HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Chris Ambrose

Do the dark shadows lurking behind you make you feel as though your skin will crawl or give you the creeps? Traditions date back to the early 1930s when the practice of knocking on a stranger’s door to offer prayers for the dead in exchange for food.Warding off the eerie feeling of the ghostly spirits, was a practiced tradition. 

Halloween is the day before a Christian holy day known as All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ or Hallowmas), which is celebrated on November 1st. That day would then be for Halloween, October 31st. Therefore, giving the full name of All Hallows’ Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows’ Day). It’s celebrated throughout Christian countries as a time to remember and respect the dead, in particular, Saints and deceased relatives.

This holiday is a widespread celebration which has mixed opinions as to its origin. Some say it originated in ancient Celtic customs, while still yet others swear it to be a custom borrowed from guising or mumming in England, Scotland and Ireland. It was a custom where one dressed up in a costume and sang or performed some trick in exchange for a treat.

There’s quite a history that surrounds this holiday with who does or does not celebrate this occasion for personal reasons, religious beliefs, or just in the spirit of spreading orneriness.

Christianity spread across Europe, and many pagan festivals were adopted, essentially rebranded, and when Samhain became Halloween. Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated from October 31st to November 1st, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset. This is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solsticeWikipedia Prayers and candles largely replaced the bonfires and old rituals with many new traditions that developed over time.

It may surprise you, but a few religions are against this holiday. I found an interesting article with a good point I would like to share. It pointed out that companies in the spirit of having fun may not realize that some employees are against the holiday for religious reasons but ridiculed the employee if not in costume, or helping to decorate the office. As this article says, please do not harass anyone for their beliefs.

A few of the religions that don’t celebrate Halloween:

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses: They don’t celebrate any holidays or birthdays.
  • Some Christians believe Halloween is associated with Satanism or Paganism, and against celebrating the day.
  • Orthodox Jews: They don’t celebrate Halloween due to its origins as a Christian holiday. Other Jews may or may not celebrate.
  • Muslims: Many Muslims don’t celebrate Halloween, but it’s again due to its origins in other religions.

Long before the modern fun of pumpkins, trick or treating, and an evening of scary movies, there was a pagan Celtic festival of Samhain. The veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was considered to be at its thinnest. Bonfires were lit to keep evil spirits and later ‘the devil’ away.

 

Do you remember as a child knocking on a stranger’s door and shouting out, Trick or Treat! What were you expecting? Were you a Princess, monster, or did you take a pillowcase around for free candy? The wearing of costumes and playing pranks that we now know as Trick or Treat started around the 1700s. It was a time when people of varying ages dressed in costumes, from a princess to a devil pretending to be evil spirits, but that many feared would abound. It may have stemmed from an earlier belief that wicked spirits could be confused by this celebration and thus warded off and prevented spirits from doing harm.

Nonetheless, the custom and traditions often are a family affair shared down through decades of outdoing their relatives of the past or even a competition between families in the spirit of fun. The following photograph is from the UK, where costumes are much simpler than some of the wild and freaky ones from the United States. This photograph is from a public announcement to an event held in Cornwall. This event was titled Cornwall-Halloweden. The sweet innocence of these children was one I could not help but want to share with you! No matter what the costume, please remember these children put their trust in having fun and rely on you for their safety https://www.inyourarea.co.uk/news/best-places-to-celebrate-halloween-with-your-kids-in-the-uk/

If simple was not good enough, check out this witch with such detail to this mask!

Other traditions like apple bobbing had their origins in Halloween, and the treat aspect of Halloween probably comes from the leaving treats to appease Fairies (an essential element of the Celtic world) and prevent them from causing mischief.

Other traditions that are widely observed is the practice of the Jack O’Lantern, which is a face carved into a pumpkin. The Jack O’Lantern has a long history associated with Halloween, but did you know that pumpkin was not the first vegetable used to carve these demonic faces? Originally turnips were used, but the result was the same…it was meant to scare off restless spirits. On all Hallow’s eve, the Irish would hollow out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes, and beets. The same similar thinking was of the gargoyles or grotesques statuary and images which are featured on many medieval churches. You must be thinking, why, then, would one evil spirit be scared off by another evil-looking creature? Nevertheless, it was a compelling belief for people in very many traditions throughout the world.

There is an Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack, who, for his monetary gain, would trick the devil. When Jack died, he was not allowed by God to enter heaven, nor was he allowed in hell, so he roamed the earth for eternity. Now, that would be a predicament. But, since Jack was a roamer, the people in Ireland, began carving demonic faces out of turnips to frighten away Jack’s wandering soul. The myth moved with the Irish in the nce1800’s when the Irish immigrants settled in the United States. The pumpkins were native to the USA, so the Irish began using the pumpkins for carving their Jack-O’-lanterns.

