Celebrating Halloween  ,

I loved Halloween as a kid. We always had a party in our classroom. The afternoon began with a parade around the playground. Parents would come to see all of us in our costumes. Once the parade was finished, it was back to our classroom for the party.

Halloween was a treat because each student received a donut and a small bottle of Coke. It may be hard to imagine but this was a big deal when I was in school. We didn’t have soda machines in the school and we were limited to the amount of soda we could drink at home. They came around to each classroom with a wooden case of soda, one bottle for each child. Although it was a simple treat, it seemed very special to all of us.

That evening, I always wanted to rush through dinner. I couldn’t wait togo out to Trick or Treat. If someone came to the door while I was eating, I felt like I was missing out. What if everyone ran out of candy before I made it out the door? Yikes! Every year, we had chili for dinner on Halloween. This required little preparation and was a simple enough meal to eat between answering the door. I raced through my bowl of chili, anxious to get outside. This is when the battle always began. Every child wanted everyone to see their costume. Every mother wanted their child to be warm. My mother would want me to wear a coat and I would wail that no one would be able to see my costume. Eventually, I was able to get out the door and begin visiting all the neighbors to ask for treats. At the end of the day, I would fall into bed exhausted but happy.

Today, I enjoy Halloween as much as I did as a kid, perhaps even more. I love to decorate our house for the visitors we get on Halloween night. A few days before the actual holiday though, I wander down the street to our downtown area. We live in a large historic district. A few blocks from my house, we have a traffic circle with a plaza in the center. The streets that go out from this circle are filled with antique stores, specialty shops and restaurants. Just before Halloween, the city sponsors Treats in the Streets. The streets leading to the plaza are blocked and children come from all over to go from business to business collecting treats. The plaza merchants association has held this event for years and it seems to be growing in popularity. The kids are so cute as they go from place to place, bouncing down the street in their excitement.

 A few nights later, I am the one who answers the door when kids come to collect treats. Families come from surrounding communities to our neighborhood. I love watching the little kids come up to the door as Mom and Dad wait by our front gate. The kids are so polite, waiting their turn and thanking me nicely. As they turn to leave, most kids call out, Happy Halloween. I never thought I would enjoy Halloween as much as an adult as I did as a kid. However, I seem to get as much pleasure from it now as I did all those years ago. I think I just might have to dress in costume this year.

The History

Halloween began as a Celtic festival about 2000 years ago. The Celtic New Year began on November first each year. The Celts believed the night before the New Year began, the dead came back to this world. The Celts held a festival to prepare for the dark winter ahead. During the ceremony, a large bonfire was created. Families would relight their hearth fires from this bonfire.

 When the Romans conquered the area inhabited by the Celts, they took this festival back to Rome with them. Eventually, the Celtic festival was incorporated into the church calendar as the influence of the church grew in Rome . Centuries later, November first was declared All Saints’ Day or All Hallowsmas by the Catholic Church. The night before was called All Hallowseve and eventually became Halloween. November 2nd was declared all Souls Day, a day for honoring the dead. It became the tradition in England for the poor to go from door to door on All souls Day asking for food.Families would give them Souls Cakes and ask them to pray for the dead.

The custom of people dressing in costume came from a Celtic tradition. People would dress in costume to disguise themselves from the spirits who they believed returned to earth on October 31st. People believed the ghosts would mistake masked people for other ghosts and leave them alone. In addition, families would leave food and wine by their front door for the ghosts so the ghosts did not do any mischief to their house. Centuries later, children would go around in masks and eat the food and drink the wine and ale left by the doors. Families began giving these children treats instead.

When the Irish immigrated to the US following the potato blight, they brought these traditions with them. Americans adopted these Halloween practices until the celebrations grew to be quite large. At the end of the 1800’s, communities began hosting events to celebrate Halloween. Communities and neighborhoods would hold parties and activities for children and adults. These festivities were very popular and continued for many years. With the baby boom following WWII, there were so many children and families that it was not feasible for communities to hosts the celebrations. So, in the 1950’s, Halloween celebrations were moved to schools. During this time, the practice of trick-or-treating came back. Every Halloween, children would go out to visit their neighbors dressed in costume and collect treats.

Today, we see a combination of traditions. Some communities host their own events for families. Churches have begun reviving the practice of Fall Festivals. And children still go from door to door dressed in costumes collecting treats from their neighbors. Halloween has gone through many changes over the centuries yet it remains one of the most popular holidays in the US.

Decorating

I live in a large historic district. In our neighborhood, we look for any excuse to decorate. Halloween is all the reason we need to pull out our ladders and begin draping our homes in black and orange. Ghosts hang from porches and jack-o-lanterns adorn every step leading to the house.

