Back in the days when I was in a classroom, I taught the children about the origin of Halloween customs. It is the night before All Saints Day. Of course, there was much more, but I cannot remember all of the details.
Children do not think of Halloween as anything but fun I am thoroughly convinced. They delight in dressing up in all kinds of costumes. Whether we like it or not the costumes come from whatever character is popular at the moment.
As with everything, Halloween was much simpler when I grew up. We dressed up in cobbled together costumes and visited the neighbors. We stayed in our own neighborhood so everyone knew us. I think the older people on the street looked forward to Halloween as much as we did. They answered the door bearing bowls of treats.
Many people took the time to make homemade treats. I think some of them baked because they did not go out much. We did not fear for our safety. In fact, no one in those days feared for their safety. There were no people who poisoned snacks or injected them with pins. You could take an apple from someone and feel perfectly safe.
I long for those simpler kinder times. For my children and grandchildren life is more difficult. There are many more dangers out there. Look at the recent drug bust in our area. Drugs are very close to home and we all have to be accountable.
Halloween in the country is different than in town or in the city. The children that come to our door are known to us. Usually their parents are with them so everyone gets a treat.
Children are warned about bad treats in school so they are very conscientious about what they get. We had to condition our children to accept homemade goodies. They would not get anything that was unsafe.
I still have a Halloween box that the children raid every once in a while. I have some of the old noisemakers as well as masks that were worn by their parents when they were young. There is a Little Boy Blue mask that was one of my favorites. We wore it with a pair of bib overalls, a bandana, and a big hat.
One of my very favorite costumes I wore as an adult. The teachers at Russell decided to dress up one year. I was teaching sixth grade by then so was not afraid to leave my bunch of girls after I got them all dressed up. The truth was I was happy to escape from all of the hair spray and goop that they were applying.
I went to the car for my bag and headed for the faculty restroom. When I was dressed I took my place on the corner and stood quietly. The room mothers would see that the class got in line for the parade. That year I was a little old man complete with my grandfather's dress hat, colored hair, an old suit coat, and a cane.
I laughed when the principal passed me saying, "I have no idea who that is!"
Not until I joined my class was my identity revealed. The children loved it. It was fun for them to see the teacher having fun, too.
Halloween was never a big deal for us. We did not party and we certainly did not do tricks. There were years that we spent Halloween at a church party. I remember one of the neighbors who was pregnant coming as "The Great Pumpkin".
One year my sister-in-law's club had a Halloween party at the Sportsman's Club. Actually, she was not my sister-in-law yet. Dick and I were not married. Dorie made costumes for all of us. We went as a hunting party with coonhounds and hunters. Dorie, Rita, and I wore the dog costumes and Chevy, Dick and Al were the hunters. I helped stuff the tails for the dogs and sew the ears on. In between sewing I checked on the pumpkin pies that were in the oven. That was the first time I ever had to check a pumpkin pie. I had to ask how to tell if it was done.
Frequently I made homemade snacks for the trick or treaters. One year I made doughnuts, another I made candy apples. One year I made apples with costumes so the children could pick the one they wanted. Sometimes I made decorated cupcakes. I let the children help make the treats so they enjoyed that. When my children were very small I dressed them up and we stayed home to greet the children who came.
One year we went to school with my niece and nephews. They had a parade at the school during the evening and awarded prizes. One of my nephews was the "tin man" complete with a funnel on his head. He won the prize for his age group.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell., PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org