Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat

Love Halloween.  Love costumes.  Love sweets.  Love pranks.  Love pumpkins.  Love spooky anything.  October 31st is my favorite holiday.  Last year I delved into the history of the jack-o-lantern. This year I thought I would touch on the heritage of Halloween itself.

There are many different traditions from the past that have contributed to the evolution of Halloween, but for today I am going to focus on the Celtic history.  The word Halloween is derived from the Scottish phrase, All-Hallows-Even.   It is thought that Halloween evolved from the ancient festival of Samuin which honored the end of the long days of summer and the start of the drawn out darkness of winter months.  The Celts thought that the barrier between our world and the Otherworld, or underworld, was lifted on Samuin (pronounced sow-in)...allowing souls of the dead to return to earth.  

Like the Day of the Dead, families would welcome their ancestral spirits into their homes, at least the family members they wanted to spend time with.   People would wear costumes in an effort to disguise themselves as terrifying spirits to ward off the souls of those unsavory relatives and friends we all wish to avoid during the holidays.

They would take stock of their food stores for winter on Samuin and in honor of the upcoming darkness great bonfires were lit in each home, while all other fires were extinguished. Some families...when they were feeling particularly daring...would build two bonfires next to each other and then walk between them, with their livestock as a sort of cleansing ritual.  I wonder what my neighbors would think if I staged a bonfire cleansing ritual in the yard?  Probably wouldn't go over so well.  Chef would probably have me committed.

Trick or treating evolved from a tradition in the Middle Ages called souling.  Impoverished people would go door to door and receive food in exchange for praying for the dead on All Souls Day (Nov. 2).  Trick or treating is actually ritual begging.  If food was not given, then sometimes the poor folk would take wagon wheels or whatever they could find to teach the greedy hoarders a lesson.

So what are my little beggars going to be this year?  Lil' Bit is going to be "Super Girl!"  She had her costume on yesterday and was saddened when she realized that just wearing a cape would not make her fly.  The Sprout is going to be a of the more frightening foods commonly available.  Me...I am wavering between pirate and cat, and Chef said he was going to be a chef, but I told him that doesn't count.   

Dress up. Trick. Treat. Enjoy yourself this weekend!  Happy Halloween!

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