I think Halloween is such a cool holiday and we had so much fun when we were kids. We'd carve pumpkins and have apple cider and powered sugar doughnuts (a yearly tradition) before going out to trick-or-treat. We lived in an apartment compex so this took hours. And we were required to stop home several times to unload our bags. This way, if it was a particularly busy night, my mother could raid our bags if she ran out of candy to distribute. We had candy to last until Christmas so it didn't really matter to us.

My favorite thing to dress as was a gypsy. I'd wear one of my mothers long cotton skirts with leggings underneath (it was always freezing on Halloween) and start piling things on top—gobs of necklaces and bracelets and dangly earrings, of course.

It was interesting to read about the origins of Halloween and how our modern customs evolved from the ancient celebration of Samhain, mostly imported here from Celtic countries like Ireland and Scotland.

Halloween or Samhaim (pronounced So-wen) falls on the pagan New Year and celebrates both endings and beginnings. The end of summer harvest and impending darkness after the light. The beginning of winter and the promise of new life in the spring. With this in mind, Samhaim was a religious time of fasting, reflection, meditation and prayer. It was also believed that the worlds of the living and the dead merged on this day. Many of our customs came about in order to maintain peace between these two worlds.

Costumes and masks were used for protection against spirits. Even after they converted to Christianity, people remained afraid of All Hallows Eve, the one day it was believed that spirits were allowed to freely walk the earth. In order to not be recognized by these spirits, people would leave their homes at night incognito in masks and misleading regalia.

In ancient Ireland the Druid priests of Muck Olla would go to farms begging for food and money for their houses of worship. If farmers didn't pay, their barns would be burned or their animals would disappear. These incidents were believed to have been caused by the god, "Muck" from which the word muck has come to mean trouble and chaos. Acts such as these evolved into the threat of 'tricks' (or pranks) if treats were not given.

In Ireland, it was said "Jack" was a mean drunkard who used to beat his wife. He played too many tricks on the devil to save his soul. When Jack died, he was too bad to get into Heaven and the devil was too annoyed with him to let him into Hell. The devil gave him a burning coal that he placed inside a partially-eaten turnip, called a bogie. From that day, Jack has wandered the earth with his turnip lantern looking for a place to rest his soul. Pumpkins eventually replaced the turnip and our tradition of the jack-o-lantern (Jack-of-the-Lantern) was born.

You can read more about this fascinating history here and here.

Whether you celebrate the ancient traditions of Samhain or the more modern Halloween, have a scary (but safe) holiday!


Unknown said...

My mom dressed me as a gypsy one year--I thought it was so *cool*. I wish I had a scanner so I could scan the picture.

tlchang said...

I too, was a gypsy one year - lots of patchwork, scarves and jewels.

It's a good thing we've changed over to pumpkins - have you ever tried carving a turnip?