Rohse: Monument-al memories of Halloween celebration

My mom was all for Halloween fun, but that didn’t include making a big batch of fluffy purple slime.

In our town of Monument, trick or treating wasn’t very popular. Monument had a population of only about 100, so when you went out on Halloween Eve to trick or treat with friends, you’d often end up going to your own home along the way. And that wasn’t a fun way to spend Halloween.

All over the world, countries celebrate this occasion. But it’s often known by other names, such as Devil’s Night or Mischief Night.

In Austria, it’s called All Saints’ Eve. You put out great quantities of bread and water and make efforts to comfort dear departed relatives.

In some places, derelict buildings are burned. But this had gotten out of control at times, with dire results.

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In the Czech Republic, residents commemorate the departed by taking flowers and trinkets to graves of loved ones, then building a fire and clustering around it to talk to the departed.

In Italy, they cook for loved ones, then throw open the doors and leave for church. In Hong Kong, they take anything that would make departed loved ones more comfortable, including gifts and money, to the graveyard.

The custom in Scotland is to peel an apple, making certain the peel is in one piece when it falls to the floor. This supposedly reveals the name of the person the peeler will marry.

Halloween officially falls on the eve before the holy “All Saints Day.” Legend has it that witches and evil spirits go out and celebrate that night because the next day, when the saints are honored, they had best be in hiding.

In earlier times, there were many superstitions associated with Halloween.

Witch doctors and medicine men wore masks to make them look like gods or spirits. The belief was that if they had the appearance of gods, they would have the power of gods, thus be able to prevent and cure disease.

Death masks were also popular. The face of the dead person was covered with wax or plaster, which hardened into a mask.

Children now dress in costumes for trick or treating. They often wear masks as well.

Orange and black have become Halloween colors.

Witches on broomsticks fill the skies. Black cats, pumpkin jack o’ lanterns, and bobbing for apples, have long been part of the day as well.

Masks of paper, wood, cloth or plastic are big for Halloween.

Presidents’ likenesses have become popular to feature on masks. This year. masks of both Trump and Biden sold out.

It will be interesting to see what kids come up with for trick or treating in the future. It will most assuredly be fun. As that’s what Halloween is all about.

Monument’s favorite trick was tipping over the outhouses found in every backyard.

Rural electrification had not yet found our little town. We not only lacked an electrical system, but also water and sewer systems.

Our custom of pushing over outhouses was quite harmless, caused little or no damage, and was not of great expense to anyone — a matter of considerable importance in those days of the Great Depression.

Every backyard featured, usually in its most distant corner, an outhouse made of rough lumber. The door was typically left open so the Eastern Oregon landscape could better be appreciated.

We did not have toilet paper, because it cost too much. Nailed on the inside wall beside the seat was a Wards or Sears catalog, serving as a substitute.

We, of course, used out-of-date catalogs. But they still made interesting perusal.

Instead of magazines as in a doctor’s waiting room, our catalogs provided information about spark plugs and pajamas. But these circumstances prevented going out on Halloween to string toilet paper over any object making a good target.

Nor did we kids do any “eggin’.” For ranchers’ wives, egg money meant spending money, so you didn’t waste eggs on foolishness.

We did soap few windows. Our parents sometimes made us clean those soaped windows, and it was laborious work.

Tipping over outhouses was more fun.

Part of the fun was never knowing whether there was anyone in the outhouse when we tipped it over. We thought it an excellent way to spend Halloween.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at rohse5257@comcast.net.


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