EDUCATION: A Little History on Celebrating Halloween | ShesIt

Halloween—Fattening and Fun

 

Across America, people are excited about Halloween. The decorations are out. Everyone is asking, “what” and “who” are you going to be? Pumpkins, skulls, hay, costumes, bags of treats are seen and sold everywhere. The anticipation is mounting.

 

So why would some religions frown on Halloween? The answer is it has Pagan roots having to do with spirits and ghosts. Christianity took it over and added Saints to the mix. My own dad, who came from an orthodox Jewish family, was not happy with his kids trick or treating. He lost that battle. We won!

 

There are still some faiths that shun Halloween and refrain from activities, as is their right in this free country of ours.

 

There is an interesting history behind Halloween. As far back as the 15th century, among Christians, there had been a custom of sharing soul-cakes from October 31 through November 2. People would visit houses and take soul-cakes, either as representatives of the dead, or in return for praying for their souls. The name for this is “souling.” Here’s a recipe for traditional Irish soul-cakes.

 

The wearing of costumes, or “guising,” is noted to have happened in Scotland in the 16th century, and later of Britain and Ireland. There are many references to mumming, guising or souling on Halloween in Britain and Ireland during the late 18th century and the 19th century. It’s the first syllable to “disguising,” hence costumes.

 

There’s also the term “mumming,” dressing up and parading around the town. Now we know where we get the name of Philadelphians famous tradition of the “Mummers’ Parade.”

 

When we were small, our mom would sew wonderful costumes. We’d use pillow cases for the candy. Growing up in East Camden, we went from row house to row house. They were connected, so we’d kill two birds with one stone by knocking on adjacent doors.

 

It turned out Mom had an ulterior motive when we came home—she’d have us go up to her bedroom and have us dump the treats on her bed. Mom would then hand pick her favorites and have a field day with them. It just dawned on me how I miss that dumping on the bed tradition.

 

Speaking of delectable sweets, American children throughout the land are on a sugar high for a few days, never mind a few more bathroom trips. No child would say it isn’t worth it.

 

Mind you, Jews and Muslims get a head start on a few holidays around Labor Day. The High Holy Days and Ramadan respectively. The festivities start in these homes, way before, and are celebrated with sumptuous meals. There are enough calories consumed now to put a dent in the weight loss and fitness we sustain from spring through summer. Not to say Halloween is not a welcome event in the lives of these children.

 

It is a picnic for those ambitious calories. Those calories will now be on a roll, for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve. Whew. There is also the name, “Hallowmas.” This obviously connotes, Halloween and Christmas.

 

Then we will be barraged by diet commercials as New Years’ nutritional resolutions are made. In these Autumn and Winter months it is one fattening holiday after another, but comforting and delicious! We’ll get back on the wagon in 2019!

 

Of note is that this Halloween will be the 2nd anniversary of our downsizing and moving to a sweet neighborhood. It was jarring to move in on Halloween and then have trick or treaters knocking and ringing at our door. Some expressed dismay since the predecessors here had a ritual of wiring the door with sound effects and lining the walkway with orange flickering lights. We are so boring.

 

But this time I’ll be ready. Treats will be in a festive basket; our dog will be dressed up in his Winnie the Pooh costume. Let the festivities begin!

 

Beth

Beth grew up in Camden, New Jersey and majored in Education and History at Rutgers University and later obtained a Masters in Family Therapy at Drexel University. She’s married to her husband of 41 years with two young adult children—a daughter and son—who both work in NYC. She loves movies, Netflix, books, history, linguistics and exploring the human condition. From her extensive background, she’s accumulated many stories and lessons and looks forward to shaping the conversation.