Memories of Halloween

Written by Cathy

This past Saturday we celebrated little Sylvie’s first birthday with a Halloween costume party. It was a child-centered celebration, and what great fun they had. Sharing the day conjured up for me memories of Halloweens long past.

I grew up in the coal region of PA, and we called trick-or-treat night “Halloween Singing”. That was because back then children were expected to do some kind of “performance” to earn a treat. Instead of just standing outside the front door, you were invited into the living room where the adults would assemble to guess your identity and listen to your little song or poem.(I still remember a few of those ditties and have shared them with Noah and Chloe.) Only after the performance would you be offered a coin or treat. Needless to say, the homemade treats were deemed the best, and the word quickly spread up the street which neighbors were handing out candied apples or cinnamon-sugared doughnuts. My mother often made taffy lollipops, yummy!

Believe it or not, the most popular spots to visit were the neighborhood bars! Don’t gasp! It was all in good fun, and the patrons were usually very generous, handing out coins to all the children in your rowdy group.

Back then our costumes tended to be homemade rather than commercially produced. Being one in a family of eight children, my costumes were usually simple- hobo attire created from Dad’s old woolen shirt, brother’s worn-out jeans, and a pack made from a kerchief bundled on the end of a stick. Ours was a make-up free house, so we relied on this trick to create “whiskers”. We blackened an old cork on the gas stove and, when it cooled, dabbed the ash on cheeks and chin. Instant 5 o’clock shadow!

One very special Halloween I proudly wore a very unique costume. My father had served in the Pacific theatre in WWII and had brought back a beautiful silk kimono, light blue with large pink flowers adorning the flowing sleeves. One of our neighbors, Mio, a soft-spoken, lovely Asian woman, offered to dress me in the authentic Japanese way. She added her own traditional accessories and used her own make-up to complete the look. Her kindness was touching, but that memory was all but forgotten until Saturday. I’m so glad that memory made its way around again.

Halloween itself has gone through some difficult times in my lifetime. At one point we were supposed to refrain from calling it Halloween at all. “Fall Festival” was the PC term. Sometimes we adults sure do know how to ruin a good thing, don’t we?  I’m so glad Halloween has been returned to the children. They know how to do it best!

All my life’s a circle,
But I can’t tell you why;
The Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

Thanks again, Harry!

3 comments for “Memories of Halloween

  1. October 16, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Ever since I’ve been too old to trick or treat, I’ve sat on my mom’s porch and handed out candy with her and my sisters. We almost always make the kids sing a song or tell a joke to get their treat. It’s so much more entertaining that way, and we always have a few “regulars” who know from the previous year that they better have something good up their sleeves! We also offer kids the option of candy or an apple. I’m always surprised at how many take an apple! Despite all this, believe it or not, my parents’ house hasn’t been egged or knick-knacked. Knock on wood!

  2. Mary
    October 16, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Ahhh. Those two costumes you describe are the ones I remember as well. I remember wearing the kimono and we would wrap a book in the sash in the back so we would stand up straight I guess. We had to tie it teally tight so the book woild stay in! I remember wearing it to a girl scout halloween party and getting a prize for ‘most unusual’. What fun memories!

  3. October 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I LOVE this post! And I can’t help but think about all of the costumes you made for us, Mom…the lion, the scarecrow, the vampire, half man/half woman. Great memories, really great.

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