Halloween boasts fun traditions: scary costumes, yummy candy, spooky stories, and pumpkin spice. Based on the sacred celebration of Samhain, our modern parties have given this ancient custom a pop culture flavor. Simple masks to ward off evil have been replaced with “Sexy Nurse” costumes. Soul cakes will no longer do for 21stCentury kiddies. Now we buy $15.00 bags of assorted sugary candy to appease the little boys and ghouls.
I may sound nostalgic for the old days, but I’m not. Give me my scary movies, a pumpkin spice latte, and some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’m ready to be entertained.
Top Three Favorite Halloween Traditions
Jack O’ Lanterns
Glowing pumpkins line our streets every Halloween Night. These orange guardians against evil weren’t the original food medium. That honor belonged to the lowly turnip. Carving and illuminating the little root vegetable began in Ireland to shoo away Stingy Jack. This mythical man, known as the stingiest man in the land, is believed to have outsmarted the devil. Jack hated to spend his own money. He tricked the devil by convincing him to turn into a coin to pay for their drink. Jack then pocketed the coin next to a silver cross, preventing Satan from turning back into his original form. He freed the devil sometime later, but the tricks didn’t stop. Jack convinced the devil to climb an apple tree, then he carved a cross into the bark and trapped Satan again. This time the devil agreed to leave Jack alone.
Stingy Jack, however, was too clever for his own good. He died and went to Heaven, but God wouldn’t give him entry. Jack had been too stingy and wicked during his life. Then he traveled to Hell, but the devil had made a promise not to take Jack’s soul. Satan sent him packing with a single burning coal to light his way throughout eternity. Folklore tells of a bobbing light moving aimlessly across the open land. It is Stingy Jack or Jack of the Lantern still wandering the Earth. People in Ireland and Scotland carved and illuminated turnips, potatoes, and beets to keep Stingy Jack and other evil spirits away.
Trick or Treat
Our tradition of Trick or Treat dates back to the Middle Ages. There is evidence this custom may have originated to the pre-Christian Celts. People dressed up as ghosts, spirits, and witches to scare away evil on Samhain. They’d dance around the bonfire and partake of treats to appease the spirits. The Celts and others celebrated their sacred Samhain to honor the dead.
America’s Influence – Halloween and Trick or Treat Traditions were Americanized into our Pop Culture in the 1950s. Peanuts and Disney firmly established Halloween as the Kid-oriented holiday it is today with their cartoons.
Ghost Hunts, Haunted Houses, and Graveyard Tours
Halloween season is a popular time to seek out the scary. We, against our wiser nature, join other thrill-seekers inside graveyards after dark in the hopes of spotting a prowling ghost. It is the Spooky Season, and we want to be scared. Why? Maybe we want to feel the thrill of terror in our otherwise mundane lives? Or perhaps like our Celtic ancestors, we want to connect with the dead? I go on ghost tours to catch a glimpse of the supernatural. One day, I might see a bit of real magic.
Bonus – Bobbing for Apples
I ran across this little tidbit while researching my blog post. Did you know bobbing for apples was part of an ancient Roman celebration of Pomona, goddess of agriculture, and abundance? The Romans brought the festival with them when they conquered the British Isles. Bobbing for apples stuck and is still played at Halloween Parties today.