NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

November 6, 2009

A prank rooted in cabbages

It was glorious evening, was that of Saturday past — one especially choreographed for trick or treat — a peaceful evening, plotted and planned for by children, their parents and householders awaiting them with baskets of candy.

I drove with special care through the South End's crossing streets to enjoy the moment with small groups of the questing young.

Somewhere along the route, a watchful father stepped into the street to stop me because some young, hidden from view, were about to cross it, and I thought of how far we had come from Cabbage Stump Night.

Halloween's roots lie deep in the culture of the ancient Celts when costumes and goodies were common. Roman legions were in the neighborhood and took some of their experiences back home with them. Pagan roots are said to have led to the concept of the living dead. For the religious, the hallowed evening occurs before All Saints Day.

History is what we made of the night before Halloween, and not Halloween itself, just as Beggars Night was the night before Thanksgiving.

The roots of its observance lay in the cabbage patches of our earlier time when such patches were ready at hand.

Cabbage Stump Nights are not well chronicled. New Jersey apparently had its "cabbage night'' when cabbages were hurled at houses, but ours bettered that because cabbages do not fit small hands for throwing.

There's no intention here to revive the night because we're plagued enough with things as they are, and any attempt to do so would bring the regulators out in full force. Besides, we'd be hard-pressed to find a cabbage patch anywhere .

Cabbages have a distinctive and proper root for Cabbage Stump Night because it is the rubbery equivalent of a Little League baseball bat — pliant, easy to grasp and packing a mighty wallop.

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