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Posts Tagged ‘halloween’

We all know Halloween traditions differ from region to region.

For instance, the Oct. 30 “Mischief Night”  or “Devil’s Night” is a bigger, more entrenched deal in some areas than it is in others.

Where I grew up, Mischief Night was talked about more than it was ever actually celebrated. In other places, the toilet paper flies wild and free every Oct. 30.

And in still other areas, they skip the petty vandalism and go straight to burning stuff down. (Wiki tells me Detroit has adopted citizens’ patrols, running several nights a year, to deter arson and other serious crimes on Devil’s Night.)

Another example of regional differences: Some areas insist on holding tricks-or-treats on Oct. 31 every year, while others hold them on the Friday night immediately preceding Halloween. My feelings on that subject have already been explored in this space.

I never thought there was any disagreement on when tricks-or-treats should start on the big night, though. Kids aren’t supposed to go out until after dinner, and preferably not until after things get a little bit dark, for proper atmosphere.

Right?

I find myself questioning that after reading my grandfather’s calendar entry from this week 40 years ago.

October 31, 1974. Apologies for the poor photo quality of some of the 1974-75 examples used here recently.

October 31, 1974. Apologies for the poor photo quality of some of the 1974-75 calendar entries used here recently.

The entry appears to suggest that kids began arriving “after 3 p.m.”

If they did, my grandpa would not have been there to serve them, as he would have had to drive my great-grandma (“Pauline”) to her 2:30 p.m. doctor’s appointment.

Presumably my grandma stayed home and handed out the Mary Janes, or Zagnut bars, or whatever old-school candy my grandparents stocked themselves with. Unless they gave out nickels or something. That would have been like them.

This entry seems remarkable to me. I’ve never known anyone, anywhere to make the rounds of houses in daylight.

There’s no indication of rain on the calendar, or anything else that might have forced an early Halloween. In fact, my grandpa’s calendar entries say October 31, 1974, kicked off several days of Indian summer, with temperatures reaching 80 degrees the following day. So, weather clear, track fast, as they say in the racing game.

Also, Halloween 1974 fell on a Thursday. I’m not sure kids of trick-or-treating age were even out of school at 3 p.m. that day. (Not to mention that at least some of their parents would still have been at work and unable to accompany them.)

Hope Street, in fairness, was no leafy cul-de-sac. It was a busy street in the ’70s (it’s even busier today), and maybe not an ideal place to walk after dark. So that might be one understandable argument for holding tricks-or-treats early.

I still find the idea of daytime trick-or-treating too bizarre to accept, though.

So I’m going to stick with the hypothesis I find most believable: Maybe one kid showed up at 3:30 because he was sick, or his family was going out of town, or some other emergency arose. Then all the other kids showed up at the expected time after dark.

That’s probably it … there was one seven-year-old kid back in the Ford administration who had a touch of grippe, and went out trick-or-treating early so he could get his candy before the creeping crud set in … and his tortured meanderings have just occupied a solid hour-plus of my life here in 2014.

Hope you got a good haul, dude.

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…are closing in to seal your doom.

Halloween is wonderful because it is the holiday that asks the least of its participants, while providing the most reward.

Easter and Christmas have those heavy religious overtones. If you’re a kid and you’re not careful, you might just get bundled into those fancy clothes you hate and dragged to church, where you will sit for what seems like days, not-listening to words that mean nothing to you anyway.

Thanksgiving can be a bear if you don’t like turkey, heavy starches, or family. I always enjoyed my family visits, because my family felt a pretty deep connection and got along well. But for millions of people in dysfunctional families, Thanksgiving must be torture.

(Oh, and did I mention that the ever-increasing attention paid to Thanksgiving weekend shopping has corrupted that holiday with the same foul greed-poison that curdled Christmas? Ring-a-ding-ding.)

New Year’s Day brings with it the nagging subliminal reminder that you’re supposed to magically Do Better next year, even though it’s all you can do to make the rent and keep breathing. Yeah, that’s gonna happen.

Washington’s Birthday and Columbus Day don’t really ask much of us; but then again, they don’t give us much, either. One is a day to spend knocking the icicles off your gutters, and the other is a day to spend cleaning leaves out of your yard — or traveling interstate to appease some family member you won’t be seeing at Thanksgiving.

Halloween, on the other hand, is a day to put on a flammable plastic Ace Frehley costume and go collect all the Three Musketeers bars you can carry, with no obligation in return except to mumble an occasional “thank you” through the confines of your mask. And if you don’t say “thank you,” it doesn’t matter: The person at the door has two more bags of candy bars, wants desperately to get rid of them, and isn’t going to go chasing you for the purpose of getting their candy back.

Beat that with a stick.

10/31/1980

Me circa 1980. I never did get to be the Space Ace for Halloween, but that doesn't mean I didn't have some classic costumes anyway. (This one looks more like Casey Kasem than Arthur Fonzarelli.)

I have no idea how, or even if, people celebrated Halloween when my grandfather was a kid. By the time I knew him, he was where I am now — on the other side of the big door, handing out the candy to the ghosts and goblins.

And of course, he was celebrating the holiday on his calendar:

10/31/61

Oct. 31, 1961. Boo!

Oct. 31, 1967. The witches fly west...

Oct. 31, 1975. ... and the witches fly east.

Unfortunately, my grandpa did not keep consistent year-to-year count of how many visitors he got. It would have been interesting to see whether the flow of children to his door ebbed and flowed in keeping with national youth demographic trends.

(That said, I only have his calendars for the years 1961 to 1975 — years thick with the youth of the Baby Boom generation. So I imagine the demand was probably pretty consistent.)

Eighteen trick-or-treaters doesn’t seem like all that much. That might have been because Hope Street was a comparatively large and busy street, not a quiet suburban tract. My guess is that most kids did their trick-or-treating someplace else — not that they wouldn’t have found a friendly reception at 1107 Hope, had they stopped in.

Finally, I will note with quiet approval that Stamford did it right.

Here in eastern Pennsylvania, most townships (with the eager agreement of those white-knuckled prigs who run school districts)  have decided that tricks-or-treats must happen on the Friday prior to Halloween. That’s like decreeing that gifts must be opened on the Thursday prior to Christmas, or that resolutions must be made on the last business day before New Year’s Day. Complete bushwah, in other words.

But you’ll notice that my grandpa marks Halloween on Oct. 31 every year. (Other calendar entries not included here also mention “spook” visitors coming on Oct. 31.)

No school boards deciding to reset the calendar in their own image. Just candy n’ costumes, and maybe the occasional bit of toilet paper. And if it’s a Tuesday night, well, funny how life still goes on on Wednesday.

Yeah, they know how to roll in New England; and I’ll get back there someday, some way. Right now, though, I’m going to go make sure I’ve got enough Three Musketeers bars laid on.

You think three bags are enough?

(P.S.: Come back tomorrow for a bonus pop-culture post with vague relevance to my grandfather. No Ace Frehley content.)

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