Halloween dates back two millennia, to the Celtic festival of Samhain.

Traditions from Europe have permeated the celebration America has turned into Halloween.

In England, one of the practices on All Hallows Eve was to go door to door begging for small currant biscuits called soul cakes, which were offered in exchange for prayers. While not all scholars agree, many believe this practice is echoed in trick-or-treating.

In Ireland, bonfires are lit on Halloween. Ireland is also the source of the jack o'lantern, although the Irish would would walk the streets carrying candles in a hollowed-out turnip.

Irish and Scottish immigrants brought many of their Halloween traditions to the United States in the 1840s.

The ancient tradition associated with images of witches, ghosts and vampires has today become a celebration characterized by child-friendly activities like trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns and dressing in costumes.

It's also become the holiday appreciated by children and adults alike, with adults sometimes having even a little more fun than their children.

The day is also one whose celebration has expanded well beyond its designated day. For close to a week, workplaces and families have been marking the spooky date. Some Central Illinois cities had their trick or treat events as early as Friday. Decatur's is from 6 to 8 p.m. today. For other cities' times, see http://bit.ly/2yWyDxT, a list on the Herald & Review website.

Many things about Halloween have changed over the years, led by adult involvement dressing up and having grown-up gatherings. We need to keep an eye on one another as adults, in particular making sure to not drive if we've been indulging in adult beverages, and making sure others who have been enjoying alcohol get home safely and not behind the wheels of their vehicles if they're impaired.

But equally important is earlier in the evening, when children are gathering their Halloween bounty. Drive slow, and keep an eye out for shapes moving in the dark. Halloween costumes are better than ever in reflecting light and letting those on the road know there are little people walking about. But not every trick-or-treater is wearing a reflective costume, not every one can see well (especially if they're wearing a mask), and not every one is going to be conscious of the dangers around every dark corner.

If you're giving out treats, be sure your residence is well lit. And if you're taking your goblins out and about, remember to help them along so they're not stumbling on dark steps or tripping over bumps and cracks in pavement.

Halloween can be a time of terrific fun. With a few extra steps of care, it can also be one that provides great stories and exquisite memories.


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