Rotten Potatoes and Bowls of Candy
Wednesday Stories Written by MJ Reporter Willow LaMunyon
Photos by MJ Reporter Willow LaMunyon of her Front Yard
1845 was the year when Ireland began to starve. The food that nourished the Irish was rotting. For many, the potato was a major part of their diet. The average male consumed around 14 pounds of potatoes, and the women ate 11.2 pounds. It was practically their only food.
Festering potatoes bled a putrid red-brown fungus-like organism called Phytophthora infestans, leaving them unedible, and “The Great Hunger” began.
Almost 2 million refugees from Ireland came to the United States in the dismal wake of the Great Hunger in hopes of finding a way to make a living and keep from starving. They brought with them more than hunger and a desire to create a new life. They brought rich traditions that we added to our own, and Halloween became a lot more interesting.
The Celts would celebrate during the time halfway between autumn and winter, October 31st. Okay, the date was a little more complicated than that for those who know their Irish history, but this is about a blending, so the last day of October it is.
Large bonfires would be built to keep everyone warm, then adults and children would knock on every door asking for a bit to eat or drink. When the treats were forthcoming, the entire household would be invited to join the others in feasting and partying. When no treats were coming, pranks were pulled on the miserly.
The time of year thinned the veil between the worlds so it was possible to communicate with departed loved ones but also open to spirits that were evil as evil could be. To trick those malevolent spirits, people wore costumes as frightening as they could make them to fool the evil beings of the night and walk freely among them. Masked and fed, the parties lasted through the night, and the Irish not willing to let go of a good thing brought the Samhain pronounced sow.win and meaning Summers End blended with Halloween raising the American yawner of Halloween many notches and slowly changing it to the Holiday we know today.
At first American kids took the pranks to heart and delighted in using Halloween for times to cause mischief, upping their antics every year until it got out of hand. To avoid trouble, people bribed the pranksters with treats in hopes of being left alone. A halt was put on the pranks after they got out of hand, but the giving of candy to the little ghosts and goblins who came knocking at our doors threatening to trick or treat became part of the fabric of Halloween.
Although it is several weeks to the big night, I have a bowl of candy ready and waiting to hand out. It will need to be refilled several times because kids are not the only ones who like candy.