Halloween Festivities - The Ribbon in My Journal

Remembering the Halloween Festivities of Days Gone By

Phyllis Lifestyle 24 Comments

It is Halloween, and I have never seen so many pumpkins and spiders, along with other yard decorations, in my life. It seems everyone has jumped on the holiday celebration with great gusto.

Mom and I were talking about our experiences with Halloween when we were kids back in the dark ages. Halloween was a one-day event, geared strictly toward the gathering of candy. That’s it. We spent days working on our homemade costumes and planning our route. I never thought about the dark side of Halloween, as it was just a kid’s day where we became characters dressed up for the night.

One particular Halloween, probably close to my last trick-or-treat, I decided to dress as a gypsy and wear all the jewelry I could muster. I collected out-of-style necklaces and bracelets from people who had long stopped wearing them. I restrung the necklaces and made my own creations then layered the jewelry on until the weight was too much. Come to think of it, I really never saw a gypsy! I just decided I would be “glam gypsy.” Then the final touch was getting into mom’s makeup drawer and applying really heavy makeup.

Looking back on those wonderful days, the fun was making your costume and walking around with your friends and family. When we all got home, we had to pour out our candy so mom could inspect and then we made ourselves sick from eating all the candy we could stand. Many neighbors made homemade candy and popcorn balls. Can you imagine?

Making our costumes was so much fun, and comparing our stash of candy was hilarious. I think my brother, Keith, and his friends went around the neighborhood several times as he always had a pillowcase full of candy. My sister, Janice, and I had a good bag full, but Keith always won.

I think it would be so wonderful to see kids make their own costumes and create something from scratch. I miss the innocence of Halloween and wish that my grandchildren could experience that time where most people could be trusted and neighbors knew one another.

This year I will participate in the office costume competition! Last year, three of us dressed up as the women from Downton Abbey. Of course I was the Dowager Countess Violet complete with lace jacket and hat! I went through my closet and found all the pearl necklaces I could and proudly wore them. Not so unlike those childhood days as “glam gypsy,” now that I think of it.

What are your childhood memories of Halloween? What was your favorite costume?

Celebrate Magazine, Sept/Oct 2015 cover

Comments 24

  1. I have such wonderful memories of Halloween, but it was different from today’s version. My mother and I decided on the idea and together we pulled it together. My favorite was dressing as an American Indian girl with my dress made from an old pillowcase. I colored designs on it and braided my hair, had a headband and feather. I also remember the house where a woman gave out hot popcorn and we would go more than once. My best friend’s mother saved the larger candy bars for us ‘special’ kids. Then at home my mom made a chocolate layer cake for dessert and there were coins in each slice as a surprise! I wonder if young children have these moments of simple joys in their lives! I hope so – they stay with you for 57+ years and counting!

  2. Phyllis, we used to have a fun time walking all over the neighborhood trick or treating. I laughed when you mentioned the pillow case your brother carried to put his stash in. My brother did the same thing and went around for miles collecting goodies. When he returned he would pour out a ton of stuff. We never worried about dangers of evil things being in our candy. Many years later my mother was sorting through her cedar chest. We laughed when she pulled out a old sheet with 2 “eye” holes in it. It had been my brother, David’s costume for every year I could remember. I must ask him if he remembers his “cover.” Thanks for the Memories. Dorothy W.

  3. Dear Children, Childhood Halloween was so long ago for me that we never even thought of asking for candy. We dressed up with whatever we found at home. I loved being a gypsy. (Back then you saw gypsies traveling through the city about once a year. The women looked exotic.) The neighborhood boys just wore old clothes and sometimes we bought gauze-dipped-in-starch and painted masks called Dough Faces. They had string at each side to tie behind your head. We waited until dark as our neighborhoods were safe then. We chose houses to do tricks on. The worst one we did was making Stink Bombs. They were exposed rolls of camera film in a Maxwell House coffee can set near the victim’s front screen door. We set the film alight with matches to smolder and smoke and smell, rang the door bell and ran to hide in the bushes. We stayed away from the larger boys as they did mean tricks such as putting someone’s porch furniture on the roof of the front porch or up a telephone pole. There were rare cases of vandalism such as painting a stripe down the side of any car left on the street. The most complicated Halloween trick I ever heard of was when a group of Woodlawn High School boys dismantled an old car and rebuilt it in the middle of the main hall inside the school. All of this was before The Second World War and not long after The Great Depression and most people did not have a lot of money to spend on Halloween junk, decorations and costumes. Our beautiful Autumn Decorations were for Thanksgiving Day, which was much more important to us than Halloween. By the way, I am eighty four years old and full of memories or the really Old Days which most of you were too young to know about.

