Holly Johnson: Halloween has a rich history in Austin

Published 6:30 am Saturday, October 31, 2020

We have finally reached the one day in our calendar year where the wearing of masks is a socially acceptable practice.  We recently hosted an event for Autism Friendly Austin to celebrate the traditions of the fall season. Families painted pumpkins, made slime, and decorated cookies in a sensory friendly environment.  A few of the guests enjoyed wearing masks for fun vs. masks for health.

The origins of Halloween (aka All Hallows Eve) date back over 2,4000 years ago according to history.com/news/Halloween-trick-or-treating-origins.  It’s a very interesting read so you should check it out.

Bridget and Kirby Halvorson at a past AFA Fall Fest.
Photo provided

Celebrations in Austin were noted in now digitized newspapers as early as 1883, and I found the following clip from the October 31, 1896, Austin Daily Herald rather ominous about the expectations of the holiday.

“Stake down your outhouse and take off your gate; get down the shot gun, unmuzzel the bull dog and get ready for bate.  Tonight is Hallow’een and the boys will have no respect for persons.”

The Mower County Transcript reported of an event in 1903 that I am not sure I would have felt comfortable attending.  “A Hallowe’en reception will be given by a Conclave of Witches and Ghosts on Friday evening, October 27 at the M.E. Parsonage at 300 Chatham St. Come and bring your pockets full of pennies.”

A more pleasant bit was printed in the Oct. 15, 1930 Herald.

“Ghosts, goblins, and queer fantastic faces of lighted pumpkins were everywhere in evidence at the combined Y’s Y’er and Y.G.B.I. Club party last evening at the Y.W.C.A.  The guests, as they arrived, were met in the dimly lighted hall by spectres robed in white, whose hand grasp of greeting met with a cold response.  Halloween mixer games and contests were in the charge of Miss Florence Larson who is taking Miss Ruth Sargeant’s place as advisor of the Y’s Y’er Club.  Prizes were won by Miss Ella Walkenhauer and Miss Eileen Kereakas.  The program for the evening consisted of a candlelight installation service for the new officers and committee chairmen and several musical numbers.”

We all love a reason to celebrate, and Halloween offers people of all ages a chance to pretend to be a different character for a while.  And it gives us a reason to enjoy lots of tasty treats.  No matter how you celebrate, keep wearing those masks because I think it is going to be Halloween every day for a long time to come.

Upcoming Events

History’s Sweet Reads Book Discussion, Week 8

5-6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 2

“The Open Road, Autobiography of George A. Hormel”

Sponsored by the Hormel Historic Home and Sweet Reads Book Store. Join virtually. All sessions recorded so participants can join at any time. Pre-registration required on the website or by calling the Hormel Historic Home. $5 per session. Register at www.hormelhistorichome.org

Holiday Open House Tours

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20

Three ticket options $7-$15. Tour, enjoy music, take home a treat