It’s Halloween today, or as I call it, “Neighborhood Candy Distribution Day.”
Halloween. No one does it better than Americans, with its profusion of costumes, pumpkins, skeletons, and tons and tons and tons of candy.
Here’s the candy aisle at our local Walgreen’s
At Halloween, Americans buy almost 600 million pounds of candy, worth almost $2 billion dollars. You can feast on Skittles, Reese’s Cups, Snickers, Twix bars, gummy bears, Hershey bars, M&Ms, Starburst, Musketeers, Nestle’s Crunch, Good ‘n’ Plenty, Tootsie Rolls, York Peppermint Patties, Kit Kats, Hershey’s kisses, Almond Joys, Sweet Tarts, Twizzlers, Jelly Beans, Smarties, Heath Bars, Sour Patch, Butterfingers, Airheads, Junior Mints, Mounds, and my kids’ favorites, Laffy Taffy and Jolly Rancher. You get the picture.
To grow pumpkins, it helps to have a lot of sun and enough–but not too much–rain, which may be the reason that the US is better at producing pumpkins than the UK. Here are my daughter and her best friend dwarfed by pumpkins at “Boston’s last farm.”
Then there’s all the work of scraping out the pumpkin guts (a little heavy on the drama in the case of my daughter while our family friend Kim works diligently).
And then there are all the various pumpkin designs:
The happy ghostly pumpkin:
The pumpkin that’s scored as well as carved all the way through:
The bemused, snaggle-tooth pumpkin:
Then there are the costumes:
The Red Queen and princesses:
The Cat-in-the-Hat and friends:
A really cool bat-like creature:
The traditional skeleton:
The you’re-never-too-old to don a costume, even if, like the one on the right, it makes no sense:
And then of course there’s the “Hot Dog” or “Wiener Dog”:
A couple of blocks from my house near Boston, the people really go to town when it comes to Halloween. It’s so jam-packed that you can hardly move with all the crowds viewing the ghosts, cobwebbed-up porches, and the pirate ship.
Here’s the fantastic pirate ship:
And then there’s the sugar crash at the end of the evening. Here’s my daughter with only a small part of her haul. She had to go around with a pillowcase to carry it all!
I just came across a really nicely written explanation of the origins of Halloween, written by Paddy Swanson, the artistic director of the Revels here in Boston. I asked him if I could use it, and he kindly consented, so here it is:
“One of the characteristics of religious festivals that coincide with seasonal shifts is that they often share elements of their pagan equivalents. In many parts of Europe an uneasy truce exists between customs and beliefs associated with Christianity and those associated with religions that existed before Christianity arrived.
In Ireland and other Celtic countries, the last night of October was the eve of Samhain when the Celtic peoples celebrated “Winter’s Eve” and the beginning of their New Year: so it was a kind of crack in time, through which the dead returned to their old haunts and spirits swarmed to plague the living. In an attempt to Christianize this pagan festival the Church adopted the 1st of November as the feast of All Saints (or All Hallows). In temperate latitudes All Hallows Eve has lost most of its associations with the returning dead, although bands of witches and supernatural beings still roam the streets in the form of children knocking on doors to beg for Halloween candy. In England the custom is all but forgotten – the bonfires that used to burn as protection from marauding spirits are now associated with the more politically observant “Guy Fawke’s Night,” which is celebrated a few days later on November 5th.”
For more information on The Revels, please follow this link: http://www.revels.org/
Happy Halloween, everyone!