Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

Respecting the Halloween traditions


October 24, 2018

Every fall, about 2,000 years ago, the Celts celebrated a festival they called Shahmain (show-in). As the centuries passed, some Roman and Catholic Church activities were blended in with the Celts' culture to give us our current Halloween.

In the US, a quarter of the candy sold yearly is on Halloween, which is considered one of the biggest sales day of the year, (about $6 billion,) ranking second to only Christmas. So, we capitalists have added our financial (certainly not cultural) contribution to the festival.

The evening hasn't changed much in Helmville during the 60 years that I can remember with any clarity. It's a rural community, so parents and neighbors have to haul the children from house to house for their trick or treating.

It must have been a long evening for parents during the era of large families. The weather was always chilly, mandating heavy clothes and a half-hour of frustration to get the kids ready. And getting a half-dozen children with their sacks and masks in and out of the cars during the course of the evening had to have been exhausting.

The traditional trick during the 1950's Halloween was to tip over outhouses, but we never engaged in that, even though there were quite a few of them those days. First, we were probably related to the owner, and second, our parents were watching to keep us out of trouble.

Our only tricking activity was to put a little soap on some windows. All the people were generous, so there was little of that. A few of us got courageous one night and rubbed wax, which is difficult to remove, on the post office windows. The post master was a gentle man, so we didn't expect any complaints or retribution from him.

But word got down to us later that we had violated a federal building, and the FBI would be investigating. That quickly put us on our good behavior and caused some sleepless nights. But we survived without any jail time. Until they rebuilt the post office, I never walked by that little window without remembering the incident.

After we made our rounds, we'd go home and examine our booty, usually eating most of it that night. We all had our favorites, but apples and oranges were considered non-Halloween, and we ignored them. They later went into our school lunch boxes, so the produce did more than disappoint a few children.

I was too old for trick or treating when I got to Deer Lodge for high school, but there were usually adult supervised parties, designed to keep the boys from going out and burning someone's house down in the name of honest fun.

I lived with my maternal grandmother during my high school years. She was raised on the South Dakota plains and was extremely frugal, as well as being a traditional conservative who believed that no one should get something for nothing. That was FDR (whom she hated) and his cursed socialism.

She participated, but only to a point, sure that trick or treating would teach the children to grow up as beggars. She'd buy maybe five dollars of candy and hand it out sparingly. After the candy was gone, the lights in the house were turned off and we sat in silent dark until the begging ended. I was horribly embarrassed, and in the following years managed to be out of the house during Halloween.

When I lived in Helmville, being lazy, I would put a large bowl outside my door and let the kids help themselves. It saved us all a little work, and the children actually took less than if I were handing it out.

When I managed the Grant Creek Ranch in Missoula, I lived somewhat removed from the rest of the world, and only saw trick or treaters once in the twelve years I was there.

Four or five youngsters knocked on my door, and I had nothing for them. I told the oldest that I had only one can of Coca Cola and about 20 pounds of change, and for him to go to the car and ask his parents if money would be acceptable.

He came back and told me that the parents were ok with the idea, so I brought out the money. The older kids were somewhat reticent about taking cash, but the smallest (about 5 yrs. old, maybe) put his sack down and started scooping coins with both hands. He was good, and the evening cost me about $30, most of it going to the toddler.

It seems, now, that with the paucity of children in the world, Halloween has become an event in which adults put on ghoulish get ups and go to the bar to pig drunk.

Thinking further, that's probably how the festival began 2,000 years ago.

Respect for tradition, I guess.


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