Leaves are turning colors, there’s a nip in the early morning air, Christmas merchandise is on the shelves. It’s time for Halloween.
Most of us have many family stories and memories built around this scariest of all holidays, usually from our carefree childhood days. While Halloween was always a big day for kids, it’s turned into a big deal for adults, too.
Halloween is a $5 to $8 billion dollar industry in the United States. According to the National Retail Federation, the “average American” will spend $65 to celebrate the holiday. That includes the 33 million of us who plan to visit at least one haunted attraction this season.
Many of us are well into the Halloween spending season. Moviegoers made vampire flick “30 Days of Night” the box office champion last weekend. And we’ve toted countless bags of candy into our homes in anticipation of the hordes of young spooks and goblins that will descend on our doorsteps next week. Some adults have fallen prey to pre-holiday candy binging. Perhaps you can identify with Rose Dyer’s plight.
We had a rule in our family that once you turned 12 years old, your trick or-treating days were over. Since my birthday is Nov. 3, I was cutting it pretty close as an 11-year-old. Then I got sick on Halloween and couldn’t drag myself out the door for one last sweet blitz of my neighborhood. While that loss has nagged me in the years since, it has offered a lame justification for pre-holiday binging.
One of my first assignments as a young reporter was to write about the dangers of Halloween candy. This was about the time that the media was awash with stories of razor blades tucked into apples, drug-laced cookies and brownies and wholesale tainting of candy. I discovered that these fears were more-or-less urban legends and that prudent parental review of what kids brought into the house generally sufficed. Dodging traffic while weighed down with cumbersome and vision-limiting costumes was far more dangerous, as was overloading young tummies with more sugar than Mother Nature ever intended.
The Des Moines area has a couple of curious Halloween practices that I’d never heard of before landing here over 25 years ago. One is the practice of making youngsters ask a riddle before handing over a treat. As you might expect, you get some pretty awful riddles. The other local oddity is the fact that something called Beggars’ Night has replaced Halloween. It’s always been on Oct. 30 in our years here, leaving Oct. 31 free to parents to have their own wild wingdings. That’s my theory; no one really seems to know how this tradition developed.
So, how do memories of Halloween fit into your life story? Are they suitable for sharing with your own kids and grandkids? This month’s Carnival of Genealogy focused on Halloween stories. Check it out.
Photo: Aaron Lehmer greets trick-or-treaters in Vacaville, Calif.