Halloween traditions are changing
All kinds of trick-or-treaters will come knocking on doors this Halloween, but who is lurking under the mask, face paint or furry costume?
For those who recall Halloweens past, what they dub “the guessing game” highlighted the intrigue of the evening — and anchored the trick-or-treating tradition to a knitted community.
They went to homes they knew and were invited in, recalled Gwenda Williams, 84, of Colchester, who grew up in New Jersey.
Then, before candy was divvied out, their hosts would have to guess who they were, said Williams.
Now, she notices while people are friendly enough and leave their porch lights on, children aren’t invited in nor are their identities probed.
“It took the fun out of it,” said Williams, who took her grandchildren out last year. “But I guess they didn’t know any different.”
For Williams, trick-or-treating was a way to get treats her family couldn’t afford. They were well-appreciated, she said and, once received, rationed out to last and be shared with friends. Items such as nuts also were given to children, and grocery stores stayed open at night and handed out treats as well.
Cathy Russi, 62, of Colchester, said they never went to homes they didn’t know. She and her friends also waited politely until people guessed who they were before moving on to the next home.
And in school, children dressed up as saints and told their story for All Saint’s Day, she said. Today Halloween can be quite dark, Russi said, with the religious connotations tied to the holiday discarded.
As a Catholic, Louise Murzyin, 77, of Colchester, well remembers celebrating All Souls Day and All Saints Day, going to church and lighting candles. Trick-or-treating in her neighborhood yielded fruit and candy. Costumes, she agreed with others, were homemade compared to today’s tilt toward store-bought outfits.
Kim McShane, 42, of Norwich, can’t remember having many options for costumes when her older boys, now 22 and 20, were children. There were drugstore masks, she said, that slipped over the face with maddeningly thin elastic stapled to brittle plastic.
Now, there are a dizzying array of costumes for her four younger children, ages 8 months to 11, yet McShane said it’s difficult to find an appropriate outfit for her daughter.
Last year, she scoured everywhere for one that wasn’t provocative, she said, but had a hard time as her daughter wore a size 10.
Finally, McShane found a soldier’s uniform, which was fine, except for the words “major flirt” written on the pocket.
“They had to throw that element in there some way or another,” she said. “It was much easier getting costumes for boys because they don’t have exotic male dancer costumes.”
Her mother, McShane said, had parties for her friends, a trend she remembered as more popular when she was growing up than today.
“My mom used to throw great Halloween parties and I’d have a bunch of friends over and we’d bob for apples. It’s not so innocent anymore,” McShane said. “The kids wouldn’t be into the games we used to play.”
Like McShane, Jen Miller, 41, of New London, recalled more home parties with an emphasis upon arts and crafts.
She grew up in Killingly and would make popcorn balls with other children, but not trick-or-treat door-to-door. Miller expressed regret today, for her 4-year-old daughter, Halloween seems more about candy — and costumes fueled by TV.
“If you have a girl its nothing but Barbie and Disney and princesses, it ties into TV and what they see and hear, and what other kids have,” she said. “I wish it were more like yesterday where we got together with friends and did pumpkin carving.”
Her mother, Connie Spaulding, 68, remembers how difficult it was to get four children out the door, ready and dressed in their costumes.
And Halloween, she said, was popular when she was a child and was equally popular for her own. Though now, she, too, sees trends toward commercialization, fewer homemade costumes and an abundance of decorations.
“We never had the Halloween lights or anything as I child,” Spaulding said. “I don’t even remember pumpkins, but today the decorations have grown quite a bit.”
Sara Graves, a 29- year -old mother from Groton, represents the younger generation who have carried the fun of Halloween into adulthood, throwing a Halloween party every year for adults, where everyone is required to dress up.
“I always associate Halloween with creativity,” she said. “We always had to take what we had and transform it.”
Reach Sharma Howard of The Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin at 860-425-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN
- Halloween’s origin has many sources, from Pomona Day in Rome to the Christian holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. But the Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced sow-en) — celebrated after the crops were all harvested Oct. 31, and related to the festival Nov. 1 marking the end of the season of the sun — seems to have had the greatest influence on Halloweens in other countries. During the festival, the Celtic priests would light fires and offer sacrifices. In the morning, they would give an ember to families to take home and start their own fires to keep family members safe from evil spirits.
- The Romans who invaded Britain merged Samhain with their own influences. The Christian religion of Hallowmas or All Hallows Day was added later. The holiday became known as All Hallows Even, All Hallow’s Eve and, eventually, Halloween.