27 October 2010

Trick or Treat!

Just the other day I amused myself by watching this nineties comedy “Hocus Pocus” on Star Movies for the nth time. For those who have not seen the movie, this was a comedy made in 1993 starring Bette Midler – who gave an outstandingly hilarious performance – Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as three witch sisters brought back from the other side after three hundred years by a virgin – a teenage boy, no less – who unwittingly did so by lighting a bewitched candle.

I had seen the comedy several times before, but I still guffawed loudly at the sight of two of the witches flying off into the night aboard their customary broomsticks while the third made do with – of all things – a vacuum cleaner.

Because the movie was set during Halloween trick or treating, the three witches – still clad in their seventeenth century lacy dresses – blended in perfectly with the locals, whose children went around the neighborhood trick or treating while the adults went partying in absurd costumes.

But this is not about the movie, so go find yourself a DVD…

Watching the movie, I got around to thinking once again how significantly different Halloween traditions are in the West compared to what we grew up with here in the country. As a small boy, I was never really fond of the arrival of the first of November. Although it meant traveling to Nasugbu to meet up with relatives from my mother’s side, the day also meant a visit to a cemetery. Bummer…

Maybe the adults were themselves to blame for my early childhood aversion to visiting cemeteries. Growing up, we got told that on the first of November, the souls of the dead walked the earth again. As a kid, I naturally assumed the place to come across them would be in cemeteries, where their bodies were laid to rest! Who wanted to meet the dead, for crying out loud?

As a young boy with a lively imagination, the very sight of a stone cross sitting atop a concrete tomb used to scare me. In fact, when I was very young, I would cover my eyes whenever we were to drive by a cemetery – any cemetery, for that matter. To actually visit one and be surrounded by so many tombs – even in broad daylight – did not seem like something to look forward to, young boy that I was.

These days, of course, I do not scare quite as easily anymore. Still, growing up and watching American kids trick or treating in movies and television shows, I used to wonder why the kids always seemed to be having fun. You’re supposed to be scared on Halloween – or, at least, that was according to my pre-pubertal line of thinking.

Those American kids did not even seem to be intimidated by the ugly jack-o-lanterns people hung in front of their houses. When children happily skipped away from neighborhood front doors after having been given treats of sweets or pastries, I used to think that was the oddest thing!

My brother, who has lived in Houston in Texas for a while, once told me that trick or treating was actually something kids in the States looked forward to. Of course, as I grew older I began to understand that Halloween is a fun night for kids in the West – and most probably because they were not traumatized by the-dead-are-walking-the-earth-again stories. I’m not complaining; it’s just a Pinoy sort of thing!

Apparently, the custom of trick or treating stemmed from the medieval practice of souling – i.e. poor people walking from door to door offering to pray for the souls of the household’s departed in exchange for food. With the passage of time, the prayer went away, to be replaced by tricks and treats.

The whole idea is really quite simple, if even on the silly side. Kids knock on doors asking homeowners, “Trick or treat?” The easy way out for the homeowner is just to give away candies or cakes to the visitors. If the homeowner chooses “trick,” the children are obligated to play acts of mischief on the homeowner’s property.

But I am not about to dwell on the matter. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article if you wish to read more.

This afternoon, the community involvement people hosted pre-elementary students from day care centers and Montessori schools around the city in a trick or treat activity. The concept was simple. There was a program at the old gym to welcome visitors; and afterwards all the visiting kids along with their counterparts from the school – not to mention doting parents – went all over the campus to visit offices. The offices had been – needless to say – forewarned to have sweets available for giving away.

All my life, this was the first time I was seeing trick or treat live with my own eyes. I suppose it was only this afternoon that I finally understood why those in the West look forward to Halloween. It was fun! The whole campus was a sea of costumes! There were princes and princesses, walking skeletons, vampires, medieval knights, sorcerers and – of course – witches dressed not unlike those in that hit comedy “Hocus Pocus.”

The looks on the kids’ faces told it all – albeit, methinks the adults and the students who volunteered to help out had as much fun giving away the candies.

There was, inevitably, bound to be a crying child. For a while, the community involvement people could not quite make out what the kid was crying about. Eventually – between sobs – the poor boy made it understood that his companion was lost. Note, it was not the boy who was lost. It was the companion. He was just sitting there looking the most pitiable sight. And of course the employees nearby fawned all over him until his companion was found by the security personnel…

I understand this is supposed to be an annual thing now. Marvelous idea! Why didn’t somebody think of this earlier? And the kids? I don’t suppose any of those I saw prancing about in their costumes are ever going to be anxious about the arrival of Halloween!

If you still have some stamina left after viewing all these pictures, there are also a couple of videos that I took. Just click on the Video tab above to see them.  Enjoy!

Noise and Innovation
Month of May Blues




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