A parade of
pumpkins prances and flickers beneath the misty moonlight. Shadows
sway. Crunchy leaves, burnished with the autumn’s last golden glow
sweep across the streets. Cats dash and dart between the trees.
Caped figures stalk the sidewalks. A flutter of wings swoops across
the dark indigo night sky. A scarecrow smiles.
Halloween arrives in our homes and our hearts with a sack full of
treats and enough tricks to entertain even the most somber zombie.
This original Celtic holiday marking the pagan New Year is second
only to Christmas in consumer spending, with Halloween shoppers
driving the retail market to a howling 2.5 billion dollars each
year on costumes, candy, party supplies and decorations, according
to a variety of financial and consumer report magazines.
itself, Halloween, comes from a
shortened version of the Catholic observance of All Hollows Day or
All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1. While many legends
and traditions abound surrounding this holiday of the spirits, most
historians agree that Halloween emerged from the Irish Celts and in
particular the Druids.
The villagers in
Ireland extinguished their home fires on October 31, the time when
the veil between the spirit world and the world of living bodies
was lifted, to prevent the souls who had crossed over to the other
side the preceding year from returning to possess living bodies.
They extinguished their home fires to make the home undesirable and
cold and would later re-light their fires from a common source, the
Druidic fire that was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland in the
area of Usinach.
celebrating the holiday in the mid 1800's when Irish immigrants
became more plentiful in the new world. For all of those who find
this holiday to be a favorite since childhood, here’s a sampling of
Halloween trivia to enhance this year’s celebration:
Pumpkins – Carving and
decorating pumpkins is purely an American tradition because
pumpkins were not a crop among the early Celtic people. The people
of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England used turnips, rutabagas and
potatoes. They carved them to use as candleholders to light their
way along the darkened streets. Carved faces were done to keep away
evil spirits. When the immigrants saw pumpkins, they used them
because they were plentiful and bigger.
Jack O’ Lantern – This
term comes from an Irish folk tale about 'Stingy Jack' who was a
notorious drunkard and trickster who tricked the devil into
climbing a tree and then carved a cross into it to keep him from
coming down. He then made a deal with the devil to stop tempting
him if he let him out of the tree. When Jack died he was denied
entrance to heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied
entrance to hell because he tricked the devil. He had to roam the
earth with a single hot ember, placed in a hollowed out turnip to
light his way – his lantern.
Apples – Apples have
also been associated with Halloween and autumn activities. They are
a symbol of the goddess, immortality and knowledge because of the
five-pointed star, the pentagram, which can be seen when the apple
is cut in half through the middle. Bobbing for apples was done as a
fertility ritual, and the first woman who was able to seize the
apple and bite it would be the first to marry in the New
Cats – The Celtic
people believed that cats could actually be witches who had been
transformed, especially black cats. Depending on the village or
area in Europe, black cats were lucky or unlucky and white cats had
the same reputation.
Sneezing – Why do
people say “God bless you?” The Celtic people, and in some reports,
the Welsh, believed that a sneeze could blow the soul right out of
the body. If someone sneezed on Halloween, people would bless one
another to keep evil away from the soul.