Let’s have a show of hands. What is your favorite holiday of the year? How about Halloween? That’s what I thought.
Forget about all the other days off school or work. For some reason, even though it is not a national holiday that gives everyone a free day, Halloween rates as just about everyone’s favorite calendar day.
I have a theory about this favoritism toward Halloween. I think it has to do with our freedom to do the unthinkable. That is, a man or a woman might set out to harm the countryside, but stop short because a better opportunity was standing right next to them.
Let me come at this from a slightly different direction. When my hometown of Indiana Harbor was laid out, the town had wards and precincts that covered the original town site (up by the mills), the main body of the town, the park addition, and a couple of other wards.
The park addition was defined early in the game and had to do with an anticipated school (which evolved into Washington School), land that was adjacent to an anticipated park (Washington Park), and other tracts of real estate. Our occupation was the park/school parts of the town.
Normally, we would occupy our territory year-around. We’d get together at one location or another and center our activities around a major activity, like some game that would engage a good many kids.
So when Halloween came around, it was a simple matter to slide right over to it with plenty of momentum. In other words, the Halloween season was almost an extension of ordinary life.
Typically, the first night of the Halloween season was called “Apple Night.” We would go door to door and beg for apples. The business about the candy and other monstrosities did not wash over us while I was a boy. That came later, and with so many bells and whistles that a person could start a parade.
A second element was the abundance of parties. Normally, the birthdays of us kids sufficed for a rich tapestry of special social life. But I think as we got older, the mothers, especially, decided that fighting hormones was a losing battle.
So birthday parties evolved into big social events and they, in turn, evolved into Halloween extravaganzas. For some reason, I’m not sure why, these became the essence of Halloween. This may explain why the necking at our parties featured dramatic forces of the type that evolved.
As time went on, the parties evolved into rather tame affairs, bur ultimately became anything but.