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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween has its origin in Europe and has become a major U.S. celebration

(Found this Halloween column I wrote back in 2006. Thought I would post it on the blog. Have a happy Halloween.)

Outdoor Halloween decorations are nearly as prevalent these days as Christmas decorations. Drive through any neighborhood and you’ll find lighted pumpkins, strings or orange lights and more.
As a youngster growing up a half century ago, I remember when people would hollow out pumpkins, carve out a face, and place a lighted candle inside. They were displayed in windows, on front porches or along the sidewalk leading to the house. Over the years, Halloween displays have become much more elaborate and expensive.
Celebrated primarily on Oct. 31, Halloween is an observance for youngsters dressed in costumes who go door-to-door collecting treats. But it isn’t just a kid thing. Plenty of adults enjoy celebrating Halloween with parties and office decorations.
As youngsters, we looked forward to trick or treating. We would dress up in homemade costumes. As we walked the neighborhood, homes were decorated with candlelit pumpkins. The smell of burning leaves filled the air. If we were lucky, we returned home with a bag of candy.
Halloween was celebrated in Europe long before the U.S. The holiday didn’t come to this country until the 19th Century. Before the 1800’s, people with Puritan traditions hardly celebrated Christmas let alone an event like Halloween, which had a combination of both religious and pagan backgrounds.
However, the great migration of two million Irish due to the Potato Famine in the 1840’s. The Irish brought with them the tradition of Halloween and many of its customs.
Halloween didn’t begin to be commercialized until the 20th Century. Mass produced masks and costumes began appearing in the 1950’s, and has led to today when the holiday has become one of the most profitable for retailers next to Christmas.
I’m amazed at the effort people make to decorate their lawns and homes with pumpkins, ghosts, goblins', spiders, vampires, Frankenstein characters and other ghoulish figures. I don’t really understand it, but must admit I enjoy seeing the decorations on fall evenings.
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Here are several suggestions related to Halloween Trick or Treating...
-- Feed the kids before they go out so they will be less likely to eat the treats before they return home and you can inspect them. (Isn’t it a shame we live in a world where we have to inspect the candy?) Tell them you must inspect the candy before they eat it.
-- Have kids trick or treat with friends or with adult supervision. They shouldn’t go out alone.
-- Tell kids to never enter the house or car of a stranger.
-- Kids should stay on streets that are well lit, and only cross at corners. Watch for cars.
-- Kids should carry a flashlight  and/or wear reflective tape so drivers can see them.

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