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I’ve always loved Halloween. Even as a kid I remember the joy of picking my costumes (my favorite was always a witch or a ghost). I remember going to Haunted Houses and loving getting the pants scared off me! (Why is there always a dentist office though? My dentist is quite nice.) And getting free candy is always fun, no matter the age! I’m a firm believer that if they’re in costume and they come to my door, they get a treat – no questions asked.
But thinking about Halloween got me wondering – Why?
Why is there a holiday in the fall where we get to dress in costumes, go door to door for treats and try to scare everyone we see?
I’m glad you asked! Here are some of the answers to those questions–
THE HOLIDAY – Halloween was originally a Celtic celebration called Samhain (pronounced sow-win). It was one of the four quarterly fire festivals celebrated by the ancient Celts. Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. The Celts believed it was easier to pass between the world of the living and the world of the dead on Samhain. To hide from the ghosts and monsters coming from the land of the dead, they dressed in costumes and left out food to appease them – which not only explains the holiday but why we wear costumes as well!
THE WORD – The word Halloween actually has Christian roots, even though many of the traditions came from pagan celebrations. Hallow can be traced back to the Old English word halgian, which meant ‘to sanctify’ or even ‘holy person’ or ‘saint’ when used as a noun.
The een comes from the eve or the Scottish word even (meaning eve), which is often contracted to e’en or een. Since All Saints Day is November 1st, Saint’s Eve or Halloween is the night before. Makes sense actually, doesn’t it?
TRICK-OR-TREATING – The origin of this tradition isn’t as clear as some other parts of the holiday. There are a lot of things that could have contributed to it – from the pagan bonfires with food left out for the dead to the Christian practice of celebrating All Souls Day where poor people would receive Soul Cakes in return for promising to pray for the departed family members of the rich. (So, then, who was praying for the poor?).
Around the 1920s the tricks became more popular with kids playing pranks on the people in their neighborhoods. (Reminds me of the movie Meet Me in St. Louis – if you haven’t seen it, great musical.) The pranks got out of hand during the Great Depression and people tried to change the tradition by having the kids go from house to house for little parties and haunted decorations in their basements instead. As the economy changed, so did the treats. Now the United States alone spends over two and a half billion dollars on candy for Halloween!
CARVING PUMPKINS – The Irish brought this tradition to America. They used to carve turnips and would place them out of ward off evil spirits. They didn’t have pumpkins in Ireland then but soon discovered the large orange gourd was far easier to carve.
If you’re interested in the history of the Jack O’Lantern, I found this really good story called The Tale of Stingy Jack at www.pumpkinnook.com/facts/jack.htm
HAUNTED HOUSES – There have been gruesome forms of entertainment and commercial horror attractions since the 19th century. During the Great Depression, people would decorate their basements with scary items as something for their kids to do instead of pranks. However, the Haunted House as an attraction can be attributed to none other than Walt Disney! When the Haunted Mansion (my favorite ride) opened in Disneyland on August 9, 1969, it sparked the craze and people like the Jaycees and the geniuses behind the 13th Floor Entertainment Group have taken it from there.
GIVEAWAY – Thanks for reading about theses Halloween traditions!!! If you’d like to enter to win a signed copy of First Contact, please reply below telling me about your favorite Halloween Tradition! Check back on November 1st to see who’s won!
( http://www.MamatheFox.com and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.)
Have a safe and scary Halloween from Kat Green!
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