Halloween already?

Halloween is more than a week away, but our neighborhood is starting to look like it is ready for the holiday. One neighbor has really gotten into decorating. There are small pieces to cloth tied to the trees to resemble tiny ghosts, lights in the trees, a large inflatable figure that is all lit up and more. Other neighbors have decorated as well. We’ve had a small population boom at our end of the street. There are a few children in some of the houses. Last year we had a dozen or so children come to the house to trick-or-treat. There was a party that included children across the street and some of those who attended went up and down our street. But it is safe to say that our neighborhood is really different from the popular destinations for trick or treat in our city. We hav friends who live on West boulevard who had 1,500 come to their house last year. They take turns, but someone sits outside to respond to the parade of children and youth rather than have them come to the door and ring the bell. It is a steady stream from about 4:30 in the afternoon until they turn off the lights six hours or so later.

My memories of Halloween when I was going up include going to the neighbors and receiving treats. We worked fairly hard on our costumes some years and other years we kind of threw something together at the last minute. At our house, Trick or treat was for the younger children. By the time you got to high school you were expected to leave that practice behind. For the most part, youth and adults didn’t wear costumes. The rule in our home was that trick or treat couldn’t start until it was dark out and you had to be home by 8 pm if there was school the next day or 9 pm if Halloween landed on the weekend. Halloween was the big candy holiday for us. We didn’t see much candy after that until Christmas, when there’d be a bit in our stockings, but other than those occasions we didn’t have much candy around our house.

Over the years I have noticed that the celebration of Halloween and some other holidays has become a much bigger event. I have friends who went to “The Haunting of Keystone” last night. It was the second weekend of organized tours through the town’s several locations with haunted houses with specially constructed and decorated sets, staffed by volunteer actors who work hard to get a scream out of their visitors. You have to have advance tickets to visit the attractions. A ticket to a single attraction, such as the mine or the schoolhouse is $10. A $30 wristband allows visits to all of the attractions. The attractions are popular with teens and our friends who were going last night are adults.

I’m not all that interested in paying others to scare me. But then again, I’m not into riding roller coasters or attending scary movies, either.

For many, Halloween is more than a single evening. It is a month or more of special events and activities. The pumpkin festival in Rapid City was in September this year. I don’t know if that was because of a full schedule or other reasons, but there have been plenty of decorations up for quite a while in our town.

The name Halloween refers to a single evening. The holiday grew, in part out of the mystery of death. All Saints Day, on November 1. The festival has been known as All Hallow’s Day, Feast of Saints and even Solemnity of Saints. It arose in the Christian church out of a strong sense that there is a deep connection between those who are living and those who have died. Those who die in faith are not absent from the world. Even though there is no physical presence, life is not conquered by death. Resurrection is promised to all who live and die in faith. In the Western Church the celebration of saints begins with vespers on October 31. In the Eastern Orthodox Church all saints is celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. A few other communions recognize all saints on the first Friday after Easter.

In parts of the Western Christian world, All Saints was offered as a liturgical response to pre-existing observances that were not related to Christianity. The Celtic Samhain, also known as the festival of the dead, was observed before Christianity came to the British Isles. There were also observances in Germany and other areas of Europe that explored connections between those who had died and those who are still living.

From about the eighth century the observance was expanded to November 2, which was all souls day. On all saints day, faithful people remembered those who had distinguished themselves by their faith and had been recognized by the church as saints, although it was always acknowledged that the observance was of saints “known and unknown,” acknowledging that there were some saints who lacked official recognition. The following day, designated as all souls day, was for observing and honoring all who had died. The concept that as long as someone remembers a person continues to live became popular.

The celebration of all saints and all souls was popular as Christianity spread to the American continents. Observances in Central and South America have become very popular. Lighting candles, placing flowers and candies on graves and other observances are designed to honor and remember those who have died.

Popular observances of Halloween seem to have lost much of the connection with death and the mystery of what happens to one who dies. Concepts such as zombies and people who are not quite dead as well as portrayals of characters that don’t exist in real life have become popular as people seek the rush of emotion that comes from being frightened.

In Guatemala, All Saints Day is a time to fly kites. It is believed that kites help to make a connection with those who have died. That seems like more fun than going into a poorly lit house staffed by actors who are trying to scare you. Maybe I’ll get out a kite this year. It is always fun to have the neighbors wondering what I am doing.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!