Halloween is tomorrow and is the second highest grossing holiday in the U.S. after Christmas. The average family will each spend about $66 ($5.8 billion countrywide) on costumes and treats to be given out at the door. (Due to sugar rationing from April 1942 to June 1947 in connection with World War II, candy in large quantity was hard to find for this holiday.)
Witches and ghosts are still some of the most popular costumes, since kids enjoy being scared. I was surprised to learn the word witch comes from the old English wicce meaning wise woman. I just thought they were ugly and mean!
The fear of Halloween and all things surrounding it is called samhainophobia and here you will learn where that word came from. All Hallows Eve was the night before All Hallowmas, which was the ancient celebration of All Saints Day (a day of prayer for saints and martyrs of the church) and All Souls Days (prayer for souls of the dead).
It seems during medieval times there were bonfires and souling, which was going door to door offering prayers for the dead. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to placate spirits who roamed the streets at Samhain (thus the phobia word), a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year. Dressing up as ghouls and other spooks originated from the ancient Celtic tradition of townspeople disguising themselves as demons and spirits. The Celts believed that disguising themselves this way would allow them to escape the notice of the real spirits wandering the streets during Samhain.
Thus we have present day trick-or-treating, where 50 percent of youngsters prefer to receive chocolate candy, compared to 24 percent who prefer non-chocolate candy and 10 percent who prefer gum. Now think, did you buy the right treats?
Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween. Other girls believed they would see their boyfriend’s faces if they looked into mirrors while walking downstairs at midnight on Halloween.
Irish immigrants brought the holiday to North America in the mid-1800s. Of course, pumpkins and Jack O’Lanterns are synonymous with the holiday. According to Irish legend, Jack O’Lanterns are named after a stingy man named Jack who, because he tricked the devil several times, was forbidden entrance into both heaven and hell. He was condemned to wander Earth, waving his lantern to lead people away from their paths. The first Jack O’Lanterns were actually made from turnips. Now we use pumpkins and the largest pumpkin ever measured was grown by Norm Craven, who broke the world record in 1993 with one weighing 836 lb.
Black and orange are typically associated with Halloween. Orange is a symbol of strength and endurance and, along with brown and gold, stands for the harvest and autumn. Black is typically a symbol of death and darkness and acts as a reminder that Halloween once was a festival that marked the boundaries between life and death. According to tradition, people who wear their clothes inside out and then walk backwards on Halloween, will see a witch at midnight. Now seriously, how could anyone believe that?
Happy Halloween to all!
(Melanie Behrens – firstname.lastname@example.org)
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