The Witching Hour

calendar-carved-carving-1480861

We all know Halloween is funded by Big Dental to create more cavities but it’s also true that Halloween traditions started long before lobbyists destroyed the planet. Black cats, pumpkins and ghosts existed at least 50 years ago, and probably longer.

So how did Halloween customs get started? Lucky for you, I researched this topic on the Internet contraption.

Did you know Bobbing for Apples was actually a dating game in ancient Rome? Kind of like Tinder, only with more drowning.

My elementary school did a dry version called Bobbing for Marbles. Teachers filled a plastic pool with flour and mixed in a few dozen marbles. We had to use our mouths to find the marbles. The two most likely outcomes were a) Inhale flour and die or b) Inhale a marble and die. Not even joking here.

Jack-o’-lanterns have a weird backstory that involves a guy named Stingy Jack, the devil and wandering spirits. I guess ghosts are afraid of gourds and root vegetables.  Who knew? Originally they used turnips, not pumpkins, but who’s ever heard of a turnip spice latte? So they had to start using pumpkins.

Black cats became associated with Halloween because witches have black cats. Duh.

Costumes date back to Biblical times when Jacob dressed up as his brother to trick his blind father into giving him keys to the donkey. It was also the first trick-or-treat on record.

When I was a kid, costumes included plastic masks, made from asbestos and glue, that would slowly asphyxiate you if you didn’t walk into a ditch first because you couldn’t see s*** through the pinpoint eyeholes.

Bats get a bad reputation. They’re not inherently evil, except for vampire bats that turn into the bloodsucking undead to hunt humans for food and eternal life. But originally, people would sit around bonfires (the 1780’s bug zapper), wishing for things like penicillin and electricity. The fires would attract insects and the insects attracted bats and people freaked out. As we are wont to do.

Handing out candy has several origin stories, including buying off zombies with snacks, bribing the dead, and kids going from house to house asking families for dinner because they didn’t want to eat what their mom had spent hours making for them because they’re ungrateful little . . .

Anyhoo.

Treats handed out to children have also evolved. It’s gone from apples and boiled carrots (boo) to king-size Butterfinger bars (hooray!).

Here’s what my Halloween bag contained when I was a kid: 8 dozen rolls of Smarties, 17 types of rock-hard bubble gum, 38 Bit-O-Honeys, 422 Pixie sticks, 25 pounds of saltwater taffy, 14 spider rings and one mini Snickers bars. It was the ‘70s. Don’t judge.

adorable-animal-canine-1564506One element of Halloween remained a mystery to me. When did we think dressing dogs in tutus was a good idea? I assumed the whole pet costume fiasco was started by rich, white girls with too much time and money. Turns out, in the 19th century, dog costumery was a thing – with the animal fashion industry churning out traveling cloaks, silk jackets, tea gowns and . . . wait for it . . . dog bikinis.

What Halloween traditions do you observe? Knife throwing? Handing out real goldfish to trick-or-treaters? You never know what your customs will become centuries from now.

Whatever you do, don’t sell your candy to a dentist. Big Dental just sells it back to grocery stores to reuse for the next Halloween.

Originally published in the Davis Clipper 

Halloween for Dummies: Top 5 Tips For a Successful Holiday

hocuspocus

Some people live in countries (or states) where Halloween is ignored because people believe it’s based on Satanic rituals and pagan beliefs. They might have a small Jesus-themed trunk-or-treat event in a church parking lot, handing out mini New Testaments, before heading home for a family sing-a-long. But in Utah (home of pagan beliefs) we celebrate Halloween like NO OTHER. We Halloween the s**t out of October.

I attribute our love for this dark holiday as a respite from the otherwise strangling hold the dominant religious culture has on our everyday lives. When you’re afraid to go to lunch on Sunday or fearful of ordering a glass of wine with dinner, Halloween is nothing!

So if you are Halloween clueless, here are some tips to help you get through this hellacious month.

  1. Decorate your house. This doesn’t need to be elaborate. Maybe a mummy by the doorstep or a bloody head on the mantel. It seems the more religiously oppressed a person is, the more Halloween decorations they purchase. If your neighbor has a plethora of monster-themed inflatables, they probably need a religious intervention.
  2. Get a costume. To blend in on Halloween, you’ll need a disguise. Again, if you’re super-religious, you’ll probably decide to go as a sexy Dr. Who or a nymphomaniac circus clown. If you’re more moderate, a T-shirt with a clever Halloween slogan will do.
  3. tshirtCarve a pumpkin. If you’re a vegan, gutting and carving up this orange squash could make you a little nauseous. But suck it up. Carving pumpkins is a big business. Instead of using dull butter knives and metal nail files (like I did 40 years ago), there are now super-duper carving kits with all kinds of blades that will guarantee you a night in the ER. (For extra points, roast the pumpkin seeds; then brag about how you roast pumpkin seeds.)
  4. Buy candy. In bulk.  This is a holiday MUST. Utahns have an average of 9.5 children per family. There are approximately 800 families that will come to your door begging for candy. You must give each trick-or-treater (aka Halloween beggars) at least three pieces of candy. You do the math. I don’t do math. It’s a lot of candy.
  5. Host a Halloween party. Part of the requisite celebration is throwing a Halloween bash. Spend at least 14 business days constructing a menu that includes demon-themed delicacies. Make sure to throw a tantrum when people don’t appreciate your culinary efforts. Post photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and every other social media platform that validates your superior Halloween cooking talents.

