Halloween in Appalachia

This picture always surprises me. Somehow it doesn’t quite match the tall, willowy, oh-so-elegant princess I had in my head at the time. Maybe it was the turtleneck.

I LOVED Halloween when I was a kid. I’m still pretty fond of it today. But when I was little it was all about playing dress up and eating candy.

I was one of those little girls who wanted to be something pretty. An angel, a princess–something pink and sparkly. And Mom was a whiz at making gorgeous costumes. Although I’m still a little annoyed about having to wear a turtleneck under my princess dress. Never mind that it was 40 degrees. I could have toughed it out.

But trick-or-treating was different when you lived in rural West Virginia. There was no running around neighborhoods or subdivisions ringing doorbells. We piled into the car (angel wings rate the front seat) and drove from house to house. And we knew everyone we visited. Shoot, we were related to half of them.

Aunt Dorothy had homemade caramel apples and popcorn balls, Grandma had little piles of candy arranged on a TV tray near the door, Floyd had Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (hands off, Dad!). And at each stop–especially when we had masks on–there was a great to-do about guessing who we were.

When my dad was a kid growing up in the mountains of WV, that was a BIG part of Halloween. You actually tried to disguise yourself so that friends and neighbors couldn’t recognize you. And there were more pranks. Apparently involving outhouses more often than not. Halloween was about visiting and laughing and connecting with community.

We’ve never had a trick-or-treater at our current house. Although we live outside the city limits, we can see several houses from the front porch and still no one dresses up or sends the kids around. Oh, there are a few decorations out, but that’s it. Everyone takes their kids to the mall or to a ritzier part of town where the candy is better.

I say they’re missing out BIG TIME. I miss when Halloween was family time. When we got as many hugs as we did lollipops. When we could eat anything we got because everyone who dropped something in our bags loved us.

Maybe I’ll TAKE candy to the neighbors this year. Maybe I’ll ask the kids to put on their costumes and try to scare me. Maybe I’ll pretend I don’t know who they are all dressed up like that right up until the moment when I grab them in a bear hug and love on ’em. Now that sounds like Halloween to me.

Published by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Author, wife, child of God.

11 thoughts on “Halloween in Appalachia

  1. The picture sure made me smile, but by the time I finished reading… I seemed to be all misty eyed at the memories. And just for the record, Daniel was not too happy about wearing the clown costume the next year in the “town” school parade with all the other boys in super hero “store bought” costumes! Love you my forever princess in the turtleneck… 🙂

    1. I remember him not being happy! Just like when you let Basil Price wear my angel costume for the school Christmas play. Just cause I was the narrator and he was the Littlest Angel. Ah, memories!

  2. Sarah, everything you wrote brought back memories! Loved it. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and we’d pile in the car too, then have to wait at each house to be guessed as to who we were. Boy it got hot under those masks sometimes when people took their good ole’ time guessing! I mention this to folks here in rural Georgia and they can’t believe we trick-or-treated like that. Funny. Great post!

  3. My Grandma used to make bags of popcorn! I sat out those trick-or-treating hours last year on my porch here in WV, and no trick-or-treaters. I’m not on the “main drag” where the houses are close together. People still drive slowly from house to house so their kids can trick/treat. But it’s sad how commercialized the costumes are now. It’s not good enough to be creative (like the year my kids were Daphne, Velma and Shaggy). You have to have paid top dollar for some rigged-out, recognizable trendy costume. Makes me sad. But my kids still use stuff around the house for theirs. This year my daughter will attempt to be Arwen–hoping she’ll be somewhat recognizable!

  4. My elderly Aunt Claudine and Uncle Andrew, who never had any kids, always fixed up a fold-top sandwich bag with swiss cake rolls, full size candy bars and more for us. Needless to say, we endured the 25 minutes of cheek pinching for that stuffed bag!

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