Halloween: Bewitching Treats, Eats, Costumes and Decorations

by Lorenz Books

Published by Lorenz Books

1999, 64 pages


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Goblin Fuel

Reviewed by Linda L. Richards

 

Despite all of the emblems of evil associated with it, I think of Halloween as sort of a hopeful quasi-holiday. After all, Halloween’s history and evolution is all about fairly malevolent forces. Yet, somehow, in modern times, Halloween has come to be celebrated by a whole lot of happy shenanigans. Costumes, wonderful food that's (hopefully) bad for you, sometimes even fireworks. It's all pretty cheery stuff and all of it enacted by participants who are quite often decked out like creatures from their own worst nightmares.

In Halloween: Bewitching Treats, Eats, Costumes and Decorations we're told that the earliest Halloween-type celebration traces back to the Celts with a holiday called Samhain.

... marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the cold winter. It was believed that on the night of Samhain, witches, ghosts and other dark forces ruled, and that the souls of the dead would revisit the places where they had once dwelt.

Later, the Catholic Church endeavored to put an end to such silliness by declaring November 1st to be All Saints' Day and the night before it to be All Hallows' Eve. However, the more stately November 1st holiday couldn't rival the raucous celebrations that had evolved around October 31st. And Halloween was cemented.

While Halloween gives us a tightly written overview on the history and development of the traditions that have developed for the evening of October 31st, this certainly isn't the focus of the book. In tone and execution, Halloween is intended to be more of a parent's helper with regard to what the heck to do for this challenging holiday. And it is challenging. No parent that has been asked to come up with an asparagus costume at bedtime on the 30th of October will contradict this statement. Being a parent at Halloween requires more creative ability than any other day of the year. There are, after all, costumes to make, treats to prepare and decorations to create. And -- sure -- you can buy all of these things. But, somehow, it's just not the same. For anyone.

Enter Halloween. At just 64 pages, it's hardly an exhaustive work, but it's a pretty action-packed 64. A section on Simple Party Ideas covers ideas for decorations and activities for a Halloween-themed party. One called House of Horrors looks very much like a Halloween-time game that was organized by one of my classes when I was in elementary school. It might look familiar to you, as well:

Completely darken one room, play creepy music and guide two or three children at a time to the delights of:
Peeled grapes -- "eyes".
Cooked, cold spaghetti -- "brains".
Yogurt -- "ghost slime".
Dried pear slices -- "ears".
Home-made cobwebs and large spiders hung everywhere.
A "ghost" which pops from behind a chair or out of a cupboard. (Get an older sibling to dress up.)

A section called Warming Delights regales us with recipes that include the humble pumpkin. Bewitching Sweets includes several homemade alternatives to store-bought candies and treats. Spooky Disguises deals with the de rigueur Halloween costume. And while there aren't a lot of these included, the ones that are here are creative and fairly simple: many of them mostly consisting of materials found in the average child-inhabited home. Finally, the section called Festive Displays uses different autumn vegetables to create decorations to turn your home into a Halloweenie wonderland.

Though by no means a complete overview on its subject, Halloween is a great primer for those parents who need some help getting their Halloween creative juices flowing. | October 1999

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.