Karma In A Candy Twist

Hallowe’en. A universal constant of ghouls, pranks, candies and an occasion which brings back different memories each time I think about it, like a monster mash of childhood memories.

The British have their pranks like eggs tossed at windows. Perhaps they forgot it was their North American cousins who introduced the pumpkin from the ancient Celtic observance of Samhain — a time of celebrating the new year as a rebirth of the world, when the land of the living and dead were closest.

On the East Coast of America, Hallowe’en would be the smell of burning autumn leaves, lit pumpkins on doorsteps and bands of miniature monsters foraging from street to street.

In the Pacific, we wore our polyester costumes as loosely as we could to avoid sweating in them. Some of us only wore underwear under them. The masks were humid and mostly we pulled them down only when approaching a house to call out trick or treat. In some ways it reminds me of a band of bank robbers amassing before an onslaught.

In Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, we wore our costumes over heavy autumn clothing and ski jackets — we quickly outgrew the largest sizes of children’s costumes which had to be pulled over our heavy clothing, making us look like over-stuffed sausages.

In Hong Kong, the costumes of Chinese Opera singers in extreme white, contouring pink and black make-up reminded me in a way of the Kabuki actors in Tokyo with their exaggerated grimaces and stark white to black facial paints. Roasting chestnuts tinged the air with the promise of something to nibble at until you found an apartment that would hand out candy.

It was fun as a child to do Hallowe’en. There were expectations and surprises with the candy. There were the old seasonal favorites like peanut butter taffy and miniature Snickers bars. One would always find pumpkin mallow creams. Our theory was that the cheapest and least pleasant candy was offered by people who in their childhood had played pranks on people by tossing eggs on walls, soaping car windows and leaving the ever evil flaming bag of dog shit on someone’s doorstep. Now that they were adults, they must have participated minimally to fend off what others might now do to them. Karma in a candy twist.

The more creative minded adults might have made popcorn balls, baked cookies or handed out candy floss. Homemade used to mean fun and bigger portions. We hardly ever see that anymore.

It was a time of trick or treat or trick in treat. Imagine the sheer horror: little children greedily popping candy into their mouths and the candy suddenly becoming what they fear most. They tip their heads back and cry, “Yuck” while they spit up the black syrupy ‘poison’ of the British Midlands, Pontefract sweets, (in America they have another name) which tasted of old people candy and was equally as vile. The truly twisted gave out licorice!

So there we have it. Black cats, witches, ghosts and the things people fear the most. Light a pumpkin for me.

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