2014-10-25 18.22.41

(Last year’s Carrie-themed Halloween cake.)

Important note: you must have ALL Halloween decorations, costumes, foods and paraphernalia removed by midnight on October 31 so you can start decorating for Christmas on Nov. 1. Happy Halloween!

Are You Too Old To Trick or Treat?

I don’t ask for ID when someone shows up on my doorstep begging for candy–as long as it’s Halloween. I don’t care if you’re a gangsta teen, a middle-aged mom, a 2-day-old baby or even that creepy 30-something guy who’s always hanging around the park. I’ll give anyone candy–because it’s CANDY! Everyone loves candy!

But in the interest of safety, there comes a time when you should probably hang up the trick-or-treat bag and stay planted on the couch watching Dark Shadows reruns. Here are some hints you should stay home on Halloween:

  • You leave your house to go trick or treating, and don’t remember how to find your way back.
  • You remember meeting the original Dracula.
  • Someone says, “What are you supposed to be?” You reply, “Dead.”
  • People keep saying, “Great old lady costume!”

DSC_0043 - Copy

(But I’m not wearing a costume.)

  • Your walker keeps getting stuck in the sidewalk cracks.
  • Every time someone gives you taffy, you whine, “Well, how the hell am I supposed to eat that?”
  • Your idea of “giving someone a scare” means grabbing your chest and screaming.
  • You creak, groan and moan like a Halloween soundtrack.
  • You feel the need to shake your cane at hoodlum children.

cane(“Just wait ’til I get my hands on you, you little whipper-snappers!”

  • You keep asking to use your neighbors’ bathroom.
  • On every porch, you stop to tell the trick-or-treaters that you “remember buying a sackful of candy for only 5 cents at old Mr. McGowan’s grocery store that was right next to Mr. Polanski’s barber shop. They’re both dead now.”
  • When given hard candy, you ask if they have something “a little softer.”
  • You hand your bag to your grandkids and tell them to “not come back until it’s full–or you’re out of the will.”

Whatever your age, trick-or-treat safely, don’t eat your candy in one night–and save me all the Snickers! Happy Halloween!

Halloween Candy Personality Quiz

Leave it to Facebook to help you determine which U.S. President you are, what horror monster you’d be, your favorite color and if you’ve ever attended college. Online quizzes are the new GED; and you know you’ve taken at least one (dozen).

I thought I’d create a quiz to determine what your Halloween candy behavior says about you. It is entirely accurate, so be aware, you might learn something disturbing about your personality.

1. Do you hand out: a) king-size Kit Kat bars, b) fun-size Kit Kat bars, c) what’s a Kit Kat bar?, or d) apples.

kit kat

(This is the WRONG WAY to eat a Kit Kat!)

2. Do you search your kid’s Halloween bag for: a) full-size chocolate bars, b) unwrapped candy, c) isn’t everything mine already? or d) apples stuffed with razor blades.

3. How long did your Halloween candy last when you were a child: a) a few weeks, b) a few days, c) a few hours or d) I gave it to my little brother.

4. Which Halloween candy will get your car egged: a) Tootsie rolls, b) Hubba Bubba, c) pencils/erasers, or d) apples.

5. How much do you spend on Halloween candy: a) more than $100, b) between $50 and $100, c) less than $10, or d) I don’t buy candy.

6. What do you do with leftover Halloween candy: a) give it to a children’s shelter, b) give it to neighbor kids, c) you’ve already eaten it, or d) I don’t keep candy in my home.

candy

7. Which of these is NOT appropriate to give out on Halloween: a) toothbrushes, b) fruit, c) sample-size dish soap, or d) candy.

8. What is your Halloween candy of choice: a) candy bars, b) suckers, c) chewy taffy or d) apples.

RESULTS:

If you answered mostly A, you are trying too hard. Kids don’t appreciate your efforts. They’ll probably kick your pumpkins before they leave.

If you answered mostly B, you’ve put the holiday in perspective, but kids will still kick your pumpkins, and probably steal your Halloween lawn ornaments.

