It’s that time of year again to bust out the carving knives, stuff the decorative dummy you’re going to display on your porch and get that bucket of candy ready by the front door. Yes, it’s Halloween! If you’re a candy alcoholic like me, you’re stoked at the thought of bags of candy corn and mini-M&M’s. Not only that but all the fun myths that go along with such a fun holiday. So hold on tight to your broomstick as I take you down a path of the history of Halloween.
Halloween was once referred to as Samhain by the Celts. They believed during this time that the dead had access to the land of the living and were enchanted by evil fairies that, if you saw them, you could easily fall ill and die shortly after. Samhain was also a celebration of the end of summer and of the afterlife. Celts would leave a treat at their table for the dead on Samhain night and pray for guidance from their deceased loved ones.
It’s too bad that the Christians of that time didn’t quite understand that Samhain didn’t mean “god of the underworld.” They assumed that’s what the word and celebration meant. This brings me to “All Saints Day.” Before the Christians came up with this holiday, they were busy burning witches and sacrificing other humans in the name of God because of their different beliefs. Doing this kept the devil away, so they claimed. To make this day called Halloween less evil, the church decided to call it All Saints’ Day. This day was made to honor all saints and those who have passed. All Saints’ Day soon was being referred to as Hallowmas, a mass to honor the dead. Eventually the holiday evolved into All-Hallows-Even, which turned into Hallowe’en. This day was meant to be somber and a time of prayer and remembrance, but the Celts were not having that. They continued with their bonfires and scary stories, myths and legends.
Now let’s take a look into American Halloween. Did you know Christmas caroling was stolen from Halloween? Well, kinda…A long time ago when Halloween was brought over from the Pagans (Celts), they were extremely poor and would think of rhymes to deliver to houses so they might get some fruit or vegetables to eat, such as “trick o’ treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” It was poetic performances for food and even sometimes a little bit of money. Today we hand out candy and decorate our lawns and windows with Halloween symbols such as evil witches, black cats, and pumpkins.
Scarecrows are another symbol of Halloween. But I bet you would look at them differently if you knew their true origin. Back in Europe a real human sacrifice was placed out in a vegetable field with a stick going through the body. So instead of animals eating away the growing food, they would instead eat at the rotting body.
Jack-o-lanterns are another symbol with a disturbing origin. According to folklore, “Jack” was a real person–a boy who made a deal with the devil. The devil told Jack that if he could climb the tallest oak tree he could forever keep his soul, but if Jack fell then the devil would own his soul. Well Jack made it to the top of that tree and got to keep his soul. But Jack turned into a horrible person and did terrible things–knowing damn well that he would never go to hell for his sins. The folklore claims that when Jack died, the Lord didn’t want him in heaven. So Jack went to the devil, and the devil told him he would be stuck between the two realms forever except on Halloween, when the worlds between the dead and the living are open to each other and Jack can find another soul to take his pace. So Jack cut a hole in a pumpkin and placed a candle inside because the realm he was stuck in was forever dark. On Halloween it is always wise to keep a lit jack-o-lantern lit up in front of your window just in case Jack comes looking for your soul, he will see that your soul has already been taken.
So as you can see Halloween comes with a lot of baggage. Some scary stories, some interesting truths and hopefully a lot of candy. It doesn’t matter if you’re in it for the costumes or haunted houses, or you like to tell scary stories in graveyards. If you’re a fake witch or a real one, or you like pumpkins and believe in vampires and werewolves. Just know the holiday has come a long way and no matter how you decide to celebrate it, have plenty fun, watch out for evil fairies, don’t invite a vampire in your house, and don’t cast any spells….unless you think they will really work.