Little Monsters, Beautiful Princesses, and Bizarre Creatures
Little Monsters, Beautiful Princesses, and Bizarre Creatures
Behind the Scene of Halloween
by Jennifer LB Leese
Every October brings an avalanche of carved pumpkins, dancing skeletons, smiling ghosts, scary monsters, witches riding on brooms, and some creatures we can't even describe. There's no question about it - Halloween is definitely one holiday that stands out from the rest.
Those who love Halloween know that it is meant to be fun. It is a time for chilling ghost stories, terrifying, cute, or mystical costumes, bizarre games, late night parties, and sometimes pranks.
Additionally, "Halloween stands out because of its unique mix of secular and religious elements. The holiday stirred much controversy because it offends some Christian groups, which in turn upsets many modern-day Wiccans, and Druids." (HowStuffWorks)
The next time you're carving a pumpkin or handing out candy to little monsters, princesses, and odd, comical, and scary creatures, you'll actually know where these practices come from.
History and American Traditions
American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries do not include Halloween in their lists of holidays.
The holiday "did not become a holiday in the United States until the 19th century, where lingering Puritan tradition restricted even the observance of Christmas prior to the 1800s." (Wikipedia) The holiday came with the two million Irish, following the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849), when they migrated here over 160 years ago. The Scottish version of Halloween spread to each country after the Scottish emigration from the British Isles.
In many towns and cities, trick-or-treaters are welcomed by lit porch lights, decorated homes, and jack-o'-lanterns. There are costume balls, late-night Halloween parties, and bonfires, which usually involve traditional games (like snipe hunting, bobbing for apples, or searching for candy in a similar manner to Easter egg hunting), haunted hayrides (often accompanied by scary stories, and costumed people hiding in the dark to jump out and scare the riders), and treats (usually a bag of candy and/or homemade treats). Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday.
What Does the Word Halloween Mean?
"The name is actually a shortened version of "All Hallows' Even," the eve of All Hallows' Day. "Hallow" is an Old English word for "holy person," and All Hallows' Day is simply another name for All Saints' Day, the day Catholics commemorate all the saints. At some point, people began referring to All Hallows' Even as "Hallowe'en" and then simply "Halloween."
"Following the Jewish tradition, Christians observe many holy days from sundown on one day until sundown on the following day. This is where we get the practice of celebrating Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, etc. The direct predecessor of modern-day Halloween is the festivity that began All Saints' Day, which started at sundown on October 31.
"While it takes its name from All Saints' Day, modern Halloween is actually a combination of several different traditions. In fact, a lot of the things we do on Halloween predate Christianity entirely. In the following sections, we'll look at the chief traditions that feed into today's Halloween and see how they got all tangled up together in one holiday." (HowStuffWorks)
Ghouls, Monsters, and Princesses
In medieval times, one popular All Souls' Day practice was to make "soul cakes," simple bread desserts with a currant topping. In a custom called "souling," children would go door-to-door begging for the cakes, much like modern trick-or-treaters. For every cake a child collected, he or she would have to say a prayer for the dead relatives of the person who gave the cake. These prayers would help the relatives find their way out of purgatory and into heaven. The children even sang a soul cake song along the lines of the modern "Trick-or-treat, trick-or-treat, give me something good to eat." One version of the song went:
A soul cake!
A soul cake!
Have mercy on all Christian souls, for
A soul cake!
There is also some evidence of trick-or-treat type activities in the original Celtic tradition. Historians say the Celts would dress up in ghoulish outfits and parade out of town to lead the wandering spirits away. Additionally, Celtic children would walk door to door to collect firewood for a giant communal bonfire. Once the bonfire was burning, the revelers would extinguish all the other fires in the village. They would then relight every fire with a flame taken from the Samhain bonfire, as a symbol of the people's connection to one another.
A lot of the Samhain celebration had to do with honoring Celtic gods, and there's evidence that the Celts would dress as these deities as part of the festival. They may have actually gone door to door to collect food to offer to the gods. It is fairly clear that Samhain involved an offering of food to spirits. There may have been animal sacrifices, and some historians say the Celts even sacrificed people, but the evidence is not conclusive.
