This coming Saturday, October 31, is Halloween —an “unofficial” holiday that is observed by most. Driving around Covington you can see ghosts and skeletons hanging from trees, tombstones in front yards and pumpkins on the front porches. There are big blow-up figures and lights much like Christmas, except this time they maybe black cats and jack-a-lanterns. The lights will most likely be orange.
Our celebration of Halloween has deep ancient roots dating all the way back to Scotland and Ireland. It is the ancient Celtic celebration called Samhain. This is from where many of our ideas about Halloween have come from. October 31 was the last day of the Celtic year.
Samhain came at the end of October. This was the time between the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Some ancients saw it as a time when there was a bridge between the living and the dead. The idea of wearing masks or costumes was thought to keep you from being confused with the ghosts they thought were in the world. Even the idea of “trick or treats” may have had its roots in the food and drink left out on the door step for the ghosts.
Like many ancient holidays, it was changed by the spread of Christianity. Nov. 1 is a very Holy Day for many as All Hallows Day. The next day, Nov. 2, is All Souls Day. The evening before November 1 was called, “All Hallows Eve.” This evolved in our word, “Halloween.”
Halloween has become the second largest commercial holiday in our nation. We spend about $2.5 billion on costumes, and another $3.5 billion on candy to bring the total spending on Halloween up to six billion dollars.
Come Saturday night, kids, hopefully with their parents, will set out to ring door bells and shout the very familiar, “Trick or Treat”. In the first part of the 20th century there was more emphases on the tricks as porch chairs got moved or windows were “soaped”. But following World War II, the emphases switched to the children and the giving out of candy.
There was a day when homemade treats were given out. But due to safety concerns the push is now for candy that is sealed in a wrapper. Also for safety reasons make sure the one is costume does not have their vision blocked and take along a flashlight with the group.
You will find a variety of characters at your door on Halloween. There will be the traditional skeletons, witches, and ghosts. There will be cheerleaders and ball plays. But add to those “Superhero’s” such as Wolverine or Cat Woman. You might find a character from Star Wars or a game such as Super Mario. And we must not forget vampires or zombies.
Last year we had more than 300 children came to our door. This is fair warning be ready if you want to participate. A porch light on means you are invited to ring the doorbell. Lights out should be taken as a sign to move on to the next house.
There is an alternative to going out in the neighborhood. It is the fifth annual “Scare on the Square.” It is a time for hayrides, games, treats and surprises. The event is sponsored by S.C.A.N. (Safer Covington Action Network). Main Street Covington partners with the S.C.A.N. in this effort. The network is a joining together of our police, fire, and emergency services. “Scare on the Square” is just one of their efforts. They goal is to promote a safe environment through public safety and community involvement. The “Scare” starts at 5:30 pm and ends at 7i:30 pm. And you are encouraged to have the children dressed in their Halloween costumes.
The “Scare” is another time when the Square is the venue for a community wide event. The work done a few months ago on the Square pays many dividends to our city and county.
Another tradition that has grown in popularity over the last few years is called “Trunk or Treat”. You might think of this as “Halloween tailgating”. This usually happens in a sponsoring church or school parking lot. The cars may be decorated and the “trunks” hold treats for those making the rounds. Some of these have already occurred but check your church or school’s calendar to see if there is such an event before Halloween.
There is an added bonus this year in the way the calendar works. Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend and we get an extra hour of sleep. Thus there will be plenty of time to recover from either running to the door for the trick or treaters or from going to the Square or walking the neighborhood.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.