Monday, October 31, 2005


It is amazing to me how into Halloween some people get.

This morning, at the Armory where I and my walking buddies walk in the fall and winter, the Navy ROTC class was doing its morning PT. A number of the (what are they called at this stage -- they're not midshipmen yet, I don't think) were dressed up for Halloween. One was dressed as the pope, with flowing white robes, a pope hat and a miter. It was funny to see the pope leading the class in laps around the track with his robe billowing behind. Another one was dressed up as Jesus. It seemed like he should be leading the flock, but then really, I guess the pope is the one who gets all the publicity. There was also a Santa Claus, lumbering around with his thick red suit. I felt sorry for him.

We never went trick or treating when I was growing up. Not once. And I daresay no Amish children have ever gone trick or treating. Asking for things is not something Amish children are allowed to do. Besides, who has time to go driving through the countryside in a horse and buggy when there are cows waiting to be milked; eggs needing to be gathered, and pigs squealing to be slopped?
The trick part of trick or treating was big among the Amish, though. While you wouldn't want to go around and ask for candy, it was okay to push over outhouses, or play pranks like disassembling a buggy and reassemblying it on the roof of the barn. I never actually saw any of those pranks done, but there were long hours of story telling during which I listened to the adults describe in great deal what they or their cousins had done. These stories would be repeated whenever the freundshaft got together. (We didn't have television to entertain us.)

I do remember one year dressing up for Halloween for school. I think it was at Liberty School when I was in first grade. No, I didn't go dressed up as Bat Man or Super Man. I had never heard of Bat Man or Super Man at that stage in my life. I did what all little Amish children who have ever dressed up for Halloween have done, I cross-dressed. I wore one of Mom's old dresses, but I think I kept on my barndoor pants on, sticking out underneath the dress, just to make sure that no one got any ideas about who I really was. My heart was not into transvestiteism.

My father told the story of the Halloween party they had when he was a little boy, at that same Liberty School. All the boys dressed as girls and all the girls dressed as boys. For those unfamiliar with the Amish, creativity in dress is not one of our strong suits. My father said that at the beginning of the school day, the boys normally lined up on one side of the room and the girls on the other. But they didn't switch sides for the Halloween party, so it looked like all of the girls were on the boys side and the boys on the girls side. This seemed to really tickle him. I guess it was funnier back in the days when the roles of the sexes was a little more fixed.

When our sons were little, my wife went through the phases of making cute little Halloween costumes. I remember a Winnie the Pooh costume lasting for several years, and then being put in storage and handed down to our youngest son when he got old enough to go trick or treating. I also remember home made Robin Hood and pirates costumes.

What to do with the treats was always interesting. Our oldest son liked to categorize things. He would come home from trick or treating, dump his haul on the living room floor and then spend the rest of that evening, and several subsequent evenings, sorting it into categories. A pile for candy bars; another for chocolate candy; another for a different kind of candy; another for gift certificates.

Trying to get my fair share of the loot as payment for taking the boys around the neighborhood was always interesting. It was always an internal battle whether I would get some of the candy by hook or by crook. As a crook, I would try talking my boys into giving me some of their candy. I tried to instill the concept of fairness; I should get at least some of the candy as payment for my duties. The hook was the more straight forward method. Just swipe some candy after the boys were sent off to bed. One son, in particular, liked to hoard his candy, and would still have most of his stash left by the next Easter when the Easter bunny brought him still more chocolates. He kept pretty close tabs, though, as to what he had, and would raise the alarm if things started disappearing too fast.

In retrospect, I probably should have stolen more of their candy than I did. They still had baby teeth, very suseptible to sugar, and as a parent I should have worked harder to preserve their health. I should have been able to convince them to trade their loot for carrot sticks. But sometimes children are harder to convince than juries.


Lauren said...

You have to eat the candy before they've mentally photographed the contents of the bag. Let's say the kids are in bed on Halloween night,and they have been too tired and overhelmed to do the kind of accounting you mentioned. Plus, they trust you. You may decide to eat a bunch of Reese's Cups and Snickers bars, just to keep it away from those vulnerable little teeth. And your spouse happens to be conveniently away for the evening. And you decide it can't hurt to bury the wrappers under a cereal box in the trash. Just a random example.

Uncle Menno said...

I remember having a dress-up contest in school. One Amish girl first put on pants and then put a dress on over the pants so that the legs showed underneath. We tried and tried to guess her identity under the mask, but the pants kept faking us out: we thought it was a boy wearing a dress, but had identified all the boys and so were stopped.

Anonymous said...

The imagine I got of Amish boys and girls lined up on their respective sides of the school room, crossed-dressed in the plainest of clothes was hilarious for me! Growing up on the farm, a Mennonite, we didn't have much of Halloween either so costumes were mostly Hobos, bums and gypsies, using mixed up cast-offs from our parents closets.

Not much of Halloween in our neighborhood this year! How can people be afraid to deliver their children to the home of two "aging" adults with huge baskets of candy on hand, the house all brightly lit and welcoming? It was a waste of electricity and a lovely warm evening walk in the neighborhood. Oh well, eveyone at the office devoured the candy.

Again, Becky (I should come up with a clever blog name instead of being "anonymous")