Halloween is Monday

Well, last week was pretty busy, as in addition to my usual times of working with the Auxiliary, either in the gift shop, or work shop, I added a couple of shifts helping at the library during the book sale that is an annual affair. It is always interesting, and one of the times, in the past that I helped; my friend and I were our own best customers! This year, there weren’t too many customers as this is one of the first years since the pandemic and they just aren’t coming out.
Wow, it’s that spooky time of year again when tiny princesses, robots, and various scary people will be knocking on doors, shouting, or saying politely, “trick or treat”, “trick or treat”, and we will hand out candy or perhaps pencils or stickers. Living as I do, several miles out in the country, I know that there most probably won’t be any of these cute kids at my home. Also I am invited to a friend’s home in town and all of her guests will be helping her give candy, pencils and all sorts of things to the “trick or treaters”, who come to her home. She lives on a street that the tradition is to go to homes on that street, as in years past, those people had the most and best treats. I’ve been told it is the old “silk stocking” district, or the street where “rich people live. The crowds of children that come to this street is sort of like it was when my children were small and we lived on Colonial Parkway in Devine and frequently used 20 or more pounds of candy!
Costumes have changed quite a lot since I was a child. Back then, we 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.
One year, at Halloween, when I was in Galveston, with my daughter, her son decided he wanted to be a green crow, of all things. Believe it or not, she and I with a little help from her husband created him a costume by sewing layers of nylon net to a backing and then cutting into it to form ‘feathers’. He was as cute as could be. Over the years, with my children, I created all types of costumes, for them as well as for myself.
The year I was helping as a volunteer at the nursing home (then called Leisure Lodge), I went as a mummy and had to be pushed around in a wheelchair all evening because my wrappings kept coming off. It was a hoot, as the residents couldn’t figure out who I was. We had a great time.
At home, I usually answered the door dressed as a ghost; and we frequently had “headless Fred” hanging in the tree by the front door. For many years, when the kids were smaller, there would be several of us mothers who would get together and take our children trick or treating as a group. It was safer in those days to even go trick or treating. When I was growing up, I really don’t remember actually going trick or treating, except to two or three homes in my immediate neighborhoods; however, I do remember friends or relatives having Halloween parties that we attended. Also, our mothers brought treats to school for the class, which was allowed in those long-ago days! Of course, in the mid 40s, when I was of an age to go trick or treating, 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 World War II time, we were subject to “blackouts”, where you were not allowed to have any lights on in your home, or if you did, you had to have blackout curtains on your windows so that no light showed through. At this time, the streetlights were extinguished, and this would preclude anyone walking around with a flashlight or a pumpkin with a lit candle. If there was any type of light on in your home during this time, the Air Raid Warden would be sure to tell you to put it out, and you would possibly be given a ticket.
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, which was celebrated on the night before the New Year began, marked the end of 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 Samhain. November 1 was named as “All Saints Day” or “All Hallows Day”, the evening before was named “All Hallows Even”, way back in the ninth century. 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.
In spite of church teachings, 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.
One of the best and safest types of masks for the children is to use face paint. That way, they’ll be able to see where they’re going. If Daddy is a hunter and has paint that he uses, when he has on his camo hunting gear, this is great, if not, the following recipe works really well.
Peanut Butter Crispy Treats
1 cup light or dark corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
6 cups crisp rice cereal (i.e. Rice Krispies® or a store brand)
Lightly grease a 9X13 baking pan. Set aside. In a large saucepan, over low heat, stir together syrup, sugar and peanut buttter. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over cereal, toss and stir to coat well. Press into prepared pan. Cool thoroughly and cut into 1X3-inch bars or cut into squares.
Popcorn Cake
6 quarts popped, unsalted popcorn
¼ cup margarine or butter
35 to 40 large marshmallows (1 large = 10 miniature)
1 to 1½ cups candy (red hots, jelly beans, candy corn, or M&Ms)
Lightly oil or spray a tube pan (i.e. Angel Food cake pan or Bundt pan) and set aside.
Melt margerine or butter and marshmallows together. Pour over popcorn and mix well with greased hands; add candy of choice and press mixture into prepared pan. Allow to cool thoroughly and remove from pan. Decorate with additional candy if desired. (I used to make this for my family with seasonal candy, red hots for Valentine’s Day, jelly beans for Easter and at Thanksgiving or Halloween with candy corn. Christmas, of course, bring out the red and green M&Ms).
Halloween Face Paint
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon water
½ teaspoon cold cream
2 drops food coloring
Mix all together in small bowl. You will have to do this for each color you want.
Now, here is a recipe for using some of those wonderful avocados that are available at this time. The flavor is a little different from your regular guacamole because of the tomatillos, and it is a little bit labor intensive, but the results are worth every minute of the time involved in the preparation.