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11.02.2012

FUN SIZED CANDY, the modern day soul cake



 
Halloween was a couple of days ago.  It's a strange sort of holiday.  I can't say that I have a moral aversion to it necessarily nor a deep love for it.  I just don't totally understand its purpose like I do with the other big well celebrated holidays.  But none-the-less, I participated in its festivities of passing out candy to those kids that ventured to my doorstep.  This year I bought chocolate candy to pass out instead of the Twizzlers licorice I had last year.  According to my husband, "no kid wants Twizzlers at Halloween!"

The word Halloween itself has some Christian roots.  Originally said as All Hallows Even (for evening and yes I meant to type the word Even), it was the night before All Saints Day (November 1st).  That day was a celebration of the Saints and for prayer for those who had passed on - that hadn't reached heaven yet.  Children would go door to door collecting "soul cakes" as a means to pray people out of purgatory.  It was a sort of obligatory holy day.

 
The wearing of costumes has been linked to All Saints/All Souls Day where it was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day (November 2).  All Hallows' Eve (November 1) provided a last chance for the dead to get vengeance on their enemies before moving to the after life. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking vengeance, people would use masks or costumes to disguise their identities.



Though the word itself has some Christian influences and connections, it is also theoried to be steeped in paganism dating back to Celtic times of the Samhain Festival.  Harmless enough, the Festival was celebrated October 31st and November 1st to celebrate and mark the end of harvest and the beginning of winter, the darker months.  Rituals of slaughtering cattle for the winter months evolved to theories of human sacrifices being made. 

Samhain was seen as a time when the 'door' to the after life opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as fairies, to come into the world. The souls of the dead were said to revisit their homes on Samhain.  Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them.  A sort of "feast of the dead" and "festival of the fairies".  Harmful spirits and fairies were also thought to be active at Samhain.

Who cares right? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. .  .  .

In its modern present-day state of celebration, Halloween centers itself around costumes, pumpkins, corn mazes and the like, with its culmination in the quest and stock piling of candy.  Mostly, the crux of this holiday that doesn't cause the banks to close, schools to give kids a day off or the stock market to take a holiday, is going to stranger's houses dressed in some costume to hide your identity and receiving in return candy.  Black, orange and sometimes purple are the traditional colors of Halloween.  It seems that we have culturally taken some of the pagan and Christian rituals associated with this holiday's beginnings and mixed them together. 

The words trick or treat was said to indicate an idle threat of mischief to the homeowner or his property if no treat was given out at the doorstep.  Very few kids at my doorstep just a few days ago said trick or treat.  I said it to them in an attempt to get them to participate in this strange holiday's traditional exchange.  Some had great manners and said thank-you after receiving a piece of candy.  Others just stood there blankly treating you like a car part on a conveyor belt. 

In a world where people keep more to themselves, don't engage with strangers for fear of danger, this holiday amazes me.  Why am I not a stranger to most of the entire neighborhood on that day?  What makes a piece of candy and a costume break that barrier?  And who in the world needs to end the night with a plastic pumpkin full of fun-sized candy? 

I like what some local dentists have taken to doing, buying kids' Halloween candy off them for $2 a pound.  The candy is then included as part of the packages to the troops overseas for the holidays.  You know it'll just rot your teeth out:)  That must be why carved pumpkins usually don't have teeth.

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