Goblins, Ghouls, and Candy!

When I was growing up, outside of Christmas, the other holiday I could hardly wait for candy-corn.jpgwas Halloween. It meant candy, sacks of it. Since I have the biggest sweet tooth known to man, trick-or-treating meant fun, foolish abandon, and sugary treats. I didn’t care what kind of candy it was, I liked it all. My younger sister and I would run wild, racing from house to house like a pair of hyped-up hyenas. I’m just glad that we grew up in an innocent time when no one had to worry much about child abductions or candy poisonings. Kids sure can’t be that carefree today.

As Halloween approached this year I was curious about the early beginnings of it and did some research.  The name originated from All Hallows Eve that the Celts celebrated on happy-halloween.jpgOctober 31st to mark their new year. The Irish Celts believed spirits wandered the earth looking for bodies to possess on that night. Lacking knowledge of science or the rotation of the earth and different seasons, Celtic Culture sought a reason for the shorter, colder days and longer nights. They mistakenly thought the sun was losing its power and the dead were to blame. To prevent the spirits from stealing their bodies on Hallows Eve, they extinguished every fire in their homes, made themselves physically undesirable by making their faces grotesque, and wore all manner of strange clothing. The Celts believed that magical powers were at their strongest on October 31st. 

When European immigrants came to America, they brought their customs and beliefs with them. Children gathered and played games. Bobbing for apples was played most frequently. 

Other games were played, including one called “Clap-in, Clap-out.” The young men left the room, while the young girls each declared who they’d chosen for a partner. Then as the young men entered, he had to sit beside the girl he thought had chosen him. The girl clapped if he sat in the wrong seat. Then he had to go back out and wait for another chance to try again. The game lasted until every girl had a partner.  Another game, played in Ireland was a form of Blindfold. A blindfolded player was seated in front of a table on which sat several saucers. The saucers were shuffled and the player chose one. The contents of the saucer determined the player’s life for the following year. The saucer containing earth meant someone known to the person would die during the coming months. Water foretold travel. A coin meant new wealth. A bean meant poverty. And so on. In 19th century Ireland, young women placed slugs in saucers and sprinkled flour over them. They believed the patterns left behind after the slug wriggled in it would reveal the face of their future husband. Boy, they must’ve been desperate! But, I should talk. I used to play with a Ouija board quite a bit, trying to find out who I was going to marry. Strange what we do to try to see into the future. I’m also thinking some of this might be useful in a story sometime.

 A traditional food eaten in Ireland on All Hallows Eve was called barnbrack. It was a type of fruitcake that had a muslin-wrapped treat baked inside. The person who got the piece holding the treat learned his future for the coming year. Some of treats were a ring (meant a marriage,) a coin (prosperity,) a thimble (will be an old maid,) and a button spoke of forlorn sweethearts. 

Over the years, Halloween has evolved into what we have today falltrees_wt.jpgwith many religions speaking out against the practice. Regardless, most kids still try to get as much candy as possible, no matter if it’s at Halloween parties or trick-or-treating. It’s their night to howl.  apples.jpgWhatever your beliefs, you can still use this time to take stock, count your blessings, and prepare for the short winter nights. I love fall. The gorgeous color of the trees, the crisp night air, beautiful pumpkins, and luscious apples. Oh, and of course, the candy! I’m holding out my bag. 

What do you associate with Halloween? Or maybe you have a favorite memory or tradition you’d like to share.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

20 thoughts on “Goblins, Ghouls, and Candy!”

  1. I loved reading this, Linda! I knew Halloween was derived from All Hallow’s Eve, but that was about it. Very fun reading all of the information you had gathered.

    I love fall too, the leaves here are have turned into my favorite colors, the air is crisp and clean and bites at your hands and face, and who doesn’t love looking at the moon during this time? It is never the same moon any other time.

    And we are big on the ghost stories this time of year-the kids and I are always trying to see who can scare the others the most. It just isn’t the same at, say, spring as it is in the fall.

  2. I too knew it was derived from All Hallow’s Eve, though I knew very little else about it. Thanks for posting such interesting details!

    We’re still debating taking our kids trick or treating right now. We’ve been planning to for weeks, but in the past week both kids have come down with colds and I’m not sure we’ll be taking them if they’re both sniffling, sneezing and coughing. It happened that way last year. We didn’t get to take them because our daughter was really sick. I hope they’re both feeling better by Wednesday this year.

    I love this time of year. The leaves have started changing and falling and our temp this morning- 32 degrees. I couldn’t believe it when I got up and had to crank up the heaters. You can definitely feel the change in the weather now and it makes me want to curl up with good books and warm mulled cider and fresh baked cookies or apple pie.

