Posts tagged ‘halloween’

Halloween Secrets

By Chad Upton | Editor

Trick or treating can be traced back to European “guising” traditions where children would travel from home to home, reciting songs, jokes or poems. They didn’t say “trick or treat” back then, it was “please help the guisers” — a reference to the groups who performed plays to ward off evil spirits during Samhain, the Celtic celebration we now know as Halloween.

The children were often given fruit, nuts, sweets or even money. Trick or treating started to take hold in North America during the middle of the 19th century, although it was put on hold for sugar rationing during World War II.

The Celts believed spirits of the dead would walk the earth on Halloween. Costumes were worn to help blend in with and hide from the real spirits who were thought to be walking among them.

The traditional colors of halloween, Black and orange, have meaning too. Black is the typical color of death in many cultures and orange symbolizes strength in Celtic legend, which was important for weathering a harsh winter. They burned large bonfires, believing this would bring the heat of the sun back after winter. Animal bones were often thrown into the fires and some believe these “bone fires” spawned the term bonfire.

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Photo: José Luis Murillo (cc)

Sources: History.comIrishCentral.com, Answers.com,

October 29, 2012 at 2:00 am 2 comments

How to be a Halloween Scrooge

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you think about it, Halloween is kind of an odd tradition. Generally, we tell kids not to accept candy from strangers. Then, we encourage them to dress up in weird costumes and go door to door, seeking candy from every stranger within walking distance.

As a kid, Halloween was third on the “getting free stuff scale” right after Christmas and birthdays. As an adult, Halloween is probably first on the “giving away your stuff scale.” I mean, you don’t even know these kids, and even if you did, you can’t tell that you do because they’re in disguise.

So, I don’t blame you if you get upset when somebody’s kids are knocking on your door, expecting you to hand over your food. In fact, there are probably some of you who don’t even want your grown children eating your food.

So, if you want to be a mean old grumpy grump, here are a some ways to be a Halloween scrooge.

Help Yourself Candy Bowl

Put a large empty bowl on your door step. Attach a sign that says, “Please Take Your Own Candy.” This will probably make some kids cry.

Disabled Doorbell

We used to unhook our doorbell on Halloween because our dog would go crazy every time the doorbell was pressed. We still answered the door and gave out candy, but you can use this trick if you don’t want the candy seeking youngsters interrupting your Ugly Betty marathon.

Boo Yourself

In some places, neighbors will “Boo” each other in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Basically, they wait for nightfall and leave a bucket of treats on your doorstep. Then they ring the doorbell and run away. You put a sign in your window to indicate that you’ve been “Boo’d” and you “Boo” two other people. It’s all in good fun, and it’s a lot better than what people used to leave on doorsteps before running away. But, if you see this as doorstep spam or an unprofitable pyramid scheme, then you can just boo your own house and count yourself out early.

Lights Out

In some neighborhoods, unlit house lights tell the goblins that you’re on to their game and you’re not going to give up any free candy.

Do a Trick

If you do a trick, you’ll confuse some kids for sure. Be careful with the older ones or the trick will be on you later.

Fake Candy

My parents were always worried about us getting tampered candy, so they’d have to “inspect” the candy before we could have any. In other words, they would “skim” the loot before it got counted. That actually worked out pretty well, they liked all the stuff I didn’t like anyway.

If you’re really trying to stick it to those candy grabbing ghouls, then you’d save empty candy wrappers throughout the year and just hand out the wrappers. You may also consider this doing a trick.

Jinx

A twist! Here’s when you answer the door and you say “trick or treat.” Of course, that means they will have to give you candy. If their parents are at the curb, they probably won’t stop at your house next year — mission accomplished, scrooge.

If you’re wondering how this dark and twisted holiday started, check out Kaye Nemec’s History of Halloween.

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Photos: PumpkinWayne (cc), Rael B (cc)

October 29, 2010 at 1:00 am 4 comments

The History of Halloween

By Kaye Nemec

Although Halloween has religious roots in Celtic, Roman and Catholic celebrations, it became a more secular holiday in the 19th century.

Two thousand years ago, Celts celebrated New Years on November 1st in the festival of Samhain. Due to the changing climate, that date symbolized the end of summer and the beginning of the cold, dark winter.  They associated winter with death and believed that New Year’s Eve, was the night when ghosts of the dead would return to Earth. They believed the presence of the dead allowed priests to better predict the future and their prophecies were taken very seriously.  In order to support the priests, the Celts would celebrate Samhain by wearing costumes and building bonfires where they made sacrifices by burning crops and animals.

