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In a few days there will be munchkins knocking on doors looking for treats or warning of tricks from the lords and ladies of the manor. Obviously, I'm referring to the peculiar custom of Halloween, long thought to be an Irish/Scottish tradition. Some of the little scoundrels unknowingly will cause mischief just by walking through expensive landscaping.
Remarkably, Halloween is the second largest retail season behind Christmas. An odd holiday hard to define, it’s originally to have been a day of remembering the dead and may have pagan roots. Its origins can’t be traced to any specific peoples although October 31 has always been the day celebrated. The year of inception however can range a thousand years apart, depending on historical source.
Being the father of four children raised in Clifton, and now having grandchildren, I am well steeped in the custom of wearing costumes and trick-or-treating, a practice that appears to date back to the 1930’s in the US.
I recall vividly when I went trick-or-treating in Chebanse in the 60’s. One year my mother embarrassingly made me wear green tights and something resembling a sandwich board to go as a can of peas. Dad was the Green Giant that year.
It was so different back in ‘60's Chebanse when parents didn’t have to accompany kids around town for trick-or-treating. This allowed us rascals to do some real mischief, like soaping windows or smashing pumpkins off a porch. Ever soap a window and find someone frowning back at you?
One year, a group of exceptionally creative rebels lined the main street of Chebanse with scrapped cars. There was even one placed atop the office building of the old grain elevator. Folklore states that was the same group of guys that might have been instrumental in some infamous graffiti painted on the water tower on another Halloween.
But I digressed down Memory Lane.
I googled the top Halloween costumes this year for children. I was surprised to see they hadn't changed much since our kids were small. Sadly, costumes now are all store bought. I no longer bring up the home-made costume idea anymore – the family finds my suggestions annoying. Who among us didn’t don a black cape and some plastic fangs to go as Dracula?
Typical costumes like Batman, Pooh, Star Wars, vampires, pumpkins, and ninjas are still popular - or back again - I may have missed a generation. New to the list is the “Incredibles” characters, Mary Poppins, Nella the Knight, and the Black Panther. Prices ranged from $15 to an eye-popping $90 - for a costume that will be worn once. Every parent must also buy a special carrier of some sort to hold the bootie from the night’s haul.
Speaking of the costs, there is the obligatory winter coat, stocking hats, and gloves that are worn over the top of the costume as after all, we are in Illinois. Gas money for the SUV to cart munchkins around the neighborhood must be factored. Somehow, we were fine hoofin' it around Chebanse back in the day in our home-made costume, toting a bulging IGA brown paper bag or a pillow case.
We have a couple grandkids temporarily living with us. They are dressing as Shark Man and Lava Girl. I've never heard of these characters before, but the kids exhibit pure exhilaration when they don these costumes. Lava Girl has this shock of bright, flowing red hair representing ...lava. Looks more like the red nest of a bird to me. (Don’t worry her mother doesn’t read my columns.)
Six other grandkids have changed their minds so often, and are still doing so at the time of this writing, that we have no idea who they will look like. The youngest said he was going to be "Slappy", whoever that is, then later changed his mind to a chicken. Where does a two-and-a-half-year-old come up with the idea of being a chicken? Or is that "Slappy the Chicken?" Anyway, when theses six show up at the door, I might mistake them for a neighbor’s kid and slip them the smaller $5 candy bar, rather than the special super-sized $10 chocolate bar their grandmother bought them.
And we have two grandbabies. I know they are going as a pretty darn cute rendition of Beauty and the Beast. I've already seen a preview. Hope I didn't spoil the surprise for the other grandparents though.
As for the Halloween party we’re invited to, I’m gonna drink a whole bunch of caffeinated beverages, stick a feather in my hat and go as Senator Elizabeth Warren.