One of the most endearing things about my girlfriend, Elizabeth, is how deep into her family’s Eastern European roots she is. In fact, her father taught a class on Slavic Cultures in my high school. Perhaps it’s seeing someone I hold in such high regard being so involved in their own family’s histories, but I’ve been inspired to delve more deeply into mine.
As luck would have it, I’ve come across some information about how the first seeds of my family tree celebrated their All Hallow’s Eve. While my family is primarily of German descent, our Miller lineage isn’t defined by the political makeup of European borders. Some of these traditions won’t make sense, considering contemporary European Halloween customs.
From my fingers to your eyes, the celebratory customs of the Miller family, as practiced in the Old Country:
- The home is to be cleaned, top to bottom, with the windows open and a joyful song in one’s mouth and heart. Doing this will cleanse the home of bad energy and welcome our ancestors to deliver gifts of good fortune and happy homes.
- Do something nice for a friend or neighbor, completely in secret. Nothing sows the seeds of community and love than doing something for someone and they have not the first clue of how to repay that kindness. If someone does something nice for you in secret, do something nice for someone else as gratitude for your community’s kindness.
- Prepare an assortment of sweets for those who may enter your home. When people embibe sweet things made with love, they will thank you with good feelings and pleasant memories of you. These will last in your home for the entire year!
- Set a lantern, or a flame, outside of your door so that loved ones past may find their way. The holiday does have spiritual connotations, and kindness is not the exclusive sentiment of the living. The legend says if you host a guiding light for loved ones visiting from the hereafter, they will host a guiding light for you when you arrive in the hereafter.
- If you smell honeysuckle or lilacs before sunfall, drink black tea in complete silence. A long time ago, Bur Mueller (a distant ancestor) was tempted by a spirit, whose presence was preluded by the smell of honeysuckle & lilacs. Bur warded off the spirit by offering it a cup of black tea that was too hot, and the spirit was forever repelled by the smell of it.
- After nightfall, and the lantern is lit, do not answer the door for anyone. The lantern set out for your loved ones may be a beacon for other things that may not greet you with affection.
- Cover all photos of loved ones and relatives for the evening. If something insidious would get into the home, it would have no way of knowing whom it may harm as leverage against you.
- No matter what you hear, do not answer the door. There are many tricks that will be played on you. Do not fall for them.
- If your pets begin acting strange, do not let them out of the room you are in.
- No one’s child is hurt, they are lying. Do not answer the door.
- If loved ones who are gone do pass by your door on the evening of Halloween, they will not beckon you outside. Do not open the door.
- There is nothing for your eyes to see outside. Stay away from the windows.
- There is no bargaining with it. It will not go away if you give it something to do so. Do not answer the door.
- The clawing at your windows will stop. Do not open the door.
- Whatever it says its name is, it is lying. If it gets in, you won’t be able to get it out — not without its name. Do not open the door.
- Do not make eye contact with the things you see in the shadows. Do not speak to them. They don’t want out, they want you to let something in. Do not open the door.
- If you hear someone calling your name from the shadows, do not respond.
- If anything is slid under the door to your home, it is to be burned immediately. Do not open the door.
- The only real danger is outside. No matter what anyone says, do not open the door.
- Do not open the door.
- Check any candy for razor blades, needles, or signs of tampering*. People are weird and the news has people freaked out!
*Addendum added in 1992, in accordance with an American television program.
Obviously, these traditions are fiction! There is no harm that’s going to come to you on Halloween Night — these are the overly cautious traditions of people who didn’t have the benefit of science or public knowledge.
I, myself, will be out and about on Halloween Night, visiting friends and loved ones. I’ll be sure to knock and announce myself. You be sure to open the door if I do.
Open the door.