Sunday, October 31, 2010

Eat, drink and be scary . . . Happy Halloween

When I was a kid growing up in the sticks of Pennsylvania we went Trick-or-Treating like the rest of the youths in America.  I dressed up as a witch most years which has less to do with my personality than the fact that we weren’t particularly well off and recycled the same costume year after year.  Back in those olden days it wasn’t so much about who had the coolest costume anyway . . . it was all about getting the treats. 

Then came the year when I was too old for me to get my mom to take me house to house gathering the loot.  That was way back in the days when there wasn’t such a word as “tween” . . . I was just a kid that was too old to go Trick-or-Treating but too young to get into too much serious trouble.   Not that *I* ever caused trouble . . . I was a good girl.

The tricksters in my neck of the woods didn’t chuck toilet paper, soap windows or toss eggs at houses . . . no . . . we made use of what was abundant around us . . . corn.  Lots and lots of corn.  We were literally surrounded by fields of feed corn. 

If you’re wondering what we did with the corn . . . we went cornin’ . . . duh!   It took weeks of preparation to get ready to go cornin’.  You had to raid a farmer’s field for corn, remove the corn from the cob and let it dry.  Of course, you had to be sneaky about the whole thing . . . first not get caught stealing the corn and second not to let Mom know what you were doing . . . both would have a fit!

Cornin’ is hiding out on the side of the road with your friends and hurling dried out kernels of corn at passing cars.  Most importantly . . . make sure you have an escape route because the chances are pretty good that the person you nailed with the corn is going to come after you. 

 Anyhoo . . . we carved pumpkins, too.   Originally, people carved out the insides of turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets to put outside to welcome friendly spirits.  At some point the pleasant tradition turned into a dark superstition that used the carved veggies to ward off evil spirits which might try to enter the home.   The lanterns were called jack-o'-lanterns.

The story goes that a cunning Irish fellow named Jack tricked the Devil 
into climbing a tall tree. When the Devil reached the highest branch,
Jack carved a large cross in the trunk, making it impossible for the 
Devil to climb down.

The Devil made a deal with Jack . . . if Jack helped him to get out of the
tree then he would never again be tempted with evil.  When ol’ Jack died 
he wasn’t allowed into heaven because of the deal and the Devil didn’t 
want the devious Jack in Hell so he was left to wander the Earth.  The 
tale goes on to say that Jack carved out a turnip and lit it with fire from
Hell to light his way.  Thus the legend of "Jack of the Lantern" was born.

The folks that crossed the pond from merry ol’ England to the new world discovered that pumpkins were a superior medium for their carving activities. 

And so the tradition continues . . .


Happy Halloween!!

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