The topic of Halloween came up with my friends and we were all talking about what we were all going to dress up as. When this discussion started at the start of October I wasn’t taking it seriously…Just another fun holiday created by the US to get kids and parents out and about in costumes. Young adults don’t even dress in a spooky or scary manner; they dress in playboy models and their favorite sports stars, etc. When I think about Halloween the headless horseman comes to mind. I see front yards decorated with crazy Halloween props and lights, Pumpkins are carved to scary faces, cute characters and amazing creatures.
Halloween is considered a fun holiday, mostly for children, but what is the history of Halloween? Where are its roots? In reality it has roots in ancient religions and folklore, including paganism, ancient Roman religions, early Catholic Christianity and Irish folklore. Children and adults alike enjoy this holiday by dressing up in funny costumes, candy, and parties, while some countries observe this time as a remembrance of departed loved ones and religious saints.Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain.The festival of Samhain is a celebration held at the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops. To this culture it was considered a magical holiday where some Celts wore costumes of animal skulls and skins. Faeries were believed to roam the land during Samhain, they would be dressed as beggars asking for food door to door. Those that gave food to the faeries were rewarded, while those that did not were punished by the faeries. This is reported to be the first origin of the modern “trick or treat” practice.
The Christian church probably didn’t like the idea that a festival with Pagan roots practiced by Christians, so a replacement definitely needed to be created by the church. The Pope at the time decided to designate May 13 as All Saints Day to honor dead church saints and martyr; this didn’t stop the celebration of Samhain on October 31. In 835 A.D., Pope Gregory IV moved “All Saints Day” to November 1; this would hopefully take attention away from the Pagan Samhain festival and replace it. Since All Saints Day was sanctioned by the church, and related to the dead, the church was happy, but many Pagan traditions of Samhain continued to be practiced.
Todays traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting “haunted houses” and carving jack-o-lanterns. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Today adults throw Halloween parties where they all dress up in costumes and enjoy the night. Kids get to dress up as well and go trick-or-treating and collect mass amounts of candy which I’m sure will result in a dentist’s visit before christmas. Not all locations of the world celebrate Halloween like the US does though.
Latin American Countries:
Mexico, Latin America, and Spain observe All Saints Day and All Souls Day with a three-day celebration starting on the evening of October 31, through November 2. Starting in mid October, shops are filled with decorations, flowers, toys made like skeletons and other macabre shapes, sweets, pastries, and candies shaped like bones, coffins, and dead bodies in preparation for the festivities. Halloween is called the “Day of the Dead”; this is where the spirits of relatives are supposed to visit their families homes. An area of the home is cleared away, and an altar is erected decorated with flowers, photographs of the deceased, candies and pastries shaped like skulls inscribed with their name, candles, and a selection of the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks. Even after dinner cigarettes and liquors are provided for the dear departed’s after dinner enjoyment. Incense is burning to help the spirits find their way home.
In preparation for the “Day of the Dead”, the graves of the deceased are cleaned, painted, and decorated for the occasion. Families gather November 2 for a festive family reunion; food, drinks, and tequila are brought along. Many customs vary depending on the particular city, town, or culture, but all over Mexico, Latin American, and Spain, the Day of the Dead is considered a celebration of their departed family.