Halloween 1950/60’s and today

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!

Halloweens spellbinding customs

By Caryl Clem:

As summer ends on October 31 and fall begins November 1st according to the Gaul calendar, the boundary between the living and the dead dissolves freeing spirits of the past to roam free. Unknown whether a visiting spirit is friend or foe, your logical defense was to dress up like a ghost spirit to camouflage that you are still alive. Food is served for all visitors to spread the message of goodwill. Samhain was the most important holiday for Celts in pre-Christian times.  Later, medieval poor of all ages go door to door begging for “Soul Cakes”, in exchange for praying for the family’s past relatives on the Catholic Church’s All Saints Day.

In Scotland and Ireland, the youth dressed up knocking on neighbors doors entertaining the door opener with a heartfelt song, poetry, or telling a funny story. After a brief performance and review of the costume, a reward of fruit, nuts, or coins would be given. During the potato famine in 1846, over 300,000  people from Ireland and Scotland headed for North America .

The influence of Scottish, Irish and British Halloween customs started to spread across America. By the late 1800’s, it was a common practice. Wealthy families competed by hosting elaborate Halloween parties offering food, games, dancing, and drink for costumed guests. Churches offered parties for the young and old that my grandmother, born in 1885 and mother born in 1908, remembered.

Apples were sacrificial fruit in pagan times.  By 1800’s in the northeastern states. apple bobbing meant  male guests diving for previously marked apples secretly coded by ladies. The coupling between these women and men is believed destined to occur. If a young lady can peel an apple in one long strip, she throws the strip over her right shoulder to glance at the letter the apple peel forms on the floor. The initial formed foretells of a lover nearby with a name of that letter.  At midnight, a maiden can look between a lit Jack O’Lantern and a mirror  to find an image of her future husband.

Halloween is less scary as chubby faced  kids appear celebrating Halloween fun in 1904  by artist Grace Drayton, Campbell Soup kid creator. The postcard craze postcard craze to celebrate Halloween lasted from late 1890’s until 1918. A delightful sample is in this link Brave this bounty of 27 beautiful and bizarre antique Halloween… 

The Depression and a sugar ration dampened Halloween giving until the late 1930’s as communities started to sponsor family/kid friendly activities.