It’s October, and here on South Bass Island, that can mean only one thing–let the Halloween parties begin! All across the island, residents and visitors will be celebrating the final weekend of the season before we settle down to a quiet winter four miles from the Ohio shoreline. Restaurants and bars will decorate, and hundreds of people in costume will fill the streets.
Here at B&B’s, we’re a little off the downtown Put-in-Bay beaten path and we like our own holiday traditions. But then, you can hardly blame us. A couple years ago, we found out that the local legend of Sleepy Harlow, the island’s headless ghost, was actually true. Who are we to argue! We’re all set to get into the spirit of the season.
I hear Chandra next door is going to celebrate with a bonfire and ghost stories. Luella Zak, local fishing boat charter captain, is planning to attend and so is Kate Wilder, who’s promised to bring wine from the family winery. Of course I’ll be there along with my sweetie, Levi.
We’ll wear costumes, carve pumpkins, and munch seasonal goodies, and if Chandra has her way, we’ll all go trick-or-treating, too.
Thinking about that made me wonder where the odd tradition came from. Who’s idea was it to go from house to house begging for treats? Because I’m a writer (shhh...don’t tell anyone...my identity as famous horror writer FX O’Grady is still a secret here on the island), I couldn’t resist doing some research, and here’s what I came up with:
There was a practice called souling in the Middle Ages, a time when children and poor adults went to local homes to collect food and money. In return, they’d promise to pray for the residents’ deceased loved ones on All Soul’s Day, November 2. Later in Scotland, the basic idea was co-opted by “guisers” who didn’t promise prayers, but performed jokes and songs in return for food.
I’ve also read that much earlier, during the festival of Samhain, Celtic people would leave a plate of food outside for the ghosts traveling the Earth that night when they believed the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living was the thinnest. Eventually, people began dressing up as these otherworldly beings in exchange for similar offerings of food and drink.
Another theory? Some researchers say that our modern trick-or-treating stems from belsnickling, a tradition in German-American communities where children would dress in costume and adults would try to guess their identities. The children were rewarded with food or other treats if no one could identify them.
I don’t know about you, but I think all three of these traditions have combined into our modern Halloween celebrations. And belsnickling . . . well, you have to admit, it’s a fun word!
However you celebrate, have a wonderful Halloween.