The Scariest Night Of The Year

- jim Young 20191025

It's Hallowe'en, 
the lamp is lit,
And 'round the fire, we children sit,
'Til sister Susie says "Hushhhhhh!"
What's that peeking 'round the kitchen door?
What's that creeping ‘cross the bedroom floor?
What's that screeching like it’s throat is sore?
It's a GOBLIN!
- anon

I remember sitting in the darkened living room in Gramma Young’s house in Stroud on Hallowe’en night singing this song with my 3 sisters. By the end of the first verse, I was so terrified that I would not dare venture into the dining room without the protection of one of my older sisters by my side, her hand held tightly in mine.
"What's that screeching like it's
throat is sore?"

That was the fun of Hallowe’en - scaring ourselves silly. It was scarier than the wooden roller coaster at the CNE.

The darkness of night had already arrived when Dad got home from work to help us carve the pumpkin. Lit with a candle and placed in the front bay window the Jack O’ Lantern would protect us from evil spirits and things that went bump in the night.

In the few weeks leading up to Hallowe’en Mom had used her sewing machine to make costumes for my sisters and I. They loosely resembled whatever scary creature we had chosen to be that year. If we were lucky, we sometimes had store-bought plastic masks. The masks would sweat on the inside and crack at the bottom, chafing our chins.

Before the evening was done, the rubber bands that were wrapped around our ears to hold the mask in place would inevitably snap, leaving us to hold the mask over our face with one hand.

Pillow cases served to collect our treats on Hallowe’en and we embarked with them in hand in an ambitious dream to return with it full of candy. We had heard stories from our classmates that lived in the city, of pillow cases so full they had to go back home to get a second or third one.

As a young child, we did not need to actually see this to believe it. If our friend told us it happened, it was so.

We travelled in packs, up and down the street, approaching our neighbours while chanting “Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat, give us something good to eat.”

It was safe in the 50s to accept homemade popcorn and candy. If we were especially lucky we might even get a caramel or candy apple.

Store bought candy was becoming popular too. Candy corn was always a treat that we would wedge between our lips and gums pretending they were fangs.

The bulk of our Hallowe’en haul however was the dreaded Molasses Kisses. To this day they are often considered the worst candy of all time. Amongst these however, was an occasional white coloured one that was much better tasting. I think they threw these in to ensure we would unwrap them all in the hopes of getting a “good one”. Of course, once unwrapped, they all seemed to get eaten.

Hallowe'en was scarier than the
wooden roller coaster at the C.N.E.
When it comes to candy, children are often much less discriminating than they might be with vegetables. If only my mother had thought to call peas “green candy” and restricted me to just three servings, I might have been more apt to eat them rather than hide them in my pockets.

Hallowe’en was such a fun time when we were young and second only to Christmas. But we never questioned its origins.

Just as the Celts were responsible for many of our Christmas traditions, so too are they the source of our much of our Hallowe’en customs of today.

Hallowe’en originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-win) that was celebrated on October 31st and November 1st. Samhain is an old Irish word meaning “summer’s end”.

Believing that during this time the spirit world was more easily able to interact with the physical world, people would wear masks and costumes to disguise themselves as harmful spirits, thereby avoiding harm from the real harmful spirits.

Samhain Festival
Bonfires were lit and food was prepared to feed both the living and the dead. But as dead ancestors had no means to eat the food, their share was often given to the poor.

In the 8th century Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as All Saints Day or All Hallows’ Day. October 31st soon became known as All Hallows’ Eve, later abbreviated to Hallowe’en.

When the Irish emigrated to the Americas in great numbers in the 19th century, they brought most of their Hallowe’en customs with them which have continued to evolve over the years.

There is something about Hallowe’en, like Christmas, that often brings out the child in us. Perhaps it is merely the nostalgia and memories of happy times of our youth; or maybe we have an inner soul that needs to be let loose from time to time.

Is there a more appropriate time than Hallowe’en for that inner spirit to run free?

- 30 -


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