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Happy Halloween! A primer for newcomers

Halloween is right around the corner and if you are not familiar with this peculiar holiday, you may be wondering about all the fuss.  This entry will answer your questions and give you tips on how to make the most of this very fun evening.

The roots of Halloween have been traced to various sources.  Some scholars have found linkages to an ancient Celtic religion that used many of the same symbols to mark the passage of fall to winter.  While others claim Halloween's earliest beginnings are found in the pagan funeral traditions of ancient Rome.  Whatever its origins, and despite the prevalence of all things ghoulish and other worldly, Halloween today is a day and evening of good fun marked by parties, (hopefully harmless) pranks, costumes and candy.

The first mistake someone who is unfamiliar with this tradition might make is to think that it is reserved for children.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Halloween has developed into an occasion that adults enjoy as much as children.  In fact, retail reports state that consumer spending on Halloween items, is second only to Christmas spending.  So, on October 31st, do not be surprised to see colleagues at work in various states of disguise.  You will also note a number of tall witches and ghosts on Halloween night, as parents turn their chaperoning duties into an opportunity to dress up and have some fun along with their children. can you partake?  Well, its really quite simple.  You will need a pumpkin, a costume and some candy.  On the day of, you will likely observe your children in a heightened state of excitement as they prepare their costumes and await nightfall.  You can channel some of their restless energy by carving pumpkins together.  Once carved, your pumpkin becomes the iconic jack'o'lantern.  You can affix a lighted candle inside your marvellous creation and place it at your doorstep signalling to the evenings revellers that you are participating in the night's festivities and handing out candy.  As the sun sets, your doorbell will begin to ring.  When you open the door, children will yell "trick or treat".  This "greeting" means that you have a choice: you can either give them some candy or risk being the victim of a trick they have prepared.  Some brave souls reply "trick" at which point, the young trick-or-treaters, may sing a song or tell a joke (most often, they are dumbfounded as they were just expecting to get their candy straight away)!  As for the candy you give out (and receive) it is preferable that it be store bought and individually wrapped.  Anything home made should be not handed out or consumed.  Many children will also have an orange box with them which they use to collect donations for Unicef.  It is a good idea to have some spare change on hand to give them.You can blow out your jack'o'lantern, effectively closing up shop, when you run out of candy or whenever you like.  Its up to you.  

 With a few simple precautions, you can make sure the evening is as safe as it is fun.   For starters, you need to ensure that costumes are warm as evenings can be very cool at that time of year.  You should also take care that any masks or headgear does not impair visiblity.  It is a good idea to apply some reflective tape to the costume so that your child is visible to cars as he or she will undoubtedly be tempted to run across the street. Carry a flashlight and only go to houses that are decorated and/or have a pumpkin out front.    

Read on for more details on how to have a safe and fun Halloween.

Happy Halloween everyone!