16 Days of Halloween: WOOHOOO HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Posted on October 30, 2010


WOOHOOO!!! The most HORRIBLE day of the year! I LOVE IT!
We enjoy watching the kids dress up, sometimes we dress up alongside them and take them out to beg handouts from the neighbors. Masks and costumes are a HUGE income industry. Costumes come in every theme imaginable.

Have you ever wondered where the traditions we participate in today comes from? Historically speaking, I mean?

Well, let’s take a few of the more well known traditions and see if we can decipher the trail to the beginning…

Costumes and masks—what’s up with them? Masks have been found in every single culture across the planet and they date back to the beginning of time. Masks were worn to aid the hunters in stalking their prey.
But the custom of wearing masks at Halloween is really a twist on a pagan belief. The disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed the spirit world was able to intermingle with the living. Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable.
They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

Trick or Treat, give me something good to eat! But where did the tradition of the little beggers going door to door come from? Well this time is wasn’t the ancient Celts. The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated with a ninth-century European custom called souling.
On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.

Bob-bob-bob…bobbing for apples….This is a fun little time waster where the players get as wet as possible while trying valiantly to grab apples using only their mouths. But where did it come from? The fact apple harvest came along in time for Samhain? Well, not exactly… All Hallows’ Eve has long been a time to look into the future, and traditional festivities included several divination rituals.
A lot of marriage divinations had to do with apples.¬ In Celtic tradition, the fruit was associated with female deities who controlled the ways of love. This may have something to do with the inner structure of apples. When you slice an apple in two, you can see a pentagram shape (a star with five points) on each half, around the core. The pentagram was an important shape for the ancient Celtics, and many other cultures. Among other things, it was a Goddess symbol.
One of the most popular divinations was for young unmarried people to try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string. This is something like the bouquet toss that still plays a part in wedding receptions — the first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to marry.
In another tradition, a young woman would light a candle and peel an apple in front of a mirror. While she was peeling the apple, her future husband would supposedly appear in place of her reflection.
Peeling an apple was also a way to predict your life expectancy. If you could cut off one long peel, you would live to an old age. If you only cut a small piece of peel, you would die young.
Apples are still a big part of Halloween celebrations. In addition to apple-bobbing, modern Halloween revelers drink apple cider, make candy apples and hand out apples to trick-or-treaters.

Well surely those ghoulish, macabre and fun jack o lanterns is a modern day invention, right? Wrong, sorry. This is a tradition that the Irish brought to America when the immigrants arrived looking for a new life after the great potato famine destroyed Ireland’s crops. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.
The Irish used turnips as their “Jack’s lanterns” originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

Beware the Black cat…Why is it when people think Halloween icon images, a black cat invariably ends up included in the list? This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred; it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

In Ireland, where Halloween originated, the day is still celebrated much as it is in the United States. In rural areas, bonfires are lit as they were in the days of the Celts, and all over the country, children get dressed up in costumes and spend the evening “trick-or-treating” in their neighborhoods. After trick-or-treating, most people attend parties with neighbors and friends. At the parties, many games are played, including “snap-apple,” a game in which an apple on a string is tied to a doorframe or tree and players attempt to bite the hanging apple.
In addition to bobbing for apples, parents often arrange treasure hunts, with candy or pastries as the “treasure.” The Irish also play a card game where cards are laid face down on a table with candy or coins underneath them. When a child chooses a card, he receives whatever prize is found below it.
A traditional food eaten on Halloween is barnbrack, a kind of fruitcake that can be bought in stores or baked at home. A muslin-wrapped treat is baked inside the cake that, it is said, can foretell the eater’s future. If a ring is found, it means that the person will soon be wed; a piece of straw means that a prosperous year is on its way.
Children are also known to play tricks on their neighbors, such as “knock-a-dolly,” a prank in which children knock on the doors of their neighbors, but run away before the door is opened.

Some interesting facts about the celebration of Halloween:
Halloween is the holiday when the most candy is sold; it is second only to Christmas in total sales. North Americans spend over $20 million on Halloween candies yearly. 12
Halloween is the third-largest party occasion next to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Halloween is the Number 1 season for selling humorous greeting cards. In North America, some 25 million cards are sold annually. 12
Rumors circulated some years ago that some evil people were distributing adulterated food to children: poison mixed with candy; razor blades and pins in apples. Although these rumors have generally been shown to be hoaxes, the fear persists. Many adults now only give out pre-packaged food; many parents check their children’s collection and discard anything that could possibly have been adulterated.
For many decades, the United Nations Children’s’ Fund (UNICEF) has distributed boxes to children so that they can collect money at Halloween time. During the 1950’s, a few US public schools banned the UNICEF boxes, over suspicions that it might be a Communist plot.
The town of Hancock, MD has refused for more than 20 years to declare a specific date for Halloween. Their rationale is that if they set a particular date and a child gets hurt during the trick-or-treating, then the town might be liable for damages.
The school board of Hillsborough NJ bans all religious celebrations in its schools. So, they have replaced Halloween with a “Fall Festival”. St. Valentine’s day has become “Special Person Day.”
In many jurisdictions, Halloween is held on OCT-30 when OCT-31 falls on a Sunday. This is to avoid direct conflict between Halloween celebrations and church services.

When you think about it, Halloween isn’t an evil holiday at all. It was based on Pagan traditions, for certain, but evil? It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have Halloween parties or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.

Well, Guess I’ll see y’all next month! OOO next up, THANKSGIVING! YUMMY YUM YUM!!!