Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why Do We Celebrate Halloween?

HERBIE CALDWELL: Well, they have a good time, don’t they, and everything else, don’t they? I don’t know much about it, that Halloween licks me. The other’ll be sportin’ and I’ll be licked, right?

WALTER KIERAN: Christ! Nobody knows that! I don’t even know myself! I bet you can’t tell me where Halloween originated. It started up in Salem, with the witches. The kids go around and knock on the doors and they have to give ‘em something to get rid of ‘em.

GEORGE MacWILLIAMS: Damn if I know. I’m not interested in that stuff. It’s a kids holiday, they enjoy it.

LARRY GREEN: To make pranks. Scarecrow. The Devil. Skeleton. Witch. Goblins. That’s all. Play pranks. Set fires. Empty wooden barrels. Bonfires in the middle of the street. Once I got arrested for setting fires, put on probation for the rest of the summer. Set fires. Stealin’ apples. Breaking and entering. That’s Halloween! You always had it in for your enemies. Take a baseball bat and get behind a hedge and wait for your enemies. Your enemies would turn out to be witches and they gave you a bag of candy. That’s where you met your wife. I met her Halloween, took her to a party. It was rainin’ like hell. Soakin’ wet! Put me to bed, gave me a couple of aspirin tablets. I got pneumonia. they put me in Lynn Hospital. That was twenty years ago. It was rainin’ like hell!

BILL SEARS: Celebrate Halloween, I don’t know. Pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and, ah, noisemakers. Masks. That’s about all. It’s for the witches down at Salem Hill. They hang the witches. That’s all I know.

WILLIAM “FERGIE” FERGUSON: On account of the clowns.

KEN EGLIN: I don’t know, honest-to-god. You can ask me all about Halloween and I don’t know, I swear to God I don’t know. It has something to do with Salem. What do you call ‘em -- witches, spooks? I guess we celebrate it for the spirits, witches, scarin’ people. I used to put a sheet on and cover my head and stand behind a big tree. Now this is gonna sound silly to you, but I’m serious. I used to scare the shit out of all the girls. I didn’t have anything on them, they were smarter than I was. I used to ask them things, and I couldn’t stand them. I’d scare them and they'd run home screamin’ to their mothers! Pumpkins and all that bullshit.

BERNIE REAGAN: That trick or treat is a good thing. Go up to the house and say “trick or treat” and they pass you a little bag of candy. I don’t know how long ago the first Halloween was, but it was some time ago, quite a long time ago. They call them goblins, they go around dressed up. Sometimes they put on their father’s clothes or their mother’s clothes and they go around with a cape on and a funny hat. She rides on a broom. They had a play one time and was up in the air, the witch, and she was all lit up. I played the part of the witch one time and they had a rope suspended from the ceiling and I was swinging back and forth.

JOHN FAY: Well, let’s see. (thinking) Because, you know, ah, they dress up and light pumpkins and what have you. what do you call it? It’s right on the tip of my tongue, ah, right on the tip of my tongue. (thinking) I can’t think of it, too. they go door to door, trick or treatin.’ That’s about all, Dave.

WARNER DAY: Because of the witches? There’s a lot of witches in Salem. Most of them were hung to death. I’d say that was the seventeenth century.

BILL LAGASSE: For the kid’s sake. I guess it’s a good day. The kids have firecrackers on Halloween day, don’t they? Pulled up this morning and Charlie was there sayin’, “I want some firecrackers!” I said, “Get in big boy.” We went to Germany -- I mean, ah, where did we go? New York! We went to New York and got ‘em. Some kids dress up in uniforms -- I mean costumes. Like Superman, Batman and stuff like that. They have suits now, underwear, and they go out in ‘em in the streets I guess. Superman and Batman underwear. I guess their mother has to take care of them, dear old mum. Halloween is a good day for kids. they go out looking for candy and gum. They go out with their mothers. Their mothers take them around and take them in when it gets too dark.

