Happy Halloween!

headless-horseman-2010As you get ready to hand out candy to children around your neighborhood or go to a Halloween themed party, you may be wondering how exactly this all came to be. How does one even think of the idea of Halloween and how the heck did it become so commercialized?

While it may be a tad-bit commercialized *coughcough* extremely commercialized *coughcough*, other countries have different, more meaningful means of celebration. The first question to ask may be, “So when did it start becoming popular in the United States?” Halloween became popular after World War II when the government lifted the restriction on candy consumption. After this, it gradually reached the popularity it is today – commercialization galore. Candy yay! Perhaps this is really bad for the health of people, but it’s one of the only days of the year that you can (almost) eat as much candy as you want without being judged. Or maybe perhaps you’re one of those “smart” kids who eats one piece of candy a day to make it last until Christmas. Either way, the commercialization of Halloween helps the economy – more moneys to businesses; and I mean, who doesn’t want FREE CANDY??

Wondering about those Jack-O’-Lanterns in your yard or cluttering up your porch? Yeah, those were most likely started as an American tradition. Did you know pumpkins are only native to the North America? Wow. I did not know that before research. But who’s JACK? Jack most likely came from a legend from Britain:

“The Jack-o’-lantern tradition may have originated from unexplained sightings of ignis fatuus, ‘a phosphorescent swamp gas long known in the bogs of Britain.’ While variations exist from country to country, in British folklore, ignis fatuus is the result of a prankster, Jack, who angered both God and the devil. After being prohibited from spending eternity in heaven or hell, the devil supposedly supplied him with a lighted coal, so he may use its light to trick innocent passersby into following the retreating glowing orb and straying them toward harm’s way.”

What about those fancy costumes we wear? Huh. Maybe those became popular from the period of Masquerades and big parties. The idea of dressing in a costume without anyone knowing it’s you just gives people the adrenaline they need. Tired of being the same old person all year? Why not try and dress up as a famous person for a day and get the recognition you want? That sounds great to me!

Some traditions also suggest that people wore costumes to trick the dead into also thinking that you were dead as well. Kind of sounds like that Zombie Romeo and Juliet movie, right? Or perhaps The Walking Dead? Huh. It all makes sense now. Either way, some people just really enjoy dressing up as someone their not for one day and having some fun.

TRICK OR TREAT!!! What does that even mean? Do I have to give them a treat or else they are going to through eggs at my house? Sounds scary. Yes and no. In Ireland and Scotland, old stories of Pixies and Hobgoblins pulling pranks on people have been shown to the tradition of treat giving to appease the tricksters. Trick or treating also relates somewhat to an Old Italian tradition of giving treats and presents to the Souls of lost ones in hopes that they will keep calm and not torment their lives. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather give treats than get tricked.

But you may still be asking when and where did Halloween originally start? Some historians believe that Halloween originated from the Celtic Society. They saw the changing of leaves as the start of the New Year and the end of the Harvest Season. The New Year start on November First where they celebrated a festival called the “Samhain”. They believed there was a veil that separated the “alive” from the “dead” and the souls would complete their transition to the other world during the winter. During the celebration, they would often have sacrifices (of animals, I hope!) to ensure a plentiful harvest for next year. They also thought the bonfires would help guide the spirits to the other side.

Other celebrations like this one, though less drastic, were apparent in Britain through the celebration of Pomona, the goddess of the orchards. Some historians also think that this is perhaps where bobbing for apples developed. Do they still do that?

Also along with the theme of Halloween lies the tradition of Day of the Dead in Latin American countries. This is a celebration of life that last until November second. The Day of the dead originally started in Aztec traditions and the idea behind the celebration is that no one gets out of the world alive. It also encourages generations to respect their ancestors and honor them for what they have done in their lifetimes. The Day of the Dead also acts as a sort of “reunion” of families to be reunited to their loved ones through spirit. Alters are created in the cemeteries and are adorned with brightly colored flowers and commemorations. Yes, treats are abundant in these celebrations, too. Who doesn’t love a good sweet treat once in a while or a year?

As you can see, treats are just an all-around great choice for people to enjoy on this joyous/ghoulish day. Though the weather may not be up to par with what you were expecting, at least it isn’t 30 degrees and snowing. Enjoy your Halloween and try to understand where it came from. Also, don’t forget to respect your ancestors. Who knows? They might come back to haunt you some day.