You don’t have to go crazy to decorate your house. It doesn’t take a huge investment of time or money to create an atmosphere the kids will love. 

We have a front porch that run across the whole front of our house. I hang sheets to cut each side in half. Behind one of the sheets, I place a lamp and my CD player. I play spooky sounds all night on Halloween.

The lamp behind the sheet throws great shadows on the porch but it also give enough light so the little kids aren’t afraid. Next to my front door, I place my rocker with a small draped tale next to it. In the rocker, I put a headless scarecrow. I take my overalls and a flannel shirt. I stuff them with newspaper and put the figure in a sitting position in the rocker. I then put a straw hat where his head should be. On the table, I put my jack-o-lantern. The scarecrow has a hand on the pumpkin giving the impression it is his head. Once all that is in place, I go crazy with the cobweb. I run it all over the porch. I make sure I cover the scarecrow so he appears to have been there awhile. I hang spiders from the cobwebs to add a final touch.I also like to add tombstones to the yard.

You can buy them readymade at the store but I like to make my own. I take discarded Styrofoam from electronics boxes. I cut the foam into the right shape. I then paint it in a dark gray. When the paint sets, I take white paint and black paint and, with a paper towel, I add touches to make the tombstones look worn. I add an epitaph and finish with a bit of red paint for blood. I scatter the tombstones around the yard using sticks to hold them in place. One year, my daughter and her friend added an eerie touch. Katy sat on the porch with the candy and Paige laid on the grass. Both wore make-up that made them look like corpses. I don’t know who had more fun that evening, the kids or the girls.

You can add additional touches with skulls, ghosts and even funeral wreathes. Purchase Christmas wreathes, decorate with dried flowers and spray everything black. Wreathes can be hung from the second story of your house. Garland sprayed black can be added if you wish. You can decorate your home for Halloween in an afternoon, creating a spooky setting that will thrill the kids and entertain you.

 Entertaining

Ding-dong, the doorbell chimes. You open the door and there stands a group of vampires, monsters and ghosts. Do you slam the door and run and hide? No, invite them in. Your Halloween party has begun! I love to entertain! I look for any excuse to invite people over. Unfortunately, too many women look for reasons to avoid having company. Entertaining does not have to be a chore. It can be fun and easy if you work smarter, not harder like Auntie Jean Ann always says.

Halloween is the perfect occasion to entertain. It is a very informal holiday. It gives people the chance to dress up. And, you can decorate your home and plan your menu to suit yourself. Other events tend to have more structured formats and menus but Halloween is very relaxed.

You can design a party that suits you and your guests. You may choose a theme. Or you might just invite guests to dress in costumes of their choice. Either way, you have flexibility when it comes to choosing a menu.

Begin by planning a buffet. This type of party is perfect for buffets. Buffets also give you the opportunity to serve a variety of food items. To plan your menu, take a trip to the grocery store. Walk the aisles and the freezer section to see what sparks your interests. Red should be a color to keep in mind. Creating a table of foods that look like they are floating in blood should help set the mood! You can serve cocktail wienies in bar-b-cue sauce and Hot Wings in lots of sauce. I like to make Chili-mac for Halloween, combining my family tradition of chili for the holiday with a more substantial addition. Chili-mac is also thicker so your guests can avoid spills. Salsa adds a nice red touch. You can also make an ambrosia salad that had a bit of black food coloring added and slightly mixed in to create a moldy look. Fro dessert, make cupcakes that are frosted with chocolate, then topped with crushed chocolate cookie bits. c

Place a candy pumpkin to finish the treat. It does not take much to put together a great Halloween party. You can even prepare at the last minute if you decide to invite a few friends over to celebrate. Remember, you should always be looking for a reason to entertain.

 For your party, you will want plenty of jack-o-lanterns to decorate your house. Be sure to take time to pick out the perfect pumpkins. Check the bottom of the pumpkin to make sure it can sit flat on the surface you wish to place it. Study the pumpkin. What sort of face does its shape suggest? If you have a specific idea for your jack-o-lantern, you want to be sure your pumpkin works with that design. Check the pumpkin thoroughly for freshness. Is it firm? Check for soft spots and mold. You don’t want it to go bad before Halloween. Thump it to make sure it is nice and solid. Is the color bright? Take a few minutes to study the selection of pumpkins before you buy. It only takes a bit of time but it is worth the effort for you to get one that is just right. Halloween is a lot of fun for kids young and old. With a bit of planning, you can have a spook-tacular time this year with low stress and lots 

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