Halloween and how it began

It’s been a quiet week. I worked more than one day in the Hospital gift shop, due to illness or Doctors visits by some of our members. We also have been selling tickets for the quilt we have for the Craft Show as well as time spent in the work shop getting tray favors for our patients at the hospital. From what I’ve seen and heard, the patients like having the little gift and the kitchen staff and nurses really like the idea. We have pumpkins for this week and will be doing the “praying hands” for our Thanksgiving favor. I had hoped to use the story of the praying hands on our tray gifts, but it was way too long and to condense it would take too much away from the story.
On Saturday morning several of us went to Weid, TX to a rummage sale that is sponsored by the sororities in our area. They had a good crowd and lots and lots of stuff! I managed to pick up only a couple of things that will make a good gift if I have to go to a “Chinese” gift exchange!
Halloween is a time when children dress up in scary masks and costumes and then go from door-to-door in search of treats and excitement. How did Halloween get started? Where did the idea of dressing up begin? Whose idea was it to reward each costumed (and some not costumed) person with a treat? How did ghosts become involved in Halloween?
The origins of Halloween date back to the Celts. They lived in the area that is now known as England, northern France and Ireland. It was the Celts who traditionally celebrated a holiday called Samhain that was celebrated on the night before the New Year began, marked the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of the long, cold winter. They believed that on this night, witches and ghosts ruled, and that the souls of the dead would rise to visit the places where they had lived. Fires were built to frighten the witches away, but food and lanterns were set out to welcome the ghosts and dead souls.
At a later time, Roman conquerors combined their own celebration of the dead with the Samhain. November 1 was named as “All Saints Day” or “All Hallows Even”, way back in the 800s. Although churches attempted to turn the people away from these celebrations, tradition and myth prevailed. People kept their beliefs in the wandering of the dead on this evening. That probably accounts for ghosts being associated with Halloween. (And, now in our own time, “Dia de los Muertos” has become more and more popular.)
However, many Pagan ideas and customs still remained. The people in Ireland lit candles and lights to frighten the unwelcome ghosts and spirits away on Halloween night. They wore masks and costumes to ward off spirits and ghosts if they ventured away from their homes. Another invention of the Irish was trick or treating. Villagers, in groups, would go from house to house begging for food for a community feast. Those who gave generously received promises of a prosperous year; those who gave little were cursed and threatened.
Costumes have changed quite a lot since I was a child. Some of the children had masks shaped like a dog or cat or some other animal, but most of us wore the little “Lone Ranger” type of mask that had an elastic band that went around our head. (Also, probably because this type of mask only cost a dime and that was all a lot of people could afford.) Many of today’s costumes and masks are really elaborate, with the masks being made of rubber and covering the whole head. You can be almost anyone or anything you want to be, from the president of the United States to a rock star, or almost any animal or hobgoblin you choose.
I really do not remember doing a lot of trick or treating; however, I do remember friends, classmates or relatives having Halloween parties that we attended. And, our mothers brought treats to school for the class. Of course, this was during the time of World War II, sugar and shortening were rationed, as were tires and gasoline, so the greatest distance we would have been able to go would have been around the block, or over to any friend who lived within walking distance. Also, during part of this time, we were subject to “blackouts”, where you were not allowed to have any lights on in your home, of if you did, you had to have black curtains on your windows so that no light showed through. At this time, even the street lights were extinguished, and this would have precluded anyone walking around with a flashlight or a pumpkin with a candle in it, because if there were any type of light showing anywhere, the Air Raid Warden would be sure to tell you to put it out. If a light showed around your curtains, or under a door, he would be knocking on that door and you would be in trouble.
Halloween was always a fun time for my kids. We did costumes some years and only masks on other years. What we did do, was have a group of children from two, three or maybe even four families, with at least one parent from each family take the children trick or treating. Everyone always had a good time; however, you heard a lot of: “Mom, she got more candy than I did”, or “Mom, he/she’s taking candy from my bag”. At this time, of course, the candy was confiscated, and everyone was sent to bed! Back in those days, people were trusting, and the kids started eating their candy, and trading back and forth as soon as they got back in the car.
The following popcorn cake is a fun thing, which, once we got the recipe, served it for all sorts of occasions by varying the candy used in it. All of my grandchildren really liked it, and I can’t even remember for sure which daughter found the recipe and began the tradition. We’ve had it at Easter, with jellybeans; at Valentine’s with red hots; and at Halloween, with candy corn. One of the girls also made it during the Christmas holidays with red and green M&M’s®)
Popcorn Cake
6 quarts unsalted, popped popcorn
1/4 cup margarine or butter
35 to 40 large marshmallows (1 large is equal to 10 minis)
1 to 1½ cups candy, (red hots, jelly beans, candy corn, or M&M’s®)
Melt together margarine or butter and marshmallows. Pour mixture over popcorn, mix well, then spray hands with cooking spray to light grease them. Add the candy, stirring with your hands. Press into light oiled or sprayed tube pan, (i.e. Angel food cake pan). Allow to cool thoroughly. Decorate with additional candy if desired.
Here’s your avocado recipe for this week. I made it often enough for my kids and grandkids that one of them finally asked me to make “regular guacamole” not this stuff!
Tomatillo Guacamole
7 tomatillos, husks removed
3 or 4 unpeeled cloves garlic
3 lg. jalapeño peppers, halved, seeded
2 T. finely chopped red onion
½ tsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 c. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 large avocados
Remove the outer husks from the tomatillos and throw away. Rinse the tomatillos before using.
Preheat your broiler. Place tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeños (skin side up) on a foil lined cookie sheet and roast for 7 minutes. Remove the garlic and jalapeño and turn the tomatillos over and roast until charred, about 5 minutes more. Remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool and then chop. Remove skins from garlic and mash with a fork in a bowl. Chop the jalapeños and add to the garlic. In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix the vinegar and onion, allow to stand 5 minutes and drain. Add the onion to the jalapeños and garlic, stir in the chopped tomatillos and then add the cilantro, salt and pepper and mix well. Peel and pit the avocados and add to mixture. Mash with potato masher until well mixed. Taste for seasonings, and serve at room temperature with chips.