Have you ever wondered how Halloween became America's second-most popular holiday?
The holiday to come
In the beginning, Halloween was not even a holiday in the United States. In Puritan New England, there were no holidays, not even Christmas! They believed that such celebrations distracted one's thoughts from the divine.
But in other regions of our young country, there were some celebrations containing elements of our future holiday.
Called an "Autumn Play Party," friends and family would gather together at these events and celebrate the year's good fortune by telling each other scary stories from the past and predicting an even better future to come.
These evening parties also included nearly endless rounds of singing and dancing with apples and ale.
A hundred years later, another wave of immigrants, driven by the Irish potato famine, reached America's shore. With them came the Celtic traditions of All Hallows Eve, a day to honor the departed.
Back in the old country, these starving future American citizens had gone to the homes of the wealthy, begging for "soul" cakes in exchange for the promise to pray for the aristocrat's deceased family members. This custom came to America with the new immigrants and became the basis for our future tradition of trick-or-treating.
After the horror of our own Civil War, many towns looked for some way to heal the deep wounds of war.
Humorous costumes and a kinder version of trick-or-treating became unifying activities as citizens learned to exchange sweets and thoughtful words with each other once again.
By the 1900s Halloween celebrations shifted back to the family, and it became fashionable to host parties at private homes with cider and candles.
Halloween almost disappeared during the Great Depression, as many families were too poor to celebrate beyond a single piece of candy.
Thirty years later, things were much more bountiful. Families, trick-or-treating in their tie-dye T-shirts, began a neighborhood walking tradition that we still enjoy today, along with porch pumpkins, gummy bears and candy corn.
So light up that pumpkin and consider making some Victorian Flour Ghosts for family and friends. They'll look so great dancing across your favorite table.
Ana Kinkaid, a Green Lake resident and culinary historian, would love to hear your comments at ilovetocookbut@ hotmail.com.
1 cup flour
1 cup salt
1/2 cup water
Combine and mix the above ingredients together until a smooth dough is formed.
Divide the dough into 6-8 pieces. Shape each piece into a small ghost. Be sure to flatten the base so the ghosts will set upright.
Place on a plate and microwave your ghost for 3 minutes or until baked solid. Allow to cool completely, about 5 minutes.
Use a fine-point black marker and add a smiley face.[[In-content Ad]]