Archive | September, 2009

Trick or Treat?

Many of us have uttered those words or ones like them since we were old enough to wear a costume. Some say cute little rhymes at each house they visit. But, what is the origin of our current candy grabbing tradition on Halloween?

Trick or treating goes back to the celebration of Samhain by the Celts on the British Isles. This pagan festival was one that celebrated nature and its gifts. The practitioners also believed that on that night the boundaries between the living and the dead were compromised and spirits could once again walk the earth.
In an effort to appease the spirits, people would leave offerings of food and drink on their doorsteps. These rituals were thought to protect their harvests for another year. This was also the time for a practice called “souling.”

Souling involved food in exchange for prayers. During the celebration, poor people would take to begging for food from neighbors. This food was granted in exchange for prayers by the receivers for the souls of dead family members.

As the tradition was passed down, the begging became food left for these poor individuals who would continue to pray for the dead. Eventually, children were sent from house to house to receive food or bits of money for the family.

In some countries, the wearing of masks and receiving of gifts is still called “souling.” Small food items or money are still received by children. Trick or treating is a thoroughly modern and American tradition.
When it first started, trick or treating was just that. If a homeowner didn’t provide treats, the costumed person would perform some trick. This could be playing a prank on them or egging the house. In some countries, this is a part of the mischief of the spirits. Any spirit that didn’t receive food was also likely to do something to the person of the house.

Now, kids go from house to house, saying this phrase and receiving a ton of sweet treats. People travel from neighborhood to neighborhood for sweet fare. Tricks are more a part of the fun of the night than a slight against any one person. If a neighbor is not participating, they turn out their porch light so children will know not to approach.

Of course there are those mischief makers that egg houses and cars, but most neighborhoods celebrate Halloween without incident. Even the adults get involved in the celebration with fog machines and costume parties.

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Halloween Accessories

You can’t claim to celebrate Halloween without looking the part. Those who find the holiday comparable to Thanksgiving or Christmas go all out. Here are some must have items for Halloween.

They are ghoulish, green, warty, and wear black hats. I’m referring to witches. You can’t have a Halloween setup without witches. It could be silhouetted witches for the windows or a witch projection on the side of your home.

Don’t forget the broom. A witch is nothing without her broom. Perch one in the corner of the porch or beside a tree in the front yard. Many people use lifelike stuffed figures on their front porches to scare trick-or-treaters.

Dressed in all black, most people don’t even notice that they are even there. Mechanical figures will freak out the guests all the way to your door. A witch is a Halloween necessity.

What about black cats? You can’t have a witch without a black cat. They really aren’t any different from other cats, but they just got a bad rap over the centuries. That notwithstanding, a freaked out cat with ears perked and back arched, somewhere on the premises helps sets the mood.

One of the cutest things I’ve seen is a statue of three black cats emulating the see, hear, and speak no evil monkeys. Don’t worry kitties – we know you are purrrfectly safe. Sit one on the top of your mailbox to welcome the kids.

Glow in the dark paint works wonders for scary features during Halloween. A few well placed signs with this paint will entice even the most frightened person to check it out. Draw a few glowing monster footprints in the driveway leading through the grass. At least one person will follow the breadcrumbs.

What about the spooky vapors that rise from the swamp? No one wants a stinky swamp in their yard but the fog is okay. Fog machines can be positioned on the step or in the yard to create a ghostly atmosphere to your home. The fog can mask some ghoulish goblins and ghosts hanging from the trees.

Ghosts are also a key accessory for Halloween. Instead of stickers, drape huge helium balloons with white sheets and secure with a rope or rubber band. Let them hover around the yard all evening. Kids will want to know what’s keeping them bobbing around.

How do you accessorize for Halloween? There are so many things to choose from. Having too much will ruin the effect. There is a fine line between gaudy and sparse. Find the frightening balance.

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Most Popular Halloween Costumes

Each year, some costumes pop up more than others. Everyone seeks to be original, but the only way to be truly individual is to make your own costume. Barring that, you will look like someone else on that night. The trick is to look better than they do.

Here are some of the most popular costume ideas for 2008. Diehard Halloween fans are preparing as we speak for that one night of scary fun. The good thing about some of the popular costumes this year is that they work for kids, teens, and adults.

Trends in Halloween costumes often follow trends in movies. Popular movies always spawn a costume idea or two for October 31st. The most popular film so far this year is The Dark Knight. Batman has achieved a new level of cool that everyone wants to emulate. Tall, dark, and mysterious is in this year as many scout the stores for Batman paraphernalia.

Who doesn’t love a villain? They allow us to imagine we are bad without actually being bad. All votes this year are for The Joker. The super villain of The Dark Knight is not the whimsical psycho we’ve seen in the past. He is the real deal and scary. Adults will take pleasure in dressing up as this character.

There have been several super hero movies of late. Super heroes are always in season because they champion the cause of justice, and their costumes are really cool. For this year, kids and adults will emulate Wonder Woman, Superman, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, and Spiderman. Adults will add a little sex appeal to those costumes so as to differentiate themselves from their kids.

Religious costumes are always a family favorite. For those who celebrate Hallelujah Night at church, dressing up as Noah, Moses, John the Baptist and Jonah still highlight these events.

Cartoon characters are popular for kids. Some of the most popular are Japanimation creations like Naruto, Yugioh, Digimon, and Pokemon characters. These characters are joined by Disney favorites like Hannah Montana, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

But, the life of the party is still the costumes with timeless appeal. We are speaking of the 20’s flapper girl, Betty Boop, doctor and nurse, witches, devils, and of course, Elvira. It wouldn’t be a party without at least one of these people showing up.

What will you wear this year? Go with the popular crowd or set your sights on a more unique invention. Either way, have fun not only the night of Halloween, but putting your costume together too!

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