By Danny Keating, Director of the Louisiana/Mississippi HVAC Insider
To most of us ‘oldies’, Halloween probably has a different set of memories than the Halloween that will be celebrated at the end of this month. Nowadays Halloween has become an adult event with animated ’Haunted Houses’, extravagant parties and costuming that rivals Mardi Gras Tuesday, but that was not always the way Halloween was celebrated.
The origins of Halloween date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland and celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of the summer harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. The Celts And their Druid priests believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead became blurred and it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In the middle and the late 1800’s America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house-to-house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition, which generally results in gifts of candy.
Probably the most memorable Halloween for me was 1959. In Louisiana it used to be common to ask “Where were you when Billy Cannon ran his punt return back”. I was with my brother Wayne and several of our friends near my home in Chalmette ‘trick or treating’ and listening to the LSU vs. Ole Miss Game on a transistor radio. Two comments need to be made. Yes, at ages twelve to fourteen we were probably too old to be ‘trick or treating’ and were told so by many candy givers. Secondly, when I say we were listening to the football game on a transistor radio I use the term ‘listening’ very loosely since the reception on transistor radios was nothing like the clear reception we get on radios today. My fellow ‘oldies’ can attest to this fact of life about transistor radios. However poor reception did nothing to damper our spirits when Billy Cannon broke 7 tackles on his way to an 89-yard touchdown and ultimately a 7-3 victory over archrival and football powerhouse Ole Miss. Since our publication covers the state of Mississippi as well as the state of Louisiana and since I don’t want to alienate any Ole Miss fans, I feel obligated to report that in a rematch on January 1st in the Sugar Bowl Ole Miss triumphed over LSU 21-0, but we are currently discussing Halloween not New Years Day.
My very early memories of Halloween in the mid 50’s were of much colder weather than we currently experience and also of my Grandmother Keating sewing sheets to make ghost costumes for her many grandchildren who went ‘trick or treating’. She would custom fit the sheet to the child and then use old pillowcases to put over our heads. It was a different world back then. We would go out at dark and return several hours later and our parents never worried about us. We’d let our imaginations run wild, fantasizing about ghosts and witches, and generally having a great and scary time.
Nowadays, in anticipation of Halloween, Ms. Bettie buys me a big bag of Snickers (my favorite candy). I turn off all the lights outside my house so that the neighborhood children will think I’m not home. I then watch television and eat all of the Snickers by myself. Well, maybe that’s not what I actually do, but I certainly fantasize about doing just that every Halloween.