    I’m going to have to find myself a caramel apple somewhere soon. We saw them making these ones on the Food Network yesterday that were monstrous! Caramel dipped then rolled in nuts, toffee or crumbled cookies and then doused in chocolate. Made my belly ache at the thought, but a good simple candied or caramel apple would taste SO good! (oh and candy…can’t forget that- My daughter can’t eat chocolate, so I’ve already told her if she trick or treats, any chocolate is MINE! LOL)

  3. Hi Linda! Lovely post. I also knew the history of All Hallows. But some of the games they played back then were new to me. Thank you for telling us about them. I was reminded of the way people used to try and divine the gender of their unborn child–by holding a threaded needle above the mother’s stomach. Depending on which way the needle turned, the baby was a boy or girl. But I can’t remember about the directions. :o)

    I only remember trick-or-treating a couple of times when I was young, and that was after my dad moved us to the big city. But the experience was like yours. No worries back then, and we–literally–got a sackful of candy. We each took an old pillowcase to carry our goodies. I’m a sweet freak, and so is my husband. Must have candy…. LOL! My son’s too old for trick-or-treating, but I plan to have lots of my favorite candy bars on hand–just in case some kiddies drop by with their bags. :o)

  4. Growing up in a small area, every house we went to while trick or treating knew us. I was one that had to make my own costume. I’d spend the whole month looking for the right piece of clothing, jewelry, or hat to make the costume my own. As a child Halloween was my favorite holiday because of the dressing up and becoming someone else for a night. I wasn’t the dumpy, over-weight daughter of so-and-so. I was a gypsy, a bum, a princess.

    Linda, all that information is great! The story I’m working on right now has Irish characters, now all I have to do is figure out a way to work something from what you said into the story! Thanks!

  5. Terry, I agree that the moon is absolutely bigger and brighter during fall. On the 19th of this month in Texas we had what they call the Pumpkin or Harvest Moon. It was really something to see. So full and round and I swear it was almost the same color of a pumpkin! It seemed I could reach right up and touch it, it was so close. Very pretty. And I love a good ghost story! My mom had some of the best ones and she swore they really happened. Wishing you lots of wonderful stories this Halloween!

  6. Taryn, yep we gotta have our candy! And oh my gosh, I can sure eat my weight in caramel apples. Thank you for reminding me of them. I also agree that fall is the perfect time to curl up in front of a fire, sip hot chocolate, and read a good book. Ahhhh, it’s pure heaven. At least it’s the closest I can come to the real thing.

    Glad you liked the post. I hope your kids get well in time to trick-or-treat. I remember one year when my kids were little it was freezing outside and all three were just getting over a cold. They were so heartbroken they couldn’t go out, so we had a party instead and invited their friends. They played games and ate like they’d never get another bite in their lives. It helped some, but they still would’ve preferred going out.

  7. Hi Devon! I’d forgotten that trick of holding a threaded needle over a pregnant woman’s stomach to determine the baby’s gender. Brought back a lot of memories. Can you believe I did that? I sure did. I wanted to know so bad if I was having a boy or girl. And I can’t remember either about which direction meant what. Strangely, I can’t even remember if it worked or not. Shoot, it was sure a lot cheaper than the sonograms they do today!

    Yeah, I’m with you on the candy part. I also buy my favorite kind just in case I have some left over. To be on the safe side, I usually put back a little stash just for me. I’m so bad!

  8. Paty, my sister and I always made our own costumes. We’d comb through the closets and drawers until we got together everything we needed. That was a lot of fun too. Closets are full of little secrets. I was the worst snoop you could imagine. It’s true but I’m not proud of it.

    Pretending to be someone else for one night was the best part I think, aside from the candy. Some people compare Halloween to Mardi Gras and there’s a lot of truth to it. In costume you can be ravishing and exciting or strong and powerful. Whatever your heart desires for just a few hours.

    I do hope you can use some of these old customs and traditions in your story. I can see endless possibilites. Glad you stopped by and visited.

  9. Hi Linda,
    Great post on Halloween. Now that my kids are grown, the holiday isn’t quite so much fun. I would love to take them out in groups around our neighborhood. I do enjoy going to the door and giving out candy and MUST remind myself not to eat my favorites. This year I bought Butterfingers (yum) and Snickers and KitKats and Tootsie Roll pops. I put the little boxes of Junior Mints at the bottom of the Halloween bucket in case of leftovers – at least those are lower in fat and calories. My witches and ghosts are flying around by the front door, but our pumpkin has yet to be carved!

  10. Charlene, sounds like we could be sisters! Yes, I always hide some candy. I go through phases on my favorites. Sometimes I buy Snickers like crazy and other times it’s Cherry Mashes or Three Musketeers. But I do love Junior Mints too. Right now, I’m craving peanut M&M’s. I like ’em at night, a few after supper. It satisfies my sweet tooth. It’s just a thousand wonders that I’m not as big as a barn the way I eat sugary things.

