By Monte Lazarus
Halloween is the strangest of all our holidays. For one thing it apparently originated as some sort of Pagan ritual. No, it did not involve a bunch of folks in animal skins munching on turnips (Americans invented pumpkin pie of course). Rather, the worship of the sun, moon, Manchester United Football (that’s European for soccer) Team, or the particular God or Goddess in vogue at the time.
I suspect that on a chilly day in October (by our calendar) some early Brits of a Druid or comparable persuasion hoisted a few and then thought it would be wonderful if they put up a pile of stones to confuse folks some thousands of years later. They succeeded brilliantly. None of us knows what Stonehenge really symbolizes, and I hereby declare it our earliest known or unknown Halloween celebration, although it was known as “Pagan’s Paradise.”
Halloween did not reach the European church until 837. By the 12th Century it became a Holy Day of Obligation, and it was one last day for the dead to get their revenge on their enemies before moving on to the next world. It appears that this is the reason for all the trashy movies that show up each October.
Pumpkins became the In Food in 1837, which demonstrates the wisdom of our American ancestors who understood the pumpkin pie would sell a lot more in supermarkets and bakeries than, yuck, turnip pie.
The trivia question of the day is this: When and where did Trick or Treat appear? See bottom of this column for the answer (If you peek you are condemned to watch all versions of Friday the 13th).
Since you’re all waiting, here’s how Halloween was celebrated in The Bronx early in the last century: The big kids from across University Avenue would swoop down on us nerdy kids. They were equipped (armed) with slats from orange crates. They had neatly lathered them with various colors of chalk and would race around banging us in giant clouds of chalk dust. Us nerds had a few slats, but mostly old socks filled with crumbled chalk that we used for close-in fighting. Fortunately we had not reached the Age of Non-Enlightenment in The Bronx where kids roam the streets with real loaded guns. We escaped with very pale faces from white chalk, although a few of us looked like painted Indians. Trick or Treat had no meaning for us for many years.
Later, in Maryland, things changed. Kids of all ages appeared at the front door with bags large enough to feed candy to all of Iceland, including the tiny horses. We stocked up on stuff that clearly caused instant diabetes. Parents frantically, and unsuccessfully, tried to limit the intake from the evening’s haul. One neighbor attempted desperately to put a daily cap of 24 candies in any calendar day. As usual the kids outwitted them. I always wore a mask at the front door, but the kids were undeterred. Unfortunately, I removed my mask one night right in front of my poor dog. When she saw the face under the mask she was utterly terrified. Other than that Halloween was a roaringly sweet holiday.
Answer to trivia question: Trick or Treat reportedly appeared in Alberta, Canada, in 1927. I got that from Wikipedia which, as we all know, is always right.