Be scared and have bags of fun

Grown-ups feel free to join with kids on the night of chills and thrills

Inspirations

October 23, 2005|By LORI SEARS | LORI SEARS,SUN REPORTER

It's almost Halloween, a spooky and wonderful time of year and a huge favorite of children, young adults and revelers everywhere.

From making costumes, to trick or treating, to decorating the home with jack-o'-lanterns, ghoulish lights, creepy dishes and frighteningly adorable candles, Halloween offers plenty of fun.

This year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend almost $3.3 billion, a record, on Halloween. That, according to the federation, puts Halloween in sixth place in holiday spending (after Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day).

But in a recent poll conducted by familyfun.com, Web site visitors ranked Halloween second only to Christmas as their favorite holiday. More than half said they begin planning for the big night a month ahead of time and prefer to make their own costumes rather than rely on ones from stores.

"I think the appeal [of Halloween grew once] the baby boomers had children," says Carla Merrick, manager at Hometown Girl in Hampden. "The kids really got into it, so the parents started to decorate and have fun, too. And there isn't a pressure -- like Christmas -- to have to buy gifts."

And while Halloween revelers can forget the presents, they can certainly find a huge array of decorative, fun and functional home items at Baltimore area shops and online stores.

HALLOWEEN TRADITIONS HAVE CELTIC, CHURCH ROOTS

Halloween is believed to have its roots in an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow ehn). Celebrated around Nov. 1, Samhain marked the end of the Celtic year and was a time of transition, when crops were harvested and livestock secured for the winter. Celts believed the barriers between the living and the dead became much less defined during this time of year. People were able to visit the dead, who told the living what the future held. This was the time of the year when souls of the dead passed into the other world.

The Catholic Church established All Saints' Day on Nov. 1 to honor saints and martyrs around A.D. 700 to 800. All Saints' Day was also called All Hallows'. The evening before came to be called All Hallows' Eve, which was shortened to All Hallow e'en and later became Halloween.

Trick-or-treating can also be traced back to Samhain. Food was left out for wandering souls, fairies, witches and demons during the celebration. In England, the custom evolved into "souling." People went house to house asking for small breads called soul cakes in exchange for prayers. In Ireland, people wearing masks went door to door asking for food and drink in exchange for a song. The custom was called mumming.

Irish and Scottish immigrants are generally credited with bringing Halloween to America in the 1800s. In the 1900s, Halloween grew to become a community celebration as towns hosted parades and parties for the holiday. Trick-or-treating became common in the 1940s and '50s.

[Shelia Jackson ]

SOURCES: WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA, THE FOLKLORE OF WORLD HOLIDAYS AND THE FOLKLORE OF AMERICAN HOLIDAYS

SPLURGE OF THE WEEK

LIGHT UP THE CAT -- IT'S HIS NIGHT

This black Halloween Sitting Cat from Grandin Road is anything but unlucky. He's chic, decorative and not inclined to cause any trouble. Content to sit in the corner, the 36-inch-tall feline, made of faux black grapevine with 200 orange lights inside his "fur," casts an amber glow. Sit him down indoors or in a protected area outside. Available at grandinroad.com or by calling 800-491-5194.

RETAIL PRICE: $99

STEAL OF THE WEEK

LET YOUR PLATES SMILE UP AT YOU

Your party guests may find them too cute to eat on, but go ahead and set out these Pumpkin Patch Plates at your Halloween shindig. The set of four cutesy hand-painted earthenware plates are microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Each pumpkin-shaped plate -- with smiling face -- measures about 6 1 / 2 inches in diameter, but is definitely not a perfect circle, just as their real counterparts are not.

Available at Target stores and online at target.com

RETAIL PRICE: $19.99 for the set

[Lori Sears]

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The Inspirations page will rotate among four weekly themes: fashion, gardening, home decor and body. Send suggestions to harry.merritt@baltsun.com.

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