ROBERT CLEAVES: Well, it used to be a sacred religious holiday, All Hallow’s Day. Now it’s ghosts and goblins, but it got started as a religious holiday. All Hallow’s Eve.

WALTER McGEORGE: I don’t know. Good question!

ABE SURGECOFF: The witches, the witches. It took place in this country, and these witches were spread out one night, certain parts going one way and certain parts going another way. the witches put a death on these houses and so forth and so on. And they might stay out of the windows and yell into the windows. They wanted to kill him or kill her. See, some of them landed in the hospital and some died of scares and fear that they would die. Excuse me if I get the wrong word, it was something like klu Collar, Klu Cut, Klu, ah, Duplex, ah -- Klu Cut Can! They have them down south with the mask over their face.
The witches were ancient. After they find the witches they hang them on the trapeze -- I think it’s called a trapeze, it’s up on a stage with a noose. They’d kill ‘em on a platform with a noose, over the plank. Well, there was in that time they didn’t have no medicine. They used to haunt these people at their homes, the witches. and they used to carry around a torch to burn the house, or the farm. Nobody knew about the farm and the witches doing damage to their wheat fields. And the stable and the fields, these would be combined. People would just do this. Some of this is in the American history book.
Let’s see, ah, some of the witches used to go out in the fields and hide their faces amongst the trees -- at night they go out and do that. There was a group of witches, 365 I think, and they would destroy house, barns, wheat fields, fences. In the center of town where they hang the people they make a big fire in the center of the square and burn up these witches and people. It’s in a circle, they get the witches and the plain people who lost their parents. They found that the town hall gave the preference of the witches that were left behind to be hung. And then they would be burned, too.
Let’s see now. These witches used to blame the Klu Klux Klan for not helping them out. They wanted them to come along and watch and see. When they found out, they put them to the altar. I don’t know how good this story is. Is that right? This happened, it all happened, in the history book it’s there -- not all of it, but some part of it. I think it was fifteen years ago, sixteen years ago. The eighteenth century. 1905, 1905 -- that was the First World War, something like that -- and that was when these witches and Klu Klux Klan came into existence. It’s bad for the people.

BILL NIEMI: Halloween? Because it’s Halloween. It’s really supposed to be a Christian holiday, isn’t it? You’re supposed to get dressed up in different costumes and light pumpkins and have some sort of a party and entertain and dance and play games and have some sort of refreshment suitable to the day.

FRANK KANSLASKY: Because the people wanted to make money. Ain’t that right? It’s supposed to be fun, but now it’s a money business, ain’t it? It’s all greed.

TOM LAVIN: It’s a good day to take it off.

FRANK HOOKER: I enjoy myself two different ways, you know, get dressed up and tricks or treat. One day last year on Halloween I was down at Pimlico Racetrack -- now I was workin’ for Pimlico Racetrack understand -- and I got dressed up as a clown and went around to all the stall areas and the livin’ quarters, and I’d knock on each door and I’d say, “Tricks or treat.” And for that day alone I got fifty dollars! They’d hand me bills and change.

ANDY LEGRICE: Put a mask on. Spooks.

FRANK WISNEWSKI: I don’t know. Trick or treat is all I know of. Why we celebrate it, I don’t know. Put a candle in the pumpkin I think. Don’t they dunk apples on Halloween? Don’t they dress funny? Like the boys will dress like girls and the girls will dress like boys.

ERNIE BROOKINGS: It’s supposed to be a hilarious occasion. There’s usually Halloween clothing. Will we have a Halloween party this year?

JOHN LOWTHERS: Well, ah, as far as I can figure, it’s an Indian celebration. I just don’t know why they started it. There’s feasting and having the pumpkins. At night you put on the ghostly attire and visit the neighbors.

EDGAR MAJOR: It’s the last day of the month, isn’t it?

FRANCIS McELROY: You got me boy!

