You all may be thinking this post is a bit early in the month, but we used to start zeroing in on our ideas and gathering supplies at least this early. Besides, even if you’re buying, stores run out if you wait too long!
I’ve included a couple of costumes I made back when I was 11 and 12. I was a good little girl for the most part, following rules and all, so Halloween was like my little Hollywood. I could pretend to be bad, LOL. Hence, the monster and devil costumes. The devil costume consisted of a leotard and stuffed red sock pinned on for a tail. And that mean expression? I worked hard at it and blame some of the wrinkles I have now on that day ;).
One of my favorites was the monster costume. I got together with a friend (she was Mr. Monster and I was the Mrs.) and we made paper-mâché heads and attached them to broomsticks. Look closely and you’ll see eye-holes cut out in the white cloth, corresponding to our true heights. Nowadays, that costume would never be allowed in a school parade because of face coverage and lack of peripheral vision. Safety first!
So, as Catherine said, come share with us your costume ideas, new or old, or your favorite Halloween! We're picking one of the costumes shared for a $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD win! The winner will be announced in the comments section of this post tomorrow…so check back! Whether you win or not, you’re bound to find some great costume ideas in the comments!