  4. When I was a little girl, we dressed up every Halloween. It seemed that I was usually dressed up as a witch. I am not sure why, perhaps it was one of the most popular costumes. It was just a fun holiday to go door to door in the neighborhood collecting candy and sorting it out on the kitchen table when we got home and trading or getting rid of what we did not like. Living in the suburbs of New Orleans, we got to use our costumes at least twice. We saved them and used them for Mardi Gras in February or March. When my daughter was growing up, we lived in a safe neighborhood. One family around the corner owned a produce company and would fill their two car garage with pumpkins for Halloween night and each child could go in and pick a pumpkin to take home. There was another street with a neutral ground that had nicer houses on it and it was known for decorating and giving lots of treats. It was so busy for Halloween, that it was blocked off at each end with police barricades so no vehicles could go down either side of the street…pedestrians only.
    I had a friend at the end of that street and they had a popcorn machine on their driveway and they popped bags of popcorn all night while the kids came by to trick or treat, so that was special, a fresh popped bag of popcorn. Some neighbors made special bags for the kids that they knew on their street. I never liked haunted houses or scary things. I just liked trick or treating in costume and never thought of nor was taught the evils of Halloween. Tonight we had a few people over and two little boys that went trick or treating on our street. There was not much turnout as it was a little rainy and some families trick or treated last night due to the concern of bad weather tonight. They only went to about 10 houses and filled their pumpkins to the top.
    One neighbor said “Jackpot” as he emptied a bad of Reese Cups by dividing them into the two pumpkins.
    The boys are only three and were adorable in their costumes. We had hot dogs and chili, chips and a nice cake and more at the house for everyone that came. We were not celebrating anything evil, we were just having good old fashioned fun. Trick or treating never hurt us growing up and it still doesn’t now. When I was growing up, we always had the next day off, November 1st, All Saint’s Day, so that was coo knowing we had the next day off of school. It was a school holiday. Most familes were Catholic. Both the public and parochial schools were closed. It was a nicer time to grow up in.

  5. I remember those days also. Wish our children and grandchildren had those same memories. I am thankful for the many churches that are having those kind of events and saving our children from the many things out there to destroy our kids.

  6. Those wonderful days of Halloween. My dad would buy a bushel of apples and give them to the kids, before the scare of razor blades hit the streets.
    My favorite costume was one I created long after I could go trick or treating. I dressed all in black with a black fur trimmed hat on my head. I took a sheer piece of black material and drew a cat’s face on it in white. When the kids would knock on the door, I would start by just putting my hand out, then peeking around the door. One child dashed off our porch without getting any candy; mom had to walk the child back to the door so she could get her candy from me

  7. When I was growing up, we had to provide a trick for our treat. At each house, we were invited inside ( We traveled in groups.) Each child would tell a joke or sing a song or recite a poem. Only then would we receive our treats. The best, most sought after
    treats were the homemade ones. We spent a week or so before the actual night learning the songs in school. You could tell what grade a kid was in by the song he sang.

  8. Does anyone remember singing Halloween songs at school? Stirring and stirring and stirring my broom, woo who, BOO! School Halloween carnivals, cake walks? My what fond memories! The innocence and blessings of bygone America. Thanks for the conjuring of memories, Phyllis. I am thankful to have them.

  9. Halloween memories are treasured memories!
    Carving Pumpkins then baking the seeds – Bobbing for Apples – Making Popcorn Balls and drinking Hot Cider with Cinnamon Sticks and eating a good plain Donut … And yes, most Mothers would spend time making the costumes and making up our faces too..
    One of my favorite Costumes was a long Gold Dress with sewn pearls around the neckline, and my long blonde hair that had been set with curlers, was then pinned atop my head with beautiful ringlets flowing down….. I truly was a Princess!

  10. Your Halloween memory made me remember my own Gypsy Halloween. I thought I was beautiful with my full twirling skirt. A bandana in my hair, jewelry, and the make up. Such fun! I must find that picture.

  11. I agree…I miss Halloween in the “good ol’ days.” We would put a Jack o lantern outside and that was it. My mother would always make costumes for my brother and me. It was much fun to go out in the neighbourhood and collect goodies. I still have the plastic pumpkin I used to collect the treats in. I too had a gypsy costume one year and it was extra special because my mother had worn it in a play when she was young.

  12. Phyllis,

    You are completely right. In the past, Halloween was just a fun holiday when all the kids at school would dress up and each grade would parade in the hallway for all to see.Kids brought lots of candy and treats to school and we had a party in our classroom. No one ever cared if you ate too much or even worried about the sugar content, and we had Kool-aid to drink as well. Then that night everyone under 12 or so went Trick or Treating. We had about a four block area where we lived. No one had even thought of someone getting poison candy or a candy bar with pins in it. When we got home, my Mother made my brother and I dump our candy out and divide it all up equally, so we each had the same amount. We never even thought to complain out this rule.

    Now most kids do not even go, but instead might go to a local party put on by a club or someone with which the parent is comfortable. Others do not even allow their children to believe in Halloween or participate. This is so sad. I loved those days! I still think children really miss out on being children today. They are over scheduled and not really allowed to just be children and play. My husband often comments on the fact that children do not even know what it is, to spend the whole day outdoors, making their own fun.

