EARLY HISTORY: Halloween developed over 2000 years ago from an ancient pagan festival celebrated by Celtic people in the area that is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northwestern France. The festival was called Samhain (pronounced SOW ehn), which means “summer’s end.” The festival initiated the beginning of the winter season and was celebrated around the first of November. In the 800’s, the Christian church established a new holiday, All Saints’ Day, on this date. All Saints’ Day was also called All Hallows’. Hallow means one who is holy. The evening before All Hallows’ was known as All Hallows’ Eve, or as it came to be abbreviated, All Hallow e’en. This name was eventually shortened to Halloween.
Among the pre-Christian traditions that survived was the belief that spirits of the dead commingle with the living on the Eve of All Hallows. Related customs arose, or perhaps evolved from existing ones, such as “mumming” and “souling,” which entailed the wearing of masks and costumes — often in imitation of the dead and otherworldly beings — general mischief making, and knocking on doors to offer prayers in exchange for treats called “soul cakes.”
Jack-O-Lanterns- A jack-o’-lantern (sometimes also spelled Jack O’Lantern) is typically a carved pumpkin. It is associated chiefly with the holiday Halloween, and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called ignis fatuus or jack-o’-lantern. In a jack-o’-lantern, typically the top is cut off, and the inside flesh then scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved onto the outside surface, and the lid replaced. At night a light (commonly a candle, although in recent years candles have fallen out of favor and are now considered unsafe because of the potential for fires) is placed inside to illuminate the effect.
IN THE U.S :Many early American settlers came from England, and they brought various beliefs about ghosts and witches with them. In the 1800’s, many immigrants from Ireland and Scotland arrived in the United States and introduced their Halloween traditions. Other groups added their own cultural influences to Halloween customs. German immigrants brought a vivid witchcraft lore, and Haitian and African peoples brought their native voodoo beliefs about black cats, fire, and witchcraft.
By the end of the 1800’s, the United States had developed a variety of regional Halloween customs. In rural New Hampshire, for example, barn dances were a Halloween tradition. In New York City, Halloween parades and firecrackers were common aspects of the celebration. In the mountain regions of North Carolina, it was said that Halloween was a time when people could hear the future whispered in the wind. In Louisiana, it was time to cook a midnight dumb supper (a meal eaten without speaking) and watch for a ghost to join the table.
In the 1900’s, Halloween became a celebration for children more than adults. In the early 1900’s, towns and cities began hosting large community Halloween celebrations, parades, and parties. Trick-or-treating became widespread during the 1940’s and 1950’s.
By the late 1900’s, Halloween had become one of the most profitable holidays for American business. In the weeks before Halloween, stores sell decorations, costumes, masks, candy, and cards. Many people decorate their houses with jack-o’-lanterns, cornstalks, fake cobwebs, tombstones, and other Halloween symbols.
For those of you who still have the trick or treat spirit, tell me your favorite way to celebrate Halloween or favorite costume and I’ll draw a name at the end of the day and give away one of my recent books, Five-Star Cowboy or Taming the Texan or whichever you prefer!
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