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The lowdown on Halloween

            This year in Pickens County is shaping up to be a particularly busy Halloween, lots of events and groups, plus regular Trick or Treat. Though, with the holiday hitting on a weekend, the downtown Jasper candy blitz may be a little more sparse than in years past.

            To help get us into the spirit, here is a look at some of the traditions of Halloween. The holiday can be loosely traced back 2,000 years, according to both and Smithsonian online. Though they acknowledge the exact reason people began dressing up and asking for candy is hard to pinpoint.

            The general consensus, however, is the tradition began with the Celts’ Samhain festival which was celebrated on Oct. 31. Historians speculate people dressed up in costumes to both honor their dead at the early festival and, in other cases, to confuse real demons. Basically the thought was if you look like a bad character yourself, then the evil spirits will leave you alone.

            From this, according to Smithsonian’s website, the Christian Church borrowed the tradition and created an All Souls’ Day celebration, with the two holidays eventually merging.

            There were numerous customs of performing tricks or shows for festival food in medieval Britain, possibly a precursor of Trick or Treat today.

            Fast forward about 1,000 years and the idea of Trick or Treat shows up in Canada, with newspapers showing that events involving tricks and treats were recorded in two different provinces there during the early 1900s. In 1928, the tradition of going around for candy is first recorded in the US.

            In 1951 a Peanuts cartoon strip depicted trick-or-treating. This was followed by a Disney cartoon, Trick or Treat featuring Donald Duck. And the Oct. 31 holiday which began to scare away demons was off to the races in modern culture.

            Now, 70 years later and it is now our second largest commercial holiday with Americans spending an estimated $10.14 billion on supplies last year, according to a September article in USA Today.

            That is a lot of candy and Squid Games costumes. The Netflix show from Korea is so popular that pegged it as inspiring the top trending Halloween get-up.

            One thing we find interesting is whether there were ever any “tricks” in the modern holiday. The famous It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, from 1966, showed Charlie Brown repeatedly given a rock while his friends got candy.

            Rather than handing out candy to all, did some homes toss in a few rocks or maybe lumps of coal back in the 1950s-1960s? The name clearly implies Trick or Treat as though there is the option of giving out either.

            In any event, it should be noted the idea of people putting razor blades in apples or tampering with candy is not only morally wrong, but also a lingering urban myth. No cases of injury from random treat tampering were found when researched this well-founded tale.

            We were surprised by this, as the myth is so pervasive. But many websites confirm that there are occasional reports where people felt candy had been tampered with, but records show only one case where a child was harmed through Trick or Treat candy.

            In 1974 a Texas man, Ronald O’Bryan, was accused of giving cyanide-laced Pixie Sticks to five children, including his son. said that his eight-year-old son was the only one to eat the candy and he died. “Though nobody saw O’Bryan put the cyanide in the candy, investigators learned that O’Bryan had recently taken life insurance policies out on his children. He was convicted of murder and executed via lethal injection in 1984,” stated.

            Parental vigilance about tampered food at any time is not a bad thing. However, vehicle/pedestrian accidents are  infinitely more likely threat on the holiday. Parents should focus more on the risks for kids on the edge of roadways after dark, possibly wearing dark-colored costumes that may also be hard to see out of.

            So be careful out there, but don’t let a little fear spoil the holiday. Just watch where you are walking and follow common sense for accepting treats.

            This year with a ZombieFest already in the books, several festivals and numerous churches holding Trunk or Treat events all across the county (see ads throughout this edition) we encourage everyone to get out have a good and safe time. And hopefully we’ll ward off a few demons with our costumes.

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