Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pedestrian Lane: From candy corn to pumpkin spice

Halloween festivities usher in holiday season

Today’s the day! We have been building up to Halloween almost as long as we anticipate Christmas.

Pumpkins showed up in the grocery stores in late September and the Great Pumpkin made his appearance right after the first of October. Ghosts and witches and black cats have been hovering around all month and Halloween T.V. has been competing with the early Christmas stuff for weeks. I guess it’s time.

The community came through with the pumpkin festival on a bright sunny Saturday mid-month, despite the obligatory early snow storm the day before. A hayride, Miss Mermaid Alaska from Frosbit Fins, a maze made from hay bales that rewarded participants with a pumpkin at the end, face painting, pumpkin painting and lots of little kids.

I saw lots of smiles, big and small, as we walked through the area.

The Kenai Library was there with treats and we were also rewarded by the food wagons and a pumpkin drop by the Kenai Fire Department. I think it was a way for the young parents to get their Halloween fix and introduce the littles to the joys of the season at the same time.

The drive-thru trick-or-treat at the Senior Center on Friday evening before Halloween and the Trunk-or-Treat at the Boys & Girls Clubs on Saturday, then The Day itself, today, with various churches celebrating the harvest and door-to-door trick-or-treating in the evening make it a long weekend of celebration.

Most of us look on Halloween as a fun time for kids to have a little excitement. In the past few years it has become also a party time for the young adults who are looking for a reason to break loose (that was Saturday night in my day).

I have mentioned that Halloween was not a big deal during my childhood, and not really so much even for my kids.

By the time we were in the village, however, it had become more of a big deal for those students. They liked costumes and masks and had plastic jack-o’-lanterns they carried from house to house.

The first year I was there, I asked someone who was going to Fairbanks just before Halloween to bring back a pumpkin. (The store did not stock raw pumpkins. Too expensive to ship for so little audience.) He returned with a beautiful specimen and asked, “Why?”

I told him we were going to make a jack-o’-lantern.

The day of, we had many villagers there besides the students. They watched carefully as we cut into the top, then removed the seeds (we roasted them), and eventually carved the face. They told me later they expected to pour out the insides like pumpkin in a can to make a pie. I explained how pumpkin gets into the can, and we baked the jack-o’-lantern and made a couple pies for lunch. (I know … not acceptable today.)

The kids were enthralled, if a little dubious. Like today, food in a can gets there in mysterious ways.

Some cultures view Halloween as a religious holiday, but in the far distant past it was a celebration to end summer and the harvest and to prepare for the coming winter. It was called Samhain in Ireland and Scotland and most of the traditions of our Halloween originated there. They believed that the border between the living and dead dissolved as winter approached.

The early Celts believed that for that one night the souls of the dead, and the Fairy people could cross over into the world of the living. The people dressed in costumes to hide from the evil spirits. They would go from house to house singing or reciting poetry in exchange for a treat. They carved jack-o’-lanterns out of turnips to scare the evil spirits.

These traditions carried over into modern day and are basically part of the Halloween festival around the world.

As with many of today’s religious holidays, the Roman Catholic church picked up on the Pagan traditions to convince the people to trust and embrace Christianity. Thus, the celebration of Day of the Dead and All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 following Allhallows Eve.

I’m not sure how I feel about turning October into a celebration.

We have extended our holiday season by a month in celebration of the harvest and end of summer to blast off to our end-of-year festival (which some people believe was already too long). But it was a fun month. A good ending to summer and harvest and maybe the yearlong (plus) pandemic fears.

Now, put away the candy corn and bring out the pumpkin spice (which I detected wafting in the background a few weeks ago).

Thanksgiving is nigh. And only 55 days till Christmas!

Virginia can be emailed at

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