    I absolutely love your posts, as they usually reflect a time gone by, or you do the decorating that I too love and still try to do on a regular seasonal basis. Thank you for keeping beauty and the past alive!

  13. I really enjoy Halloween and the memories it brings. Dressing in our homemade costumes. We lived in a very small town so everyone knew everyone and going door to door trick or treating. The best memory was Grandma Murray’s (she was everyone’s Grandma) huge molasses cookies that just melted in your mouth. Sometimes we would get two cookies, then we would brag for weeks. Thanks everyone for all your memories.

  14. In our house Halloween was hardly mentioned. We lived in the country and went to a country school. I was always envious of the children at school that talked about going trick or treating. After I graduated from high school I went to live with an Aunt in Maryland. Her two sons and a daughter did go trick or treating in their neighborhood and I got to see how much fun it was for them to dress in costumes and go from house to house in the dark and come back with bags of candy. Today I live in a busy city and for the past several Halloweens we haven’t had a single trick or treater but I am always prepared, just in case. I’m sad that our society has changed to the point that children aren’t safe out by themselves in their own neighborhoods.

  15. Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays as a child. We would bring treats to school and have a huge party. My best friend and I would spend weeks dreaming up Halloween costumes and bringing our creations to life. One year we were a radio! On Halloween night, I remember looking up and down the streets of my neighborhood and there were flocks of kids on the sidewalks and at every door. Now, we get 25 trick-or-treaters for the entire evening, if we’re lucky! The best part was dumping all our candy on the living room floor and dividing it into piles of gum, smarties, and candy bars! I feel so blessed to have had a “Norman Rockwell” childhood. thanks for the memories!

  16. Weren’t we all blessed to have enjoyed fun, innocent Halloweens? Such treasured memories!
    Mother was a wonderful seamstress and blessed me with exceptional clothing from Halloween costumes to velvet & brocade dresses with matching coats to a wedding dress & mantilla of French Alencon Lace.
    But, little girls always want to be princesses and I vividly remember the year I had a flowing off-white full-length princess dress. We also made conical hat from poster board & covered in gold lamé with a scarf of the dress material attached to the point. I thought I had arrived.
    Our neighbors were varied, but we knew them all and looked forward to the homemade treats the mothers and older ladies with honorary title of aunt made for us. Mother often made maple popcorn balls.
    Would that every young boy of girl was gifted with such pleasant memories.

  17. Loved this article! This is exactly how Halloween was for us growing up. We strive to keep it the same for our kids as well. We keep the Holiday fun and lighthearted, all about the candy and costumes! Thanks for sharing your sweet memories!

  18. My two granddaughters created their own costumes this year —- first raiding my fabric for purple velvet to use as a sash and teal crepe — for I’m not sure what. They live in a new place, so are very cautious about going to only a few people they know for trick ‘n’ treating. But I love that they are creative and lightly happy; foregoing the scary ghouls and blood-dripping zombies. Several people that I know are adamantly against celebrating Halloween at all; considering it a totally pagan holiday. But everyone enjoys dressing up, and a little light-hearted fun cannot be amiss.

  19. Phyllis – I so enjoyed reading about your childhood memories of Halloween. My fondest is of the year my grandmother made me a beautiful ballerina costume. It was pink satin with sequins and layers of stiff netting for the tutu. I just loved putting it on. We lived in a neighborhood where we knew all the families, so being invited in for popcorn balls, freshly baked cookies and home made caramel apples was the best. Thanks for taking me down memory lane. (We actually had a street named Memory Lane in our hood) Happy Halloween!

  20. I’m with you, Phyllis! I do wish it was a time of imagination…..not purchase. That WAS a fun and exciting time. For a short while, you could be something or someone else AND sit after… With your candy and laugh, talk and laugh some more with family and friends. We always knew which house gave he best candy.

    The Down side was….. My birthday and Halloween were always right around the time colds or flu hit because we lived in a COLD weather area at that time of the year……so some Halloweens I was home waiting for someone to share their candy with me…. Or worse…. Eat our own. Ha And some of the years I COULD go, I also remember walking over North Dakota snowbanks to cross the street to other homes.

    Happy Halloween memories….all!


  21. I have such fond memories of Halloween as a child too. In our neighborhood, some of the older people who did not have children at home anymore would invite all the children in to bob for apples, or eat a home made piece of pumpkin pie. We trick or treated alone, without our parents, and felt so grown up! Some of my favorite memories of our own children’s childhood are of Halloween. My own favorite costume was when My Mom dressed me as Little Red Riding Hood, I was so thrilled to have real cookies and apple juice in my little basket. Happy Halloween!

  22. When I was a child I always loved to dress up as a young woman, with high heels and red lipstick!! My godmother had the smallest feet in our family so I just loved putting on her shoes which just about fit me the best!

    One Halloween my Mom purchased for me a roaring 20’s outfit…. Green taffeta dress and sparkly backless high heels! I loved that outfit so much and years gone past I have dressed up once again like a roaring 20’s gal!! I guess in my previous life I was a roaring 20’s gal! Lol

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