Halloween is tomorrow and for a good portion of the English-speaking world, the event will be celebrated with children dressing up for trick-or-treating and adults going in costume to parties. According to Robin May’s Holidays and Festivals: Halloween, Halloween had its origins in northern Celtic Europe — Britain, Ireland and northern France in particular. The festival has long been associated with witches, the dead, ghosts and mischief much as it still is today. It predates as well as precedes the Christian holy days of All Saints’ and All Souls, together known as Hallow Tide.
North Americans celebrate the event with trick-or-treating. Children dress up and venture out into the neighborhood to gather candy by calling out “Trick or Treat” at people’s doors. Having grown up in Canada, I have very fond memories of going out trick-or-treating and now enjoy accompanying my children. What has been specially memorable for my family growing up was introducing the holiday to Japanese kids who were experiencing the event for the first time.
Of course, this being Poetry Friday, I wondered if there might be any poetry books on the event as it is celebrated here. Sure enough, at my local library I found Halloween Poems selected by Myra Cohn Livingston, illustrated by Stephen Gammell. There are a lot of wonderful poems here about witches and skeletons, ghosts and jack-o-lanterns. I liked the wry poem “Trick or Treating at Age Eight” where the little boy narrator comes to the conclusion that the only thing to fear on Halloween night are “the boys/a few years older/with legs a little longer,/hooting up and down the neighborhood/who chase me all the way home.” And then there is the slightly spooky poem “We Three” where the little trick-or-treaters find an unexpected fourth in their group. Gammell’s illustrations, accompanying the text, have an appropriately macabre comic feel to them — a little weird, but not too scary. Halloween Poems makes for a delightful celebration of the season in poetry.