Saturday, November 02, 2019

Halloween in my Small Town...

My friend, Janet, and I are waiting for the goblins!!

The warm cider simmers on the back burner while the pot of gypsy soup slowly bubbles on the front burner. Candles of orange and black, sweets scents of autumn, fill the other crevices of this old house. I look at the calendar in disbelief that this is my last column for October…the golden month and one of my favorite months. I want to pinch myself with the flowing of time to slow it down a bit, but that won’t do it!

My house probably looks a lot like your house. Pumpkins on the stoop, mums in the garden, and decorations around the house including the ones that are voice activated. My stuffed raven sits atop my Edgar Allan Poe book along with spider web-woven gloves. There is more, of course, as I am a Halloween girl and will lament the ending of this day at midnight on Day of the Dead!

Until then, there is much to do…shows to perform (yes, I am back at Pokagon this year!), Poe Night at Trine, treats to hand out (please bring your children to my house), and a costume contest to run on Halloween night at 7:00 on the square.
I still see my dad lurking in the shadows while we scurried up and down our streets as a kid. As spooky as it was (and we went after dark), it was at least comforting to know he was there all along waiting for us. Scuffing in the leaves was almost as good as getting candy and then later on knowing those leaves would be burning on the curbs. Everyone did it then. Now, of course, we compost them ourselves or send them off to leaf paradise in the hands of our street department. But, oh that smell of leaves burning in the street!

The celebration of Halloween is ancient. In 1,000 A.D., the church designated November 2 as All Saints Day to honor the dead. The custom began as the peasants visited the homes of the wealthy families. The peasants were given “soul cakes” as gifts in exchange for prayers for the dead. Later on children were sent 
out to collect these cakes and/or money on All Hallows Eve which is October 31st. The tradition of trick-or-treating came to the United States with the Irish immigrants in the 1840’s following the potato famine. In Ireland and other European countries, a turnip was carved for All Hallows Eve, but when the immigrants arrived in America, there was not a huge amount of turnips to be found. But pumpkins? Well, there you have it! These pumpkins were set outside on stoops and by garden gates to help guide lost spirits home. 

We have many superstitions associated with Halloween such as beware of black cats. The black cat at one time symbolized the arrival of witchcraft by (yes, I must say this) elderly, solitary women. Yep. The pagan goddess of Samhain (the name of this ancient day) was also an elderly, solitary woman known as the crone. And yet even more (sorry about this) the broomstick was once again brought in by the elderly, solitary woman because she usually couldn’t afford a horse so used a walking stick, or a broom, as she maneuvered her pathways in the woods.
The colors of orange and black symbolized the colors of autumn and the death of summer.

Now here is some good news for all of us elderly, solitary crones. Bobbing for apples was an activity by communities across America. It still is lots of fun, but it was believed the first person who got an apple without using their hands would be the first to marry. 

My candlelight flickers, the wind blows, the leaves scatter across my yard. The soup is ready, and I let my bowl of soup cool as I pull out my book of Poe. I read aloud between the sips of tea, and keep the spirit of Halloween alive in this old house. How many trick-or-treaters have crossed this doorstep? 

So, my friends I leave you with a little bit of Poe. (Be sure to read it aloud!)
Happy Halloween! See you on my doorstep!

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”