BLACKFOOT– History is a fascination for many people. With the Halloween holiday fast approaching there are some historical and even local histories that are interesting to learn about. Halloween has had a rocky history with religion and history.
The origins of Halloween began with the Celts. It was a time that was marked by bonfires, celebrating the end of summer and harvest season, and preparing for the time when winter would be plaguing many of them. At the bonfires they would burn pieces of the harvest or do sacrifices as a way to hope for a winter where their food stores would last. It was a time also associated with death because of the trees and plants dying. It was widely believed that during Halloween, spirits and demons would walk the earth. Many people refused to leave their home during this time, unless they wore masks or costumes so they would be mistaken as fellow spirits and demons. They would also keep the ghosts away by leaving food outside to appease the spirits.
When Christianity came to the Celtic lands, and as a way to blend the older rites with the newer religion, November 1 became All Saints Day, which was called All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas, which is a celebration with big parades, costumes and bonfires. Halloween would be named after All Hallows Eve, as the traditional night before the day the saints were honored.
Halloween had very limited celebrations in the early colonies. It was more common in Maryland and the South. The colonial celebrations had the telling of ghost stories, and mischief making. There were also bonfires and food of the season, including festive costumes. By the twentieth century the Halloween traditions lost many of the frightening and grotesque celebrations, the religious and superstitious overtones died out. Around the 1920 to 1950, trick-or-treating was revived as an inexpensive way for communities to share in the Halloween spirit. It was widely believed a family could avoid tricks being played on them by sharing treats with the children in the neighborhood.
Blackfoot had a society section in the local newspaper and many people who had parties would send in the fun people had. In the Bingham County News, on November 1, 1916 there was a description of the festivities that were celebrated in town:
"Hallowe'en ushering in the week with a new moon, led to the disappearance of Dull Care and Duty, and for the time being one night almost believed from the appearance of masqued dances on the streets, Tuesday evening, that they were in New Orleans at Mardi Gras, for the ghosts, witches, fays and fairies with their weird lights darting in and out among the trees lend a charming effect to the madcap season. Many bonfires helped to light the city and the good natured way in which the pranks of youngsters were received told that fun, mirth, and frivolity was the order of the day. Many parties were given among them being the beautiful afternoon card and Kensington given by Mrs. John Guthrie Brown and Mrs. Samuel Wilson at the K. of P. Hall, to about 100 guests. The hall was a symphony in its autumn colors and the spirit of Hallowe'en shone forth from a myriad of golden lighted candles. Beautiful yellow popcorn chrysanthemums decorated the tables. Punch was served by Mrs. Fred Cowan and Mrs. Fred T. Dubois. Assisting the hostesses were Mesdames Earley, Aldrich, Thoresen, Patrie, and Miss Hart. Miss Brennan carried off the prize for cards while Mrs. Pearson and Mrs. Cheney were given the Kensington prizes. The ghosts of all departed spirits-white and Indian-returned from their happy hunting grounds and paid a visit to Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Johnson from the witching hours of 9 to 1, Tuesday evening. judging from the sound of hilarity the spirits welcomed their release. None seemed to fear the sight of the spooks walking the streets. The air was full of the sounds of horns and bells and upon entering the dance hall-the newly finished garage-one was simply entranced by its fairy-like beauty. It had been transformed into a sylvan glade where tiny lights only relieved the impression of the home of the gnomes, witches, and fairies. Over it all the good witch presided and brewed a drink that seemed to cheer the spirits to greater pranks. Father Time was there, and a very agile Father Time he was. At the sound of twelve he moved his scythe and the merry spirits departed, leaving the request of their hosts that they might be called back each year.
Mrs. Margaret Dubois was hostess at the Hallowe'en party given in honor of the teachers in the high school and their friends. During the evening they gathered around the fireplace, the lights were turned out and Miss Barron gave most graphically "Poe's Black Cat." Judging from the sounds it was most realistic. Toasted marsh mallows, cider, coffee, and doughnuts added some zest, while Miss Turner, Miss Barron, and Mrs. Parkinson furnished music.
Progress Hall furnished was the scene of a merry party. Also one was given at the stake building where a good old witch did her best to make all happy by telling fortunes.
A merry crowd of little ghosts with Jack O'lanterns darted here and there along the streets, making a beautiful sight. In all this has been the happiest Hallowe'en our little city has ever experienced.
Mrs. F. C. Christ was hostess to the guild this week. The ladies are preparing for their Christmas bazaar. The Methodist ladies are to have a bazaar and luncheon Saturday afternoon at the V I 8 rooms in the City Hall."
A collection of stories from the society pages tended to give the people who couldn't make it to the festivities, a chance to feel connected to the fun.