The immigrants from both Scotland and Ireland brought the celebration of Halloween to the United States. Still, the commercialization did not explode until 1900 when the postcards and die-cut paper decorations began production. The 1930s brought about Halloween costumes, which appeared in the stores, but it was in the 1950s when the actual custom of ‘trick-or-treat‘ appeared.

Let’s look at Halloween in the UK. Many rural communities, particularly in Scotland, and Ireland would have had carried on their traditions and festivals. Halloween in England, by my experience, was a reasonably sober experience until the last few decades. It has become a lot more commercialized and prevalent from the 70s onwards with the growth of horror films and extravagant Halloween dress parties. The relatively straight-laced Brit mindset, which has loosened considerably since the 60s, meant that Trick or Treat was not common in my youth either.

In school, we studied an exciting story titled The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This extraordinary, spellbinding short story classic, refreshes in the minds of people all over  the world at Halloween time. Likely it has been the inspiration for many costumes over time.

This short story, by Washington Irving, and is a tale about a headless horseman in 1820, who rode around at night terrorizing people of the actual town of Sleepy Hollow. 

This story is considered to be America’s first ghost stories and the scariest. In the spirit, I recommend you read this classic.

Halloween in the United States. From my travels in the USA, Halloween is a much bigger and more universally celebrated phenomenon and one which seems to have a branding and popular appeal second only to Christmas. The whole month of October is a time for decorations and fright night movies and the sales of costumes and spooky paraphernalia.

With the massive growth in the popularity of all things zombie-related, there are now zombie walks in many towns, in which people dress up as the walking dead and parade through the main street. Other events feature an escape room/haunted house type configuration in which participants try to get away from the zombies.

It was quite amusing during our road trip in the Deep South to be welcomed by a pretty and friendly waitress dressed like a witch with the perfect Southern Halloween greeting ‘Boo y’all.’ Anything less scary, I couldn’t imagine. 

Halloween in New Orleans was quite something. Between the Voodoo traditions and the famous cemeteries in the French Quarter, it seemed that Halloween was buzzing like a second Mardi Gras. People went all out on the costumes, and the atmosphere was terrific. October is one of the most beautiful months of the year in New Orleans. It’s warm, sunny, and the festivals for fall are bustling.

The Halloween celebration is second only to the Mardi Gras for its sensational fun and displays, drawing thousands of visitors for devilish fun with vampires, zombies, ghosts, and every aspect any parade could boast around Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve in New Orleans is an experience to remember for both the living – and undead.

It’s interesting to note that in Mexican culture and throughout parts of Central and South America, something similar to Halloween, known as the Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos), is incredibly popular. Celebrated slightly later, it’s two days held on November 1st and 2nd. Just as Halloween was derived from a Celtic tradition adapted to Christianity, the Day of the Dead has similarly been appropriated from Indigenous religious rites. Unlike Halloween, it has more of a carnival aspect to it and is a time to celebrate rather than fear the dead. People taking part often paint their faces to resemble skulls. 

One thing that is certain, Halloween is only growing in popularity and seems to be a tradition that is here to stay. Whether it is a time to soberly reflect on the nature of death, to joyfully celebrate and pray for our departed loved ones, to play pranks on our neighbors, to make our hearts race with a scary movie or good ghost story…there is something for everyone.

FYI:

In a few American towns, Halloween was originally referred to as “Cabbage Night.”

 

This came from a Scottish fortune-telling game, where girls used cabbage stumps to predict information about their future husbands. In the early Framingham, Massachusetts, teens skipped the fortune-telling and went around throwing a cabbage at their neighbors’ houses, according to Framingham Legends & Lore. This was no isolated tradition: In late 19th century America, country boys reportedly rejoiced in throwing cabbage, corn and assorted rotten vegetables, according to “Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure.” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/halloween-weird-facts_n_5948456

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

If there is anything you want to suggest as a topic, for my blog, then please share those ideas with me, by E-mailing them to: C.Ambrose.MamieAuthors@gmail.com  

Until We Meet Again!,

Chris

Chris Ambrose, Author 

70 is the new 50`

My Boots Are Made For Walkin

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1 Comment

  • Rosemary Mamie Adkins

    Reply Reply October 27, 2019

    Thank you for such an informative blog. I had no idea what was behind this holiday and it was not anything we were taught as kids growing up.

    This research was phenomenal and I look forward to reading more of your blogs in the future. Stop by and visit my blogs one day (www.mamiebooks.com) and tell me what you think! Keep up the work Chris, this post was truly entertaining.

    Happy Halloween!
    Mamie

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