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Friday, October 30, 2009

Beggars' Night and Halloween

Last night (Thursday) was Beggars' Night in Troy. Beggars' Night is what they call Trick or Treating around here. For some reason, a number of municipalities in southwest Ohio don't do it on Halloween night. To me, it's not Halloween.

When we lived in Meriden, Connecticut, we lived on Parker Avenue, a boulevard in a community built in the 1940s and 1950s with houses sitting close together on 1/4 acre lots. It was a safe street and our end was filled with fun loving folks. Decorating for Halloween was a HUGE thing. Our former neighbors down the street would go all out with home-made coffins, scary music, enormous spider webs complete with spiders.....smoke machines.....and it was great fun.

Usually, the trick-or-treaters would start coming at about 4:30....and we couldn't eat because the doorbell was constantly ringing. We usually would hand out 25 bags worth of candy and give candy to about 300 kids. I usually took my daughter out with a group of other parents and her friends . My husband would stay home to hand out candy. Quite often, I would dress up, as did other parents. In later years, Luna, our Siberian husky would come along with us, leashed of course and with her ghost neckerchief.

Here, we live on a cul de sac. Last night we had 9 trick or treaters. I just about smacked my husband as I heard him saying to a child "Ring the door bell. If you're going to play, you have to ring the doorbell." I told him he was terrorizing the poor child. Later, I found out that our neighbor two houses down had adopted an 11 year old Colombian boy. This was his first Halloween and he had no idea. Guess who was the child being asked to ring the doorbell.

Which brings me to this picture. Scary isn't it? It's my husband in 1967 when he was 8 years old. I think this was taken in November, just after they fled Cuba and ended up in one of the suburbs of Boston. I can't imagine that he would have known much about Halloween. At the time, he couldn't speak English. They could understand the Portuguese kids down the street and those kids did a lot of translating for him. I wonder what he did that first year.

When I was in elementary school, I lived in Bronson, Michigan. In some ways, it was much like Troy, only much smaller. Troy and Bronson closed off a portion of Main street and there was a Halloween Parade. All of the kids would march and there were prizes given for best costume. Mom did lots of wonderful costumes and it wasn't unusual for us to win. The one I remember the best was when my brother, who is 9 years older than I am, was dressed as a scare crow. Mom made crow costumes, complete with great big beaks (which I remember hanging down over my eyes) and floppy feet which fit over our shoes for my sister (7 years older than I am) and me to wear.

Then, we went trick-or-treating. I didn't go to many houses, but went to my "Aunt" and "Uncle" Hoopingarner's house. They were older neighbors next door to where we lived on Walker Street before we moved to the country. All the while we lived there, I would go and hand out candy at Uncle George and Aunt Ethel's. I loved it as I got to see all my friends and everyone else and since I controlled the candy dish, I got to eat all that I wanted. We kept track of how many came there too.

Halloween was terribly exciting and while I lived in Connecticut, I still felt that way. However, having it on Beggars' Night rather than regular Halloween seems a little lacking in spirit.

I can't imagine what it would have been like when my mom was growing up. She has told me that when she was a child in Great Falls, Montana in the 1930s and 1940s, her father would answer the door and have the kids do a trick or tell a joke before they got their treat.

Hmm. I think I'd rather just dress up.....Maybe my husband with his insistence on saying "Trick or Treat" and ringing the doorbell is a throwback to my grandfather. Who knows?

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