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Reflections! Trick-or-Treat!

By William L. Bulla

Halloween was a time when I, as a kid, went out to get "goodies" from my neighbors. We would knock on the door and shout, "trick-or-treat". Kids today are still doing that. My parents would not let me actually trick them if they failed to give me a treat, however, in my youth, many tricksters did do outrageous things. I can remember one occasion when my neighbor had someone's outhouse placed on his front porch. It was really a very "smelly" occasion.
My parents kept close reign on me, and my sister, at Halloween. We were allowed to invite friends into our house, or attend parties at our friends' home where they knew we would be properly supervised. We dunked for apples, played spin the bottle, and many other games as we strutted around in our Halloween costumes. As kids we loved the day and the parties we attended.
Today most children look upon Halloween the same way. They are excited to dress up in costumes and travel through the neighborhood, collecting candies and other goodies to take home and enjoy in the days ahead. Parents usually accompany their children as they travel through the homes in their neighborhoods. After shouting, "trick-or-treat" even if they do not receive a "treat," the children move on to another house and forget their threat to perform a "trick". Occasionally some kids, usually older ones, will run around and create acts of mischief. On some occasions these unnecessary malicious acts create damage to property.
The nice part of Halloween is that the children have a fun time with out being aware of the true meaning of the day. Halloween imagery includes themes of death, evil, the occult, magic, or mythical monsters. Traditional characters include ghosts, witches, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, demons, bats, and black cats. The colors black and orange are associated with the celebrations, perhaps because of the darkness of night and the color of fire, autumn leaves or pumpkins.
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages.
Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of "puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas. The custom of wearing costumes and masks at Halloween goes back to Celtic traditions of attempting to copy the evil spirits or placate them, in Scotland, for instance, where the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white.
Gee, it's tough to get so old that I can't go out and shout, "trick-or-treat" at my neighbors. I just have to be happy that my great grand children are willing to share their collection of Halloween "goodies" with me.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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