The Spookiest Time of the Year
There is no other time of the year that I love more than autumn, when the nights are longer and the breeze is cooler. As I sit here typing away, I can hear the wind howling outside my window and I’m reminded that Halloween is around the corner. The fact that Halloween has been celebrated for millennia and is still strong today makes it a worthy topic to dive into, so let’s take a look at this in-between time that many cultures around the world celebrate.
Halloween has been around for 3,000 years and began in Ireland as a Celtic celebration called Samhain, a celebration which marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. During this time of transition, they said the veil between the living and the supernatural was thin, making it easy for evil spirits to haunt the living. People would wear scary masks and costumes to blend in and to avoid being tormented by the spirits.
Over time, Christianity spread throughout the island and Samhain was replaced by the Catholic church with All Hallows Day, celebrated on November 1. The night before All Hallows Day was called All Hallows Eve, which eventually came to be known as Halloween.
Due to the Great Famine in the 1800s, many Irish people left to go to North America. When they did, they took their traditions and festivities, spreading them throughout the United States and Canada. One of those traditions is carving pumpkin lanterns which comes from the legend of Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack, like his name implies, was a mean man who outsmarted the devil not once, not twice, but three times. He was condemned to roam the earth carrying a lantern made from a carved turnip illuminated with an ember of hellfire (a gift from Satan after he was refused entry to both heaven and hell). At first people carved faces into turnips and even potatoes to light up and keep evil spirits away but once the tradition was exported to North America, turnips were replaced by the pumpkin.
Trick or treating came from a medieval practice called “souling”. On All Hallows’ Eve, poor children and adults would dress up as the dead and go house to house accepting food and money in exchange for prayers to the dead. Candy apples and sweets in general have become synonymous with this time of year.
One of my personal favourite traditions of Halloween is fortune telling. Cut an apple in half and count the seeds to know how many children you will have. Peel an apple and throw the peel over your shoulder, the peel will land in the shape of the initial of your future spouse’s name. You could even go into a dark room with a lit candle and look in a mirror to see the face of the person who would later become your husband!
I could go on and on about Halloween, its origins, and all its wonderful traditions. I urge you to look into this holiday more, you might find that there are also customs and traditions that are just as spooky and supernatural near you. And remember, that dark shadow you see moving on the corner of your eye just might be a spirit wanting to celebrate with you! Happy Halloween!