If you answered mostly C, you are most likely male and didn’t even realize it was Halloween until strange children in costumes knocked on your door, begging for food. Your car will definitely get egged.

If you answered mostly D, you are obviously a health nut, and need to be slapped. Not only will children avoid your home, they will place warning sides on your fence letting the neighborhood know it’s not worth coming to your home. And they’ll kidnap your cat.

fun size

When it comes to Halloween candy, there really are no wrong answers. If you drop in it my bag, I’ll most likely eat it. And I won’t kick your pumpkins, either.

Watching the Parade Go By

I’ve been a dedicated parade attendee for more than four decades. I’m not sure why. It’s not like watching a local parade is the same as enjoying the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with its bloated, floating cartoon characters. It’s more like watching paint dry.

FWI 2014 (13)(When the librarians stroll by, pushing book carts, you  know you’re watching a small-town parade.)

Each year, the beauty queens float by on their crepe-paper concoctions, with themes like “Honoring the Past” or “Striving for the Future.” I’ve never seen a float with the slogan, “Kicking Back and Enjoying Today” where, instead of standing and waving, Miss City could recline in a hammock, drinking spiked lemonade.

And too many cities have asked parade participants to STOP THROWING CANDY! This is insane. Next to Halloween, parades are the very best, free candy events in the universe!!  I leave with my pockets stuffed with salt water taffy, Smarties, smashed suckers and Tootsie Rolls. I understand city leaders are concerned about residents’ safety, but really? I could understand the candy ban if people are throwing baseball-sized jawbreakers into the crowd, or those pointy rocket suckers. But taffy? I can’t imagine that doing any serious damage. I’d like to see the number of Tootsie Roll emergency room incidents that caused city leaders to outlaw candy throwing. Boo.

FWI 2014 (12)

(I’ve trained my grandchildren to run into the street to get me candy.)

Here’s a parade idea: what if marching bands actually played music?!?! Call me crazy, but watching overheated, sweaty band members march by without musical accompaniment seems a leeeetle paradoxical. But, then again, having heard some of these bands “play” “music,” maybe it’s best to let them  pass by in silence. (Disclaimer: I marched in my share of parades as a flute player–not good enough to be a flautist–and I have “Let’s Go Band” scarred into my psyche. Permanently.)

Why are clowns still a thing in parades? I had hoped climate change would force them into other lines of work–like not scaring the s*** out of kids.

FWI 2014 (20)

(And don’t forget the random snow plow. In August.)

And why must there be cars, cars and more cars? Especially if the passengers aren’t throwing candy. You can only look at so many VW Bugs before you want to punch the family next to you.

Finally, there’s always that one random dude walking the parade route, handing out candy–and you’re not quite sure if he’s a politician or a pedophile. (But I still take the candy.)

Fun Days 2014 (2)

(And I still can’t explain this creepy dude.)

Now that parade season is over, cities have an entire year to do it right next time. Either way, I’ll be there cheering the local librarians and snatching candy from babies.

Sugary Goodness

My sugar addiction is well documented.

As a child, my diet consisted of Sugar Pops, sugar cookies, Sugar Babies and sugar straight from the bowl. We lived in Murray, Utah, about a mile from a small store called Mr. G’s where I spent every waking moment perusing the candy aisles, deciding which sugar-filled candy item to stuff in my face. (Answer: everything.)

I would also buy candy cigarettes and Fresca (because Fresca looked like a beer can). I’m sure I convinced all my neighbors that little 9-year-old Peri was a raging alcoholic and a chain smoker.

                                        

My most common purchases at Mr. G’s included:

B-B-Bats (any flavor).

Wax bottles filled with a teensy amount of sugary liquid (might have been a sedative).

Charms Sweet & Sour Pops that would make the roof of  my mouth bleed.

Freshen Up gum that had a squirt of something oozy in the middle (Ewww).

Bottle Caps –especially the Coke flavor because my mom wouldn’t let me drink Coke.

Big Hunks–a “chewy” nougat bar with nuts–responsible for pulling out at least five of my teeth.

Candy necklaces that would mix with the my sweat in the summertime and turn my neck into a rainbow of pastel colors. I tried to lick my neck. Didn’t work.

Razzles. Yeah, it’s supposed to be gum but I ate them like candy.

Luden’s cherry cough drops–or black licorice drops. For no particular reason.

Candy lipstick (to put on after I finished my candy cigarette and Fresca beer).

Licorice Snaps (which I HATED but still ate). Hey, they were made of sugar.

By the way, my dentist loved me.

What was your childhood addiction? Is there a candy you loved? Share with me. Make me feel like I’m not the only child from the ’70s addicted to anything sugar.