    Yep, you better get that pumpkin carved! Time’s a wastin’. I’m not going to do one this year. They’re a mess. But kinda neat with the candlelight shining through the holes. I wish you lots of luck with your Junior Mints.

  11. Linda,

    Being an empty nester and not having little ones around to get ready for fun holidays like these make me feel old. Yes, I have grandbabies, but their mamas get all the fun now!

    Growing up, my neighborhood was very safe. The streets were crowded with kids. I still remember it all vividly. We’d wear those store bought costumes with the plastic masks, which would steam up and get all sweaty inside after just a few houses.

    Remembering that, I never bought costumes for our girls. I always made them, and as they got older, they did their own.

    My favorite costume of all was when Katie, my second daughter, was a cluster of grapes. Purple balloons pinned to a dark leotard. Cheap, easy and real-looking! LOL.

    Thank you, Linda!

  12. Oh Halloween. I love it. I still go to the pumpkin patch even though our kids are grown, and I am dressing up as a witch when I give out candy…our new little grandson has a skunk costume. Too adorable. My childhood Halloweens were spent with my cousins at Gramma’s. In those days of yore, we actually could trick or treat all by ourselves! And we got so annoyed with the folks who gave out apples or pomegranates. Candy, CANDY is there it’s at. Thanks, Linda, for the wonderful information. The games you described were a hoot, especially the slug one. Yikes. Happy “Boo” day, everybody!

  13. I think we had a different kind of Halloween when I was a kid. We lived out in the country and didn’t got to town trick or treating. Some of our neighbors did, though.
    We’d go to the family across the road.
    We’d go to my grandma’s house about two miles away and then we’d go to this elderly couple’s house, friends of my grandma’s, she’d got to, and they’d make hot chocolate for us (eight of us kids).
    This couple was very nice and sweet and rich. Not really normal farm people, fancy house, beautiful furniture, and they were always really nice to us. They had like…one grand child who lived two states away so maybe they kind of adopted us in their hearts. Except only on Halloween.
    Those three places were it, but the hot chocolate took a long time and we made a night of us. I wonder how much hot chocolate we spilled over the years?

  14. What a terrific post. Because I’m away from home, I tend to forget that it’s Halloween time — usually I have the yard and the house all decorated — am missing that this year.

    You’ve brought home many memories!

  15. Pam, I agree that making costumes and using your imaginations is a lot more fun than plunking out a few dollars. And, I’m sure it’s safer too, because like you said those masks were sometimes hard to see out of.

    Tanya, I’d love to see you in your witch costume! 🙂 I know it’ll be great. And the kids get such a kick out of someone handing out candy dressed up. . .or down, whichever the case may be. lol

    Hi Mary, sounds like you have wonderful memories. It isn’t the quantity that counts when it’s all said and done, it’s the quality. And, your parents didn’t have to worry so much about cavities! Ha!

  16. Karen, I can’t believe you! My gosh, girl, you’re on vacation down in South America. Or I assume you’re still down there. You should be enjoying yourself and not worrying about posting to my blog. 🙂 Glad I could bring back a few memories for you though. Always great to remember the fond times of our childhood.

  17. I remember Halloween as a child with fondness. My mom would make us costumes. I loved dressing up and all the candy I would get from trick or treating. Now my kids are of trick or treating age some of that excitement is coming back. There is a great Halloween Festival nearby that I am thinking of taking them to. It sounds like fun and I even plan on dressing up as Litlle Red Riding Hood.

  18. honestly, Linda. I’d have just as soon had a pillow case full of candy. 🙂
    But no, REALLY honestly, that’s a good memory for me. Those old folks were special and they always had marshmallows and, well, honeslty we were dirt poor. I think that cocoa was a huge treat for us.
    I mean we had candy at Christmas and that’s about it. We had that hard candy that looked like colorful ribbon? Remember that? And my mom would make fudge once.
    Easter was boiled, dyed eggs, no candy back then. Of course lots of people didn’t go so all out with sweets back then. And we hunted Easter eggs and it was fun.

  19. Great blog, Linda. My daughter Teresa always loved Halloween and still does. She’d spend the whole year planning her costume. When she grew up and it came time to plan her wedding, there was only one day she wanted–you guessed it. She got married on the beach in Santa Cruz, CA, in a beautiful red brocade dress, with all the guests and “bridesmaids” (a couple of gay friends in drag)dressed in black. Not a conventional kid, my baby, but I love her. Happy Halloween everybody. I’m back from Peru just in time to go buy candy.

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