By 43 A.D., the Romans had taken most of the Celtic land and combined some of their traditions with the Celtic festival of Samhain. Romans celebrated Feralia, an event to commemorate the passing of the dead, at the end of October. They also celebrated the Roman goddess of the trees, Pomona, around this time. Pomona’s symbol was an apple and it is believed this celebration is where “bobbing for apples” originated.

Eventually Christian beliefs began making their way through Celtic land and Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st All Saints’ Day, which was also known as All-hallows (All-hallows Eve began to replace the festival of Samhain).  About 200 years later, the Catholic Church named November 2nd All Souls’ Day which was a day to honor the dead. All Souls’ Day and Samhain had similar celebrations – costumes and bonfires. Collectively, All-hallows Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day were referred to as Hallowmas.

When Europeans immigrated to America, they brought their Hallowmas traditions; in the late 1800’s the traditions of ghosts and honoring the dead become more family-friendly events like trick-or-treating and neighborhood parties.  Hallowmas became Halloween and grew into the child oriented, secular holiday that we are familiar with today.

The “Halloween Capital of the World” is Anoka, Minnesota — a small city near the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul.

In 1920 Anoka hosted the first documented Halloween celebration and parade in the United States. The Halloween celebration was planned as an alternative to the pranks that had become common around Halloween. Prior to the organized Halloween celebration, troublemakers would let cows out of their enclosures, tip over outhouses and soap windows. City officials wanted to end the pranks and start a more positive Halloween tradition.

An official Halloween committee was formed and began planning a big event. When the time came, a parade made its way down Main Street and treats like popcorn, candy and peanuts were handed out. In true Hallowmas fashion, the night concluded with a huge bonfire. Seventeen years later, Anoka city officials convinced the United States Congress to grant them the official title, “Halloween Capital of the World.”

Since 1920, Anoka has hosted a huge Halloween celebration every year, except for 1942 and 1943, when it was canceled due to World War II. The city continues the tradition with their annual Halloween celebration. Just like the first year, a Halloween committee is formed, although now it is known as the Anoka Halloween Board of Directors.

This year’s event includes three parades, a pumpkin carving contest, a costume contest, BINGO, house decorating and of course, a bonfire.

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Pictures: Eric Martin (cc), Steve Chasmar (cc)

Sources: History.com, Anoka Halloween Capital of the World

October 20, 2010 at 1:00 am 2 comments

Fake Smoke is Not Usually Dry Ice

I frequently hear people refer to fake smoke as “dry ice.” It’s true, you can make smoke from dry ice. But, in many cases, it’s dangerous and inconvenient.

That’s why they invented fog machines. Fog machines are made up of a small heater, a fluid reservoir and a pump. These machines vaporize mineral oil, glycol or glycol/water mixtures to produce fog. Low powered machines for home use are pretty affordable, you can get a decent one from Amazon for $40. Around Halloween, many other stores carry them too.

Fog machines are great for enhancing lighting effects and creating an eerie mood. The fog usually fills the room from floor to ceiling, but cooling the fog with ice creates layered fog that stays below your knees.

In sixth grade, my friend Troy and I had a vision for our school air guitar competition. He saw himself as lead lip sync-er, rocking out to Tone Loc’s Wild Thing. I didn’t know that song when he mentioned it, nor did I care — I just wanted lots of smoke and lasers.

I called a few equipment rental houses and got quotes to rent a fog machine and lasers. It was a hefty amount for an 11 year old, but I was making a name for myself in the newspaper delivery business and I was willing to spend the money — I knew that lasers would help us win the competition.

I shared my creative vision with the drama teacher and he said, “no smoke.” He had worked with dry ice before and said it makes the floor slippery; it was a liability he wasn’t willing to take on. I told him, “people don’t use dry ice anymore — there is new technology that is completely dry and doesn’t make the floor wet.” He wouldn’t listen and said his decision was firm: no smoke. Without smoke, you can’t see lasers, so that meant we were back to the boring house lights.

I told Troy that smoke and lasers were off. He could tell I was upset, but he said with great confidence, “It’s alright. We’ll still win.” Comparing our rehearsals to the other groups, I knew he was wrong

In the end, smoke and lasers wouldn’t have made a difference. You see, Troy was the most hyper kid I knew. On the day of the show, he focused all of that energy into his performance and he completely stole the show.

That day I learned, you don’t need smoke to see lasers. Everybody has amazing potential and the secret lies in how you focus that energy.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Theatrical Smoke, Fog Machines, Dry Ice

May 17, 2010 at 8:11 am 5 comments


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