Hallowe’en is all about kids. The special day seems to actually be growing in significance, at least in some cultures, Canada among them.
It is not just the commercialization, although that is certainly a factor. For kids it is a night filled with excitement over getting dressed up and canvassing the neighbourhood for candy and treats. It seems to be the dressing up more than anything that generates the excitement. Candy is good, but not as special as it used to be.
This excitement for kids seems to peak at about 10 or 11 years old and then start to fade as kids get to be 12 and older. I suspect it has always been that way. I don’t remember much of my childhood before 10, so it is those later years I look back on.
By then I wasn’t interested in costumes or trick or treating. I can remember in my own childhood being excited about Hallowe’en for what many would consider the wrong reasons. In the small town I grew up in there were Hallowe’en traditions that, as kids, we felt obligated to keep alive. Those traditions involved mischief.
A favourite small town tradition that was quickly fading into the past was overturning outhouses. Sometimes they would just be lifted up and moved over five feet or so. I think maybe the last outhouse in town was owned by an older lady who’s house was perched on the side of the creek that ran through town. I can remember her outhouse not only being overturned, but actually rolled down the hill into the creek.
Another tradition was ringing the school bell. The public school was just down the street from my house. At that time it was a one room building housing grades 1 and 2 and it had an old fashioned bell in a belfry perched up above the roof – just the way you imagine those old one-room school houses.
The rope hung down into the middle of the classroom inside and the teacher would ring it at the appropriate times – five minutes before class was to begin, at the end of recess, and at the end of the day.
For years it had been a Hallowe’en tradition for some of the young teenage boys to climb up onto the roof and attach a rope to the bell so it could be rung from the outside. Every hallowe’en and for a few nights before we would hear the school bell ring just after dark.
For a couple of years I had the privilege of participating in this local tradition. We’d get a rope, prop a ladder up against the roof, climb up that steep roof, reach through the slats in the side of the belfry, and attach the rope. I can still remember the tremendous sense of excitement.
Of course the adults didn’t like it. Things changed when I was about 13. The school was boarded up and the bell removed – part of small town life gone for good.
I remember other bouts of Hallowe’en mischief-making too. Some I participated in and others I just observed. One Hallowe’en a particularly brazen young fellow drove an entire flock of sheep down the main street of town from a nearby farm.
The next year he opened up fire hydrants along that same street. I can remember the cops and fire department guys shutting off one hydrant while this young guy was up the street opening another. As far as I know he still lives in town and is an upstanding member of the community.
I’m sure there was much I’ve left out and much I didn’t know about, but that’s how I remember Hallowe’en.