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A Brief History of Halloween

By Tammie Parker
Halloween, like another popular holiday is a conglomeration of a few different cultures' holidays. In the case of Halloween, those are Samhain (Summer's End), All Hallow's Eve, and The Day of the Dead.


Samhain was a Gaelic Holiday and a mixture of celebrations in itself. It was the final feast of the year. The crops were all in and time for a celebration.
With the daylight shortening and the air cooling, we are not as active as we were during summer's long, hot days. Even the animals are not out roaming the fields. Autumn also brings fog and mist, and, if you are a drunken pagan, spirits rising from the Underworld. So the autumnal feast was a time to remember our deceased loved ones (animals included) and to scare off the ones we do not want to linger. The answer to unwanted spirits? Costumes to scare them away!

All Hallow's Eve

Now let's throw in the Catholics! Since there was already such a big hoopla - and we all know there is nothing you can do about a hoopla once it becomes big - the Catholic church figured why not create a holiday on the same day, call it All Saint's Day (to throw in a day for all of the saints who did not have their own holidays at this point)? The mass for this celebration was called All Hallows Mass (a mass for all holy).
Therefore, the day before this mass was referred to as All Hallows Eve, a name which eventually evolved into Halloween.
But what about Jack O' Lanterns? Well, the legend began in Ireland where the first Jack 'O Lanterns were carved out big potatoes and turnips.
When Irish immigrants came to America, they quickly began carving out pumpkins - much easier than turnips or potatoes. There is a story of a man called Stingy Jack who continually tricked the devil of his demise for several years. When Jack finally did pass, he could not get into Heaven or Hell and was cursed to roam around the Underworld for all of eternity. The Devil did help him out slightly by giving him a burning piece of coal that would always glow. Jack carved out a turnip and made a crude lantern.

Tales of The Day of the Dead
(and Sugar Skulls!)

The Day of the Dead or All Souls' Day is actually celebrated in Mexico, Spain, Italy, South America, and The Philippines. Some people who celebrate All Souls Day actually get to pull their deceased loved one out of their resting areas for the celebrations. Some are paraded around the village, and some even are posed at the dinner table for a feast! When Day of the Dead came to Mexico, there was no money to buy the elaborate decorations to adorn the tombs, and decorate the houses. Since they were already used to making sugar statues for Easter time (lambs and angels, etc), they came up with the brilliant idea of making their Day of the Dead decorations out of sugar as well. Skulls became the most popular, so popular that people started painting their faces as sugar skulls. Now there are even figurines and dolls for purchase.
These days Halloween decorating has gone extreme for some families. There are even competitions to see which family has gone far too far. Pumpkin chucking is becoming more popular, and it's a serious stress reliever. (I imagine it becomes extremely stressfully, decorating every inch of your property!) Sadly, the popular costumes for females in their teens and twenties are almost exclusively "sexy", and they aren't likely to scare off any demon.

Posted by Tammie Parker

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