Funny holiday…Halloween. I decided to research a bit; how and why did Halloween become a holiday?? To keep it short and sweet…’cuz Pope Gregory III said so..well, not exactly.
Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. Originating with an ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.(uggh) In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs. All Saints’ Day, which incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter…Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.
american Halloween traditions began slowly; celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems. As the beliefs and customs meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge; public events were held to celebrate the harvest, neighbors would share creepy stories of the dead (ghost stories), tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing, and make mischief of all kinds. As time went by, annual autumn festivities became common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country…As America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Halloween thus became a holiday more about community and neighbors partying than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. Parties focused on games, food, and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived; families gave out treats to help thwart the “trick” part of the Halloween celebration… and new American tradition was born, fulfilling every child’s dream of having so much candy, you have absolutely no idea how you will ever eat it all; then when you do, you have absolutely no idea how you will ever sit still again.
Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!”
~ Dexter Kozen
On Hallowe’en the thing you must do
Is pretend that nothing can frighten you
And if somethin’ scares you and you want to run
Just let on like it’s Hallowe’en fun
It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can’t be seen
On any other night.
Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms
In masks and gown we haunt the street
And knock on doors for trick or treat
Tonight we are the king and queen,
For oh tonight it’s Halloween!
~ Jack Prelutsky
Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth
boil and bubble
From ghoulish and ghosties and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
The Legend of Sleep Hollow
What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy
night! With what wistful look did he eye every trembling ray of light streaming across the
waste fields from some distant window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered with
snow, which, like a sheeted specter, beset his very path! How often did he shrink with
curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread
to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind
him! and how often was he thrown into complete dismay by some rushing blast, howling among
the trees, in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of his nightly scouring!
Be wary then; best safety lies in fear,