Based on an ancient Celtic holiday during which people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts, today’s incarnation seems more likely to find ways to incorporate spirits into the celebration. Ghosts in every form imaginable find their way into our homes as cupcake decorations, home decor, subjects of movies and television programs and even as costumes for trick-or-treaters.
According to History.com, the modern-day custom of trick-or-treating evolved around the late 1800s, modeling itself after European traditions that had Americans dressing in costume and going from house to house asking for food or money.
Apparently young women also believed that on Halloween they could conjure up the name or likeness of their future husbands by doing tricks with yarn, apple peels or mirrors. Perhaps that may be part of the reason why witches and witchcraft, which were part of the early religious observances, continue to be popular holiday themes.
In the early 1900s through the 1950s, the holiday become more community-oriented. It also began to evolve into a holiday for the young — or at least the young at heart. It was fun and festive, and its pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns helped herald fall.
The monsters of those Halloween celebrations were far less scarier than today’s monsters. Sometime in the late 1970s and 1980s, Halloween began to take on a different spin as it became customary to frighten people and make them jump and scream. From movies to haunted houses to scary amusement park transformations, it became a less friendly holiday. Or maybe just my perception changed as I transitioned from kid to adult and I was exposed to different experiences.
Still, the holiday remains one of my favorites. I love the spicy aroma and taste of pumpkin spice. And the opportunity to dress up without being considered eccentric is an added bonus.
When I was younger, finding the perfect costume took weeks and sometimes months. The best ones were those that hid your true identity or let you become someone or something else for a couple of hours. You could be an astronaut, a football player, a superhero, a princess, a pirate or a robot. One year, I painted a box and went as a die.
This annual assumption of another persona could be the reason why I enjoy the theater so much. While you are on stage and in costume, the true you plays second fiddle to the character in the spotlight.
Though I have long since passed the age when it is acceptable to trick or treat and my kids have grown into adults and don’t need me to accompany them as they gather sweet treats from the neighbors, I still look forward to being able to don a costume and decorate the house to greet the youngsters that visit my house.
Whether you plan to spend Halloween trick-or-treating, participating in a community costume contest or getting scared out of your wits, I hope it’s a happy celebration for your and your family. Just don’t try to figure out which of those costumed characters is me because I’ve spent the past several weeks planning the perfect way to keep my identity hidden.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.