IMPACTING MY WORLD: A Halloween Past
By STEVE WENICK
It was no ordinary night; it was no ordinary fog.
I could barely see beyond my car’s windshield as my headlights tried vainly to pierce the mantle of that Halloween evening’s vapor which had descended upon the road in ghostly silence. Ever so haltingly I nudged my car forward, and with the foreboding of someone inching their way precariously along the ledge of a tall building, I courageously coaxed my car onward. However courage ultimately gave way to prudence and I pulled my car off to the side of the road and decided to wait until that uninvited shroud of mist vanished.
As I sat in my car, now fully encased in a surreal stillness that only darkness can bring, my mind drifted back to a simpler time. It was an age when Halloween was characterized by fewer tricks and more treats, when it was perceived as an innocuous holiday—one which had not yet been branded as a relic of a pagan rite. Back then there was no real or imagined religious significance attached to it for me, my family and neighbors, other than the recognition that the Hallow in Halloween probably was derived from the word holy.
Although the name “Halloween” itself is a derivative form of the Scottish, All Hallows Even evening), with obvious religious overtones, the only thing sacred about the holiday to us was the devout manner with which we children observed its custom of begging for treats. It was customary for us to start thinking about our costumes weeks before October 31. Store-bought costumes were frowned upon because part of the fun was designing our own costumes. It is amazing how a little eyebrow pencil, a bandana, a black cloth eye patch and a hoop earring could transform an innocent boy into a fearsome, swashbuckling pirate.
The fog thickened still holding my car fast in its grip, so I took the opportunity to close my eyes and continued thinking back to a time long past. I recalled that Halloween was a time for kids to beg for as much candy and as many pennies as their brown paper shopping bags could hold. Fortunately, times were different back then when instances of sick minded deviants planting dangerous objects or substances in an apple or dropping them in our bags, were practically non-existent. Today things have changed and regretfully not always for the better.
Over the ensuing years the belief came into vogue that Jewish children should not celebrate the holiday because of its pagan origins and association with witches, demons and the like. It is a shame that such notions have taken hold because for me Halloween was just another American holiday, one which I could celebrate along with my Christian friends without having to step across religious lines. To me it was like Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, but more fun.
The haze lifted as stealthily as it had descended and the night allowed a billion brilliant pinpoints of light to attach themselves against the black firmament. The sound of children’s chatter and laughter began to reemerge from their hidden places, interrupted only by the intermittent shrieks of delight, born by self-induced fear as a stray branch snagged the pant leg of one of the kids.
In the distance, through a clump of trees, I could see the orange glow of a lone Jack-O-Lantern, which was set in a window, obviously intended to fend off evil spirits, demons or the Jersey Devil. Or perhaps that glowing gap toothed pumpkin may have been intended for a less scary and foreboding use. It may have simply been a hospitable invitation to all the ghosts and goblins that occupy the fleeting moments of wonderment in a child’s imagination.