Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011 - Part 1

My kids are young, Zakeem 11, Farheen 6, and they eagerly wait for Halloween night. As you know (or don't) this is a traditional event that is celebrated on the last day of October (31st) after dusk. Kids (and some adults) puts on their scary (or fancy - Farheen would not put anything that can not be passed on as a princess's outfit beating the whole idea of Halloween night, but tell that to her) outfits and goes door to door threatening the homeowners to treat them or get tricked (hence the phrase 'trick or treat'). Most homwowners in our neighborhood have little kids and they are more than happy to treat.
Before moving ahead, lets give a quick history of this activity. Here's what I got from the website http://www.halloweenhistory.org/. There may be some different versions around but this collaborates of several others that I went through.

History of Halloween
Halloween is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31. Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses" and carving jack-o-lanterns. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century including Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as of Australia and New Zealand.
Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win").

The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.
The festival would frequently involve bonfires. It is believed that the fires attracted insects to the area which attracted bats to the area. These are additional attributes of the history of Halloween.
Masks and consumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them.
Trick-or-treating, is an activity for children on or around Halloween in which they proceed from house to house in costumes, asking for treats such as confectionery with the question, "Trick or treat?" The "trick" part of "trick or treat" is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his property if no treat is given. Trick-or-treating is one of the main traditions of Halloween. It has become socially expected that if one lives in a neighborhood with children one should purchase treats in preparation for trick-or-treaters.

Now, that I have cleared that part let's progress with the  night. Over the last few years I have noticed more and more enthusiasm about this event. It is also possible that the neighborhood we lived in are becming more kid friendly. We have mixed environment where brown (South East Asia), black (Gyana, Africa, Jamaica etc.) and whites (local and East European) lived side by side with almost equal numbers. This is not a posh neighborhood with million dolalr homes but most seemed well off, streets peaceful. The kids were very aware of the competition. Often homeowners would underestimate the trick-n-treater's numbers and purchase insufficient treats eventually running out in the middle of a streaming treaters (the embarrassment is obvious, the danger is a possibility just in case any of these visitors tried to run a trick). My kids were more worried about losing out on treats just in case other kids beat them into making the rounds (and causing the run-out condition).
One of our friend's three kids joined us as well. This is one event that truly requires a group effect.

It was a Monday. I had to go to work (damn!). I didn;t make it back until 6:30 PM. The night was falling, air was cooling, isolated trick and treaters had just started to step out of their homes. I had already received numerous calls from my home front rushign me to get home as I had committed to be bodyguard of these bunch during there treat hunt. Most neighborhoods here are safe, most people regular family folks but yet bad thigns happened, monsters among regular people are not unusual. Every parents wants to be on the safe side and no kids under the age of 13-14 are allowed to roam around without a proper guardian. I loved the event as I felt that going around the neighborhood provided all of us an opportunity to in the least get familiar with the people who lived here. Often we would meet parents of our kids friends who either went to the same school or played in the same playground. Under normal circumstances society here, especially in the suburbs, a little isolated unlike palces where population is more dense (say Dhaka).

The night before we had purchased and carved two pumpkins keeping with the tradition in scary features (evil eyes, long fangs etc.). Before starting our run I carried those two out, placed it on the patio stairs and set two lighted candles inside them for added effect against the backdrop of darkness around.

That's it for part 1. Part 2 coming soon.


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