October 31 2008

Halloween: Origins, Meaning & Traditions - HISTORY

A chill breeze blew upon my face as I emerged from my bed and moved away my bedsheets. I walked into the living room and was greeted by my mother: “Happy Halloween, honey”, she says to me while doing the dishes. “Here are the Munchkins for your elementary school Halloween party”. I was 10 years old and my elementary school was hosting their annual Halloween party. A few days prior, our teacher Mrs. Vechionne, had created a list telling each classmate what to bring. “Kyle, you’re bringing the cookies. Sara, can you bring the napkins?” I was responsible for bringing the Munchkins. I felt like such an adult! It was almost like everybody was the “line leader”!

I grabbed a bowl of cereal and sat in the living room. I could’ve had a bowl of Waffle Crisp but I settled for Franken Berry because of the season. My younger sister was watching the Halloween specials-there was a marathon of “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy”. Between episodes, a commercial came on for Party City and everybody was dressed in Halloween costumes moonwalking around the floor. This commercial always made me smile and I knew today was truly Halloween! After finishing breakfast, changing out of my pajamas, and packing my backpack, I grabbed the bag of Munchkins and took off for school.

“Have fun today. Love you”, said my mother as she dropped me off for school. When I walked into my classroom, I was greeted with a long table at the edge of the classroom with bags of snacks such as cookies, pumpkin pie, chips, popcorn, brownies, and of course, Halloween candy. I placed my bag of Munchkins on the table and sat at the desk. “Happy Halloween everybody!”, Mrs. Vecchione said to our overly verbose class. “Before our party, let’s quickly review what we discussed in Math”. The class groaned as she reminded us what PEMDAS meant and how to FOIL equations. The review took about an hour, but for 10-year-old me, it felt like a century. After the review, however, it was time to party!

We moved all of our desks to the back of the classroom and placed our chairs on top of them. Our adrenaline was flowing and our mouths were watering as we opened the bags of snacks. There were sugar cookies with orange frosting and sprinkles on top, a pumpkin pie (which the whole class seemed most excited about), Doritos, buttery popcorn, cupcakes, again with orange frosting and candy corn on top, brownies which Mrs. Vechione announced were “homemade by [our classmate] Michelle”, and small candy bags filled with candy such as Snickers, KitKat bars, and Skittles. The class lined up at the left of the table, took a plate, and took turns taking food from the table. Many went up for seconds, even thirds, until their stomachs were full of Halloween treats.

Then, the teacher brought a giant TV on wheels into the room. She tried to get the class’s attention but everybody was too talkative. Eventually, she grew irate: “Everybody, stop talking right now or we’re doing more work!”, she cried out as the class slowly piped down. She gathered the class together and showed us two Halloween movies. “Now, by show of hands, how many people want to watch ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?’”. About 1/3 of the class raised their hands. “Okay, and how many people want to watch ‘Hocus Pocus’? Almost the entire class raised their hands, including those who voted for Charlie Brown. “Okay, so we’re watching Hocus Pocus”, concluded the teacher as she prepared the movie. The class got more food as they sat around the television and frantically waited for the movie to start. The audio was slightly scratchy but nobody complained as the movie started.

About 45 minutes into the movie, however, the class was bored and decided to go elsewhere. They went on YouTube and began to search Halloween songs such as “Monster Mash”, “Thriller”, “Ghostbusters”, and “Flying Purple People Eater”. “I wonder what ‘superstitious’ means?”, I said as I danced to the sounds of Stevie Wonder. The girls in the class took dancing quite seriously while the guys just chatted and played board games. After a few hours, the bell rang and school was over. While our classmates were excited to go trick-or-treating, we still had one more job to do. The teacher brought out garbage bags which looked like pumpkins, the smell of which practically dominated the classroom. After cleaning up after ourselves, Mrs. Vechione wished us a Happy Halloween and walked the class outside the school where my mother was waiting for me. “Did you have fun?”, she asked as I told her all about the party. When I got home, however, I knew the fun had only begun.

Billy and Mandy was still on television as I donned my vampire costume and grabbed my goodie bag for trick-or-treating. “Honey, you have to wear a jacket over that, it’s cold outside”, ordered my Mother as I complained that it ruins my Halloween costume. “I don’t care, I don’t want you getting sick”. When my costume was finally ready, my sister and I took off, our mother trailing behind. We were excited to get candy until my mother interjected once more: “You two look so cute, let me take some pictures”. I rolled my eyes and gave my best smile as my mother took her Polaroid camera took some photos. The flash stunned me and my eyes appeared red in the pictures. “Can we go Trick-or-treating now?”, I complained to my mother as she laughed and took us around the neighborhood.

As we walked around, other people were dressed in Halloween costumes such as Cinderella, Super Mario, and a giant dinosaur. Many masks could be seen but none of them were sky blue nor were they N-95 masks. Rather, we saw reaper masks and murderer masks. “Remember to say Thank You”, reminded our mother as we ran to each house we could find. “Trick or Treat”, we said as the man/woman threw candy into our goodie bag. Some houses had a bowl of candy set on the porch so we just took what was there. There was always that one jerk who took the entire bowl and we walked away upset when the bowl was empty. Some neighbors complimented our costumes, making us feel very special. Once we got candy from every house we could find, we returned home for the evening.

At home, my sister and I dumped our bag of candy on the floor. “I got more candy than you did!”, teased my sister. “No, I got more candy!”, I rebutted. We laughed together and started eating as many Reeses, Snickers, and Skittles packages as we could. “Let me check that candy for you first”, said our mother as we complained. In fact, each piece of candy was checked and, eventually, we got full of Halloween candy. Our parents didn’t want to cook, so we just ordered pizza. The pizza store, however, was quite busy for Halloween and we had to wait almost an hour before our food was ready! After we ate, we changed out of our costumes and back into our pajamas, wished my family a happy Halloween and dozed off for the night.

Now, here I am in college, struggling with Midterms. Feeling threatened by the Delta variant to even leave my house. “Sometimes it’s nice just to think of more simplistic times in my childhood. A time when we were grammar school students free of worry”, I say to myself.  “Halloween candy is great, but the memories we make are even greater”. Happy Halloween, everybody!      

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