Halloween combines myths, decorations and candy


Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

Contributed Photo Scott and Tracy Marohl’s home at 14 Briarwood Lane is all decked out for Halloween.

Contributed Photo Scott and Tracy Marohl’s home at 14 Briarwood Lane is all decked out for Halloween.

Halloween is one of the most celebrated holidays, second only to Christmas. It is one of the world’s oldest holidays, dating back to pagan times.

Halloween evolved from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. They thought the change of seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead and the veil between this world and the next was thinnest this time of year. They believed friends and relatives who had died would return, with their souls inhabiting an animal, often a black cat. Black cats are still a symbol of Halloween.

There are many legends that surround this popular holiday. One legend has it that on one All Hallows Eve a priest was walking down a country road and while on a hill he saw a bonfire.

He saw people dancing around the fire in costumes with shafts and torches in their hands. With the moon as a backdrop to the fire, people appeared to be flying in the air. The priest quickly went to the village and told the people that witches were flying and evil was near. Legend has it that is where the myth of witches on broomsticks flying on Halloween originated.

Apples are also associated with Celtic traditions. Unmarried people would bob for apples and the first one to get a bite out of an apple was supposedly the next one to marry. They also believed that peeling an apple in front of a candle-lit mirror would produce the image of one’s future spouse. They tried to produce a long unbroken apple peel because they believed the longer the peel, the longer you would live.

Folklore also tells us the first jack-o-lanterns were actually hollowed out turnips with embers or candles inside. Legend has it their purpose was to keep evil spirits away. Irish families who emigrated to America brought the tradition with them, but the turnips were replaced by pumpkins, which were more plentiful and easier to carve.

Halloween is celebrated in a variety of ways. Des Moines, Iowa, has a tradition called Beggar’s Night. The event began in 1938 as a way to prevent vandalism and give the younger children a safer way to enjoy Halloween. The children go out on the night before Halloween. It is similar to trick-or-treating, except the children are required to tell a joke, a poem or perform a “trick” for a “treat.”

Some organizations in the United States and Canada sponsor a “Trunk-or-Treat” where trick-or-treating is done from parked car to parked car in a local parking lot, often at a school or church. This event began in the mid-1990s. People open their trunks which contain Halloween candy and sometimes games and decorations. Many parents believe this is safer and easier than walking from house to house. Some churches have music, games and food to add to the fun.

Several cities in the United States and Canada have banned kids older than 12 from participating in trick-or-treating. I must admit, there was a time I disliked seeing older kids coming to the door too. However, I read something a parent of a teen wrote that resonated with me.

He said he was glad his young teen still enjoyed going out and having this type of innocent fun instead of getting in trouble. He commented that we expect kids to grow up so quickly that they can’t enjoy just being a kid. He asked, “What’s a piece of candy, once a year?”

I thought about that and he has a point. Older kids are still “kids.”

I enjoy driving around and looking at Halloween decorations. Scott and Tracy Marohl begin their decorating in September.

Scott commented: “I have been decorating our home since we moved here in 2011 (14 Briarwood Lane), but I decorated my parents’ home since I was 10 years old. I decorate because it is something I love, it helps me relax and I enjoy doing it for the community.”

Scott added, “Halloween especially makes me happy when kids come trick-or-treating.”

My hubby buys our Halloween candy early — the kind he likes. Looks like a goblin has been sampling it. Guess I’ll have to go to the store and try to find a kind “my goblin” doesn’t like.

Trivia question: What business was owned/operated by partners Jim Reetz and Jim Otto in 1982?

Clothesline Conversation trivia answer: King James Ltd.

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.