Halloween exists because of All Saints Day. Halloween is all hallow's eve.
The day afterAll Souls Day is All Souls Day (November 2). The whole process is the Catholic Church's way of remembering all of the saints in heaven who are not otherwise recognized and then who have gone before us (particularly the poor souls in purgatory).
But my memories of Halloween are simpler, and less complicated.
They are for the most part happy memories and they go back to the days when I was growing up in a gritty town across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.
In South Camden, NJ (going door to door along narrow streets of row homes) we used to ask for "goldpieces."
We never said "trick or treat" (that came later).
We'd knock, someone would open the door and we'd say "Goldpieces!"
And sometimes people gave us a nickel or a dime. Those "goldpieces" added up and you might wind up with a dollar.
But often we got an apple, popcorn balls or loose candy. I'm not talking any big type candy bars here. I'm talking relatively small treats. Sometimes people baked their own cookies that they handed out. Or, we got ginger snaps.
I always hated Mary Janes. They were so hard and simply not worth biting into.
Sometimes we got Tootsie Rolls (just one or two of the little ones) and they stuck to your teeth. Plus, they had a sort of chocolate taste but they really weren't chocolate. Yuk!
I never liked candy apples for the same reason -- too messy.
Still, in the city we were able to cover lots of homes just in one block of row houses. If we were lucky, that meant plenty of treats, fast.
We didn't have specific trick or treat containers, like special bags or plastic pumpkins. We just used a brown paper bag or often an old pillow case.
My mother had a sweet tooth so when we got home she'd often take some of the best stuff. She had first dibs. Those were pretty much the accepted rules.
We never thought to examine any of the stuff. We just ate it.
Halloween is for kids and it's a shame now that the parents have to go trick-or-treating with the kids. When we ventured out with just a few of our friends, door-to-door as kids, it was a great adventure and it taught us a lot.
We learned about courtesy and neighborliness and sharing and community. As we gazed (even briefly) into other homes we learned that not everyone was as fortunate as us but they could still share and make a kid smile.
As it got darker (and we got older) we felt a little bit more secure each hour and each year. In a kid-sized way it was all quite thrilling.
It was a true right of passage.
And Camden was just a great town.
It still touches my heart to think about those days.