By Caryl Clem:
During the late 1950’s, Halloween was big. I vividly recall the planning for a homemade costume started in the summer-to find material and finalize the creative design embellishments. My childhood ritual was to meet with 4-5 neighbor friends, then walk to the agreed 7 to 8 houses of nearby neighbors. Small town congeniality, the Moms met beforehand to divided food favorites of popcorn balls, peanut-butter cookies, oatmeal/raisin cookies, rich chocolate cake, a bag of peanuts, fruit. My decorated shopping bag overflowed with homemade delicacies.
Next was a neighbor’s Halloween Party with a blindfolded spooky hunt including grabbing peeled grapes that felt like eyeballs, feeling sharp bony pieces while digging for hidden prizes in a mysterious container. Later in the evening, The Lion’s Club or American Legion had a costume contest and surprise goody bag to take home. By high school age, we were no longer trick or treating. We were at work or helping answer the door for the younger generation.
In 1951, the famous cartoon figure, “Peanuts” is seen “trick or treating” down his street. Disney follows suit in 1952 showing a cartoon of Donald Duck taking his nephews, Huey, Dewie, and Louie out. The cartoon initiates the now popular term in its title, “Trick or Treat “. Commercial products replace homemade goods , department stores produced mass quantities of super hero costumes. Home and family based magazines run features on decorating, food recipes, annual popular costume choice, and games for Halloween.
Old rituals of carving hollowed out gourds, and turnips to make lanterns warding off evil spirits changed to using pumpkins by immigrants arriving in America. Hunting for the perfect pumpkin remain a family favorite. The legend of Stingy Jack, rejected by God and the Devil, explains why Jack is forced to roam through Halloween Night with a lantern. The popular term, Jack O’Lantern, for the lit pumpkins guarding doorsteps. Since the 1960’s, the lure of graveyards, ghosts and spooky illusions inspire outdoor decorating as towns sponsor haunted houses.
Popcorn balls first recipe appeared in 1861 and taffy apples discovered in 1904 now arrive in the home bought at stores. Prepackaged goods are preferred after incidents of tampering were reported. The most famous in 2000 when a Snickers bar had needles In spite of the small incident rate, pressure for safety has favored tightly packaged goods too small to hide objects inside with towns banning homemade products.
Now popular, it is the trunk and treat party where invited friends come to share treats together at a designated parking lot with their car trunks decorated and share treats instead of going door to door, trick or treating. Not only has it been a great social experience for small children in the community, schools and clubs are organizing trunk or treat parties along with assigning a theme.
Halloween has become the second biggest holiday celebrated in America! Last year an estimated 6 billion dollars was spent by Halloween fans.
Have a very Happy Halloween!