Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween, then and now

Halloween isn't just for kids anymore. Maybe it never was, but during the last couple decades, it seems that adults have really embraced the idea of having fun by getting into costume. Costume parties for adults seem to be the rule during Halloween, and even we older folks like to join the fun.
From left to right-Biker, FBI agent, Little Red Riding Hood, Captain Jean Luc Picard.
Frankenstein's Monster and his Bride hosted the party.

When I was a child, Halloween provided kids in our farm neighborhood with the opportunity to dress up in a costume, walk trough the darkness down the narrow dirt road, knock on the neighbor's door, and yell, "Trick or treats, money or eats!" Most of the time we really weren't prepared to  do any tricks.

After we knocked on the door, the Mom and Pop of the household would pretend they were scared by our costumes, which were usually something we made ourselves and were seldom very convincing. Then they would invite us in and require that we take off our masks and identify ourselves.
Lucy was one of the guests at last night's Halloween party.

During the de-masking and identifying process, Mom and Pop of the household would ask us questions about ourselves, which encouraged even the most shy kid to respond. These moments spent alone with adult neighbors filled us with a kind of positive self-importance. Adults were talking to us without our parents present. We had to handle the conversation on our own.

For the adults, the moment provided a positive way to meet the neighborhood  kids every year. For our little farm neighborhood, trick or treating was an intergenerational socializing event. At the time, though, we just liked the chance to dress up and get sweets.
Frozen brains keep the punch cool and add a tangy flavor.

The treats back then were always home made. Popcorn balls, fudge, cupcakes, divinity, taffy, cookies, and bags of popcorn were some of the treats I remember.
No one was worried that the treats were unsafe in any way because we didn't go to a stranger's house. We wouldn't dream of knocking on the doors of people we didn't know.
Sure, some tricks were played. More than once an outhouse at school got tipped over. Putting leaves in a car and soaping windows were some other common tricks.
My memory of the times is that the tricks diminished and nearly disappeared from the neighborhood.
In my book, A Farm Country Halloween, I tell a story of kids trick or treating in 1950. I try to capture the times as I remember them, the treats and the tricks.
Cover of A Farm Country Halloween.

In the small neighborhood we live in now, I look forward to the neighborhood kids coming over in their costumes, most of which are pretty convincing. The kids are often accompanied by their parents.
Nancy and I invite them in and we visit a while before they get their treats. It's a fun way to meet the neighbors.

Brownies topped with bits of brains make a special treat at the party.

A couple cow-punchers attended the party.
One of the more gruesome decorations.

 A couple of cute toys show up.
What's in your medicine cabinet?

And no party would be complete without Mayhem and Flo, 
but since we expect no "tricks",
no one will need the insurance.

Do no damage and have a safe, fun Halloween. 

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

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