FRANK BURNS: Well for one reason, it’s my birthday, Halloween eve. (chuckles) October the thirtieth. Halloween’s on October thirty-first, but I was born Halloween eve. So I liked Halloween eve. I used to go from door to door dressed up, and people would give you candy and everything. It was nice, a nice evening. Trick or treat!

BARBARA TOWERS: Oh, it’s evil, they’re gonna do away with it. It’s evil. But I used to like it. Last year I dressed up as a witch and a punk rock. (laughs) I was a witch in the morning, I was a punk rock in the afternoon and night, all the rest of the day. The teenagers all thought I looked great because I had a punk rock long wig on, you know? And then I had the leather jacket on with a flapper girl outfit.
But I gave all my Halloween stuff away because I had to move from a big apartment to a smaller apartment so I got rid of a lot of things. I love it over here, it’s so quiet. I lived in an apartment on Palmer Avenue for sixteen years – the people downstairs used to fight, dogs used to bite – oh! It’s heaven over here. But I get along with everybody, you know? They never bother me and I never bother them. ’Cause like I say, I get along with both – younger and older, it doesn’t matter. I’m Sagittarius, I get along with everybody. I love my life.

(from David Greenberger's conversations with residents of the Duplex Nursing Home, Jamaica Plain, MA, 1980 and publihsed in The Duplex Planet #116, with the exception of the Barbara Towers piece.)

2 Comments:

Blogger Charles O'Meara said...

david asked me to post this, so don't think i'm one of those smartasses who goes around injecting his knowledge everywhere whether it's asked for or not...


Every Halloween tradition you can name has roots in celtic ireland. the irish, being among the most superstitious and death obsessed bastards on the face of the earth, clung to these and embellished them over the centuries and brought them here.

the story of the jack o'lantern is that jack tricked the devil while
on earth, died, went to heaven, was rejected, sent to hell and the
devil remembered him. the devil wouldn't let him into hell and jack was doomed to wander the earth. to find his way back to the surface the devil tossed him a hot coal to light the way and jack couldn't hold it so he hollowed out a turnip(which grows underground, of course) and put the glowing coal inside. the irish carved turnips as the first jack o'lantern (see the name? 'jack's lantern'). when they got to america they discovered pumpkins. there are
still villages in ireland - An Daingean, where i stay sometimes - where they celebrate halloween by dressing up and making bonfires in the street and staying up all night making noise and wandering in and out of pubs... (in nearby killorglin they do festival where a goat is crowned king (fertility), and put up on a throne on a platform wearing a crown and paraded through town.

'the legend of sleepy hollow' was lifted from the long held belief in a spirit called the gann ceann or dulahan who is dressed in black, wears a cape, rides a horse whose hooves give off sparks and who breathes fire. the dulahan's body is headless, but it holds it's withered severed head up by the hair surveying the countryside at night looking for victims. when it spots you, forget it, it rides up to you and depending on the part of ireland you're in, either throws blood on you or throws its head at you. either way you're marked for death. (unless you have some gold on you and hold it up and show it and that scares him away)

halloween was the night where all the unsettled spirts and the spirits of those who died the previous year walked the earth, so you put on a costume so that they couldn't recognize you and try to enter your body. fires and jack o'lanterns in the window kept them away too. and to keep the kids busy all night, i suppose, the tradition of going door to door and asking for treats arose. mischief night, of all things, originated in
boston with the irish who used to do this in ireland and it was called 'knock a dolly,' knocking on doors and running away.

gosh, what else? oh, fairies, who are evil and not cute in ireland, derive their power from the devil and on halloween knight they have to pay him his due by delivering a soul, so there are certain places - crossroads especially - you have to avoid lest the fairy troupe swoop down and take you away to hell. i can't recall more stuff at the moment but if you buy me a pint of guinness.... ;-)

9:55 AM  
Blogger Crosby said...

It is very nice the real reasons why we celebrate Halloween, however, I think we just think about having some fun an releasing our stress away though. That is why I always take viagra online on Halloween

1:27 PM  

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