Tuesday, 1 November 2011

giving and getting

I decided to do a little Hallowe'en research project, just because. Hallowe'en seems to be a bit about alter egos - trying on different personas - so maybe I'm trying on the "student with a research project" persona right now.

The Gaelic festival called "Samhain" was celebrated on October 31st. It was believed that on this day, the boundaries between the living and the dead overlapped. Masks and costumes were worn to appease the spirits and gourds cut into frightening faces. Doesn't sound like it was a fun evening - more of a "let's get through this alive" kind of evening where people feared for their lives. But then St. Patrick changed things a little bit, according to legend. He wanted Christians to celebrate the saints who have gone before us - not to fear them or fear death. Apparently, St. Patrick started going door to door, spreading good cheer by giving out small cakes and sweets.

So when did it turn from being about the giving of sweets to the getting? I guess for a while, when trick-or-treating for candy became more popular, many looked down on the practice. I love this little tidbit: in 1948, members of the Madison Square Boys Club in New York City carried a parade banner protesting Hallowe'en that said "American Boys Don't Beg."

Well, we've come a long way, boys. There's a big part of me that likes Hallowe'en - it's mostly fun and candy hangovers and creative costumes. I'm not a huge fan of the gore and scary stuff and neither are my girls. Last night, we went around our neighbourhood looking for "happy houses" to approach for candy.
me and Raggedy Ann
But it made me think about other events that have become "getting" times for my kids - birthdays, Christmas, and Easter. And that's what makes these times special too - the treats that come along with them. But I hope that I'm also creating lots of times in the seasonal year when giving is expected and encouraged and fun.

I'm happy to see the high school pick up on something that church youth groups have been doing for awhile: trick or eat, where they go around to people's homes to pick up items for the local food bank. I hope that this continues to catch on - for the young trick or treaters too - so people will not only stock up on sweets for October 31st, but also cans and boxes and food for those who really need it.

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. - Maya Angelou


  1. Last night my biggest turn off was when three 10-12 year old girls came up to the house. They all said "trick or treat" and I gave them each two candies. Their mom said "thank you" and so did two of the girls. The other girl (the oldest I think) said "more please". I was so appalled that I gave the OTHER two girls each another big handful, but not this girl. Perhaps bad of me but I gave more to those two who were thankful than the one who just saw me as a free candy machine.

  2. Cam - I agree, it can be a grab-fest with some not-so-thankful trick-or-treaters. My favourite too is when they ask for something other than the candies you're about to give them. I always figured that you get what you get - and you sort it out at home. If you don't like something, you give it to a sibling or parent or trash can, but you don't stand there negotiating with the giver. Kids these days. :) Totally kidding there.

  3. thanks for researching this...so interesting.
    i love the idea of "trick or eat". {i'm not much of an organizer, per se, but this may be something to look into for me.} i love this idea and desperately want my children to grow up knowing the importance of giving...

  4. Me too, Michelle. Me too. That'd be so cool if you'd start a "trick or eat" in your area.