I’m always amazed when trick-or-treaters arrive at my doorstep on Oct. 31. So many of them are dressed up in elaborate costumes, some plastic, some cloth, and some a combination.
The masks that accompany these costumes are also quite unique. Again, some are store-bought, some are crafted by parents, and some are paint-on face coverings. As in all ages of history, masks hide identities but also allow the individuals to be less timid and more outgoing. Think of the Greeks in their golden age drama with elaborate masks for the actors.
If today’s young people want to dress up, it’s easy to find local stores with aisles of black/orange or white/black costuming — everything from ghouls to fiends to skeletons. And just down the aisle are ghost and witch and zombie outfits just waiting to be donned.
All of this comes with extra paraphernalia such as chains and whips and sparkling wrap-arounds. In addition, there are masks from simple two-eyes covered to over-head rubber creations. Frankenstein’s creature or a crazy Freddie can appear at local doorsteps.
When I was young, not many families had extra money for Halloween costumes, unless the mother of the house chose to sew clown or witch items for her kids. The stores in our community had little in the way of costumes, and the best that could be hoped for was a variety of simple masks.
Most of my friends and I went out trick-and-treating in very large, old clothes we found in trunks at home or in our parents’ closets. In fact, we dressed up as old men and women, and it didn’t matter which. If we dressed as old men, we used pillows because a huge stomach was felt to be necessary. In addition, we would use a bit of shoe polish to blacken or brown our faces. No one thought much about that in those days.
If we dressed as old women with enormous busts, we used rouge and lipstick on our faces. And what bizarre hats we found—usually belonging to our grandparents from long ago.
A few of us had masks, but usually they were the two-eyed Lone Ranger type or simply a papier-mache frontal mask. All of us carried pillow-cases to gather the candies and apples and chocolate bars and popcorn balls we all cherished. Today young people seem to carry plastic grocery bags, sometimes more than one just in case there are a lot of goodies out there. Rarely do youngsters accept apples or popcorn balls these days as too many weirdoes have become insert-fiends.
Rarely did we get made-up bags of treats at households as happens now. Sometimes we had to sing or answer questions, but that still happens on Halloween at some locations even today.
Halloween then and Halloween now are much the same. The difference perhaps is that most of us rambled from house to house on our own. Then we found our way home when most of the home owners switched off their outside lights. Today, youngsters are usually accompanied by parents all the way down the street and right up to doors.
In regard to tricks, a few of us carried soap to swipe up and down on car windows if a homeowner failed to deliver the goods. I can’t remember the soap being used very much when we were quite young, but then as we entered upper elementary, the soap became a few raw eggs.
During the past few years in Castlegar, we’ve noticed pumpkins being taken from near people’s doors and smashed out on the streets. We’ve also noted the raw egg phenomenon. But not much gets damaged, and basically Halloween turns out to be one night of fun. A lot of that has to do with dressing up in costumes.