Ever wondered where the ghoulish holiday of Halloween came from?
Who would create a holiday known for evil?
“I think about it every year when it comes around,” said Reggie Johnson, a junior at Grambling State University. “But I never bothered to do the research myself.”
Halloween originated in Ireland and, much like the United States, they celebrate with costumes and candy. It wasn’t the creator of the holiday who gave it a negative connotation, but other participants who added their own spin.
Halloween evolved from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and also believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead.
Today’s holiday has become less about ghosts and ghouls and more about costumes and candy.
After trick-or-treating, many people attend parties with neighbors and friends. At the parties, usually games are played, including “snap-apple,” a game in which an apple on a string is tied to a door frame or tree and players attempt to bite the hanging apple.
In addition to bobbing for apples, parents often arrange treasure hunts, with candy or pastries as the “treasure.” The Irish also play a card game where cards are laid face down on a table with candy or coins underneath them.
When a child chooses a card, he receives whatever prize is found below it.
On the other hand, countries such as Mexico have given a whole new celebration to the pagan holiday.
In Mexico, “All Souls Day” takes place on Nov. 2. It is commemorated with a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of Oct. 31. The celebration is designed to honor the dead who return to their earthly homes on Halloween.
Many Hispanic families construct an altar for the dead in their homes to honor deceased relatives and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, samples of the deceased’s favorite foods, drinks, and fresh water. Often, a washbasin and towel are left out so that the spirit can wash before indulging in the feast set out for them.
Candles and incense are burned to help the deceased find the way home. Relatives also tidy the gravesites of their departed family members and decorate them with flowers, wreaths, or paper streamers.
On Nov. 2, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce. Some gatherings even include tequila and mariachi bands.
Another question I asked students was if they had ever wondered where the “trick or treat” or costumes came from. Graduating senior Jazzmine Milbourne said, “I thought trick or treating was just an American past time, I never really thought it had any connection with the holiday.”
Student Paris Richards said, “I used to dress up for Halloween but never knew the meaning behind the costumes.”
As for Halloween’s masks and costumes, they were used to hide one’s attendance at pagan festivals or, as in traditional shamanism and other forms of animism, to change the personality of the wearer to allow for communication with the spirit world. Another thing the costume wearer might use a mask for is to try to attract and absorb the power of the animal represented by the mask and costume worn.
According to this scenario, Halloween costumes may have originated with Celtic Druid ceremonial participants, who wore animal heads and skins to acquire the strength of that particular animal. Others wore masks to ward off evil spirits. For example, hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry.
On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.
On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.
Going from door to door seeking treats may result from the Druidic practice of begging for material to use for the great bonfires.  It is also related to the Catholic concept of purgatory and the custom of begging for a “soul cake”.
During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits.
The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.
As for the “trick” custom of Halloween, this is related to the idea that ghosts and witches created mischief on this particular night. For example, if the living did not provide food, or “treats,” for the spirits, then the spirits would “trick” the living. People feared terrible things might happen to them if they did not honor the spirits.
The Druids also believed that failure to worship their gods would bring dire consequences. If the gods were not treated properly in ritual, they would seek vengeance. This was therefore a day of fear.
Furthermore, some people soon realized that a mischievous sense of humor, or even malevolence, could be camouflaged & that they could perform practical jokes on or do harm to others and blame it on the ghosts or witches roaming about.
Not only Mexico, but the majority of Latin America also celebrates Halloween in such a way. Whether you’re knocking on doors for candy, or staying inside hoping a spirit knocks on yours, enjoy your Halloween day. Be grateful for life and most importantly, be safe.
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