Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Story of Spooky Stories

Hello again readers,

Well, tomorrow is the day that millions of children all over the nation are awaiting. It's the one night mom can't say 'no' to your sweet tooth. Yes, tomorrow is Halloween. I was running out of blog ideas until a young lady friend of mine suggested I write a brief history of the festival since many are confused about its origins and purpose. I assume many of you will be passing yourselves off as ghosts and ghouls this coming Wednesday. So I hope you find this interesting.

Where to begin? Well, to avoid plagiarism I'll state that all the information I am about to regurgitate comes from This is a great research website should you ever need one.

Now then, let's go back in time to the mid 5th century. The Celts of Ireland celebrated a festival known as "Samhain", which fell on November 1st. The word literally means "summer's end" and was used as a time to offer sacrifices to the gods as thanks for a prosperous harvest.

Far to the south, in the Roman Empire, citizens held a tribute to the goddess Pomona, the deity of fruit trees and abundance. When the Romans conquered Britain, they incorporated the Celtic traditions into their own. The Romans also instituted the festival Feralia, a day in which everyone offered prayers on behalf of the dead. As the Catholic Church arose, the observance of "All Saints Day" became a common practice. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory the III changed the date from May 13 to November 1st. "All Saints Day" was a time in which all the saints of the Catholic Church were honored. "All Hallows Eve" (Halloween) was a type of set-up night for the festival.

What about all the other things? Jack-o-lanterns for instance? According to legend, they were lamps used by a man named Jack as he wandered for eternity over the face of the earth, denied entrance to both Heaven and Hell. It was introduced to America in the 1840's, but the Irish who did so found it easier to use a pumpkin rather than the traditional turnip.

Bobbing for apples? An ancient version of throwing the bouquet at a wedding. Unmarried people who could bite into an apple on a string or in water were thought of as the next ones to get hitched.

Trick or treating? It resembles the All Souls Day of "going a-souling" in which the poor would beg door to door. They promised to say a prayer for the dead in exchange for charity. It is highly possible, however, that the practice as WE know developed here in America with no such connections.

Ghost stories? A Celtic belief that on Samhain, the boundaries between the world of the living and the realm of the dead were shattered, allowing departed ones to walk amongst us. It's obvious that this belief has survived.

What we can see is a large blend of ancient traditions, religious holidays and a little bit of our own creativity, producing Halloween that we know today. So as you get a piece of candy thrown into your bag, remember that many survived because it. Try putting THAT one past your parents. "Oh yes mommy, I need to go trick-or-treating because it may be the only way to get my next meal." Come to think of it, that's not such a bad idea....but don't forget to offer a prayer!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this. I'll be back tomorrow with another post. And remember this: if you ever have comments or want me to talk about something that interests you personally, don't hesitate to send me an email! I'd love to hear from you. Most important of all, be safe, have fun, get LOTS of candy and stay away from those crappy horror flicks.

Power to the pen and those who scare the living heck our of people with it!

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