Halloween is dead and has been for centuries. But even though it’s dead, it still holds a certain spine-tingly remnant of what it was before.
I remember as a kid getting all excited about Halloween. We lived on a farm, so my mom had to load us in the station wagon (no seatbelts then) and drive us around. We sat clutching our big paper grocery bags, our masks slipping off our faces, until we arrived in another farm. Then my sister and I would be let out in front of various houses out in the country. My mom would wait in the car with our baby brother.
We’d trot up to the front door and knock, then hold our bags out and say ‘Trick or Treat’! There would be a moment of “Oh How cute! Come here, Harvey, look at the little princess (my sister) and the witch! (me). Then candy or an apple would land in our bag and I’d turn around and my sister would hiss ‘Say Thank you!’
That was Halloween. The next day (or even that night) I’d eat all my tootsie rolls and candy bars, and start eyeing my sister’s candy. (She saved it until at least Christmas, eating a tiny bite a day…)
And that was Halloween.
Until that fateful day when a rumor swept the land. A razor had been found in an apple. It wasn’t even ture – being an urban legend – but it swept across the US like a wildfire and changed Halloween forever.
Before, no one had ever imagined that someone could willfully set out to harm a child with Halloween candy or apples. But now it was the only thing anyone thought about. Now, our mother marched up to the front door with us. She would examine the candy, and any apples inevitably landed in the trash.
Who started that rumor?
I often wondered if it was the Thanksgiving turkey association, fed up with Halloween taking attention away from the upcoming fête. Or maybe it was an apple-hating club, determined to ruin apple farmers everywhere.
Whatever it was or who is was, Halloween was no longer innocent but malevolent. And maybe it became closer to what Halloween was originally about. In the dark ages when the religions were still fledgling and memories of human sacrifice, druids and witches were still fresh, Halloween was a terrifying night when the gates to the spirit world were opened and evil spirits walked. Turnips and gourds were carved into terrible faces to frighten the spirits away, and sometimes candles were set inside to even better effect. The ancestor of the Jack-O-Lantern was a hollowed out turnip meant to keep evil away from the house.
Now that Halloween has become a commercial holiday devoid of any meaning except costumes, candy, and pumpkins, we can take a moment to think back to when Halloween was alive and mankind believed that the dead walked the earth on All Hallow’s Eve, intent on stealing souls.