The Celts believed in fairies and other mischievous creatures, and the notion of Halloween trickery may have come from their reported activities on Samhain. There's also good reason to suppose that the Celtic New Year's Eve was something like our own New Year's Eve - a time when people let go of their inhibitions, drank heavily and got into trouble. The trickery tradition may simply come from this spirit of revelry. We'll see how the Celts also influenced the Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins next. (Trick-or-Treating; HowStuffWorks)
"The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States and Canada is trick-or-treating, in which children disguise themselves in costumes and go door-to-door in their neighborhoods, ringing each doorbell and yelling "trick or treat!" to solicit the usual gift of candies. Although the practice resembles the older traditions of guising in Ireland and Scotland, ritual begging on Halloween does not appear in English-speaking North America until the 20th century." (Wikipedia)
Symbols of Halloween
Unusual, comical, or scary faces or designs carved on pumpkins, lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween's most prominent symbols. This custom is an Irish tradition of carving a lantern, which goes back centuries. These lanterns are usually carved from a turnip or swede (or more uncommonly a mangelwurzel). The carving of pumpkins was first associated with Halloween in North America, (Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween) where the pumpkin was available, and much larger and easier to carve.
"The jack-o'-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard drinking old farmer who tricked the devil into climbing a tree, and trapped him by carving a cross into the trunk of the tree. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack, which dooms him to forever wander the earth at night. For centuries, the bedtime parable was told by Irish parents to their children. But in America the tradition of carving pumpkins is known to have preceded the Great Famine period of Irish immigration, (American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, born in 1807, recalled carving pumpkins in his youth) and the tradition of carving vegetable lanterns may also have been brought over by the Scottish or English; documentation is unavailable to establish when or by whom. The carved pumpkin was associated generally with harvest time in America, and did not become specifically associated with Halloween until the mid to late 19th century.
"The imagery surrounding Halloween is largely an amalgamation of the Halloween season itself, nearly a century of work from American filmmakers and graphic artists, and a rather commercialized take on the dark and mysterious. Halloween imagery tends to involve death, magic, or mythical monsters. Common Halloween characters include ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires, bats, owls, crows, vultures, haunted houses, pumpkinmen, black cats, aliens, spiders, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, and demons. Particularly in America, symbolism is inspired by classic horror films, which contain fictional figures like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and The Mummy." (Wikipedia)
Black and orange are the traditional colors of Halloween. Black is thought to mean: death, night, witches, black cats, bats, and vampires. Orange is for: pumpkins, jack o' lanterns, autumn, the turning leaves, and fire. Purple is also used, meaning: the supernatural, paranormal (ghosts), and mysticism. Green is sometimes used meaning: goblins, monsters, zombies, and aliens. White is for: ghosts, mummies, and a full moon. Red during this holiday is meant to represent: blood, fire, demons, and of course- Satan.
Disgusting, Fun, and Gross Halloween Recipes
Hairball Salad with Saliva Dressing
1 lg Ripe avocado
2 c Alfalfa sprouts
6 grated carrots
Cut avocado in half and scoop out the pit. Scoop avocado out of the shell and put in the bowl. Add sprouts to the avocado meat. Mash with a fork. It is ok to leave some lumps. Set the mixture aside. Divide the grated carrots among the four salad bowls. Make walnut size hairballs from the avocado mixture and arrange them on top of the grated carrots. Pour Italian "saliva" dressing over hairballs and serve.
1-2 dozen cherry tomatoes
Flavored soft cream cheese Spread
Core tomatoes with a carrot peeler or knife. Drain excess tomato juice. Using a butter knife, fill holes in tomatoes with cream cheese. Give each pimple a gentle squeeze and arrange on a platter. Day Old Bath Water
12 ounce Can frozen lemonade
2 liters 7-Up
1/2 gallon Rainbow sherbert
Thaw sherbert for approximately 15 minutes and place in a plastic tub. Add lemonade (prepared according to directions) and 7-up. Sherbert will melt and turn mixture day old bathwater grayish-brown. Float a handful of green, yellow and white tiny after dinner mints (tiny bars of soap) on top of the scummy punch.
6 hard boiled eggs
6 oz Whipped cream cheese
7 oz Green olives - with pimientos
Red food coloring
Peel eggs cut in half lengthwise. Remove the discard yolks. Fill the holes with cream cheese. Press an olive into each cream cheese eyeball, pimiento facing up, for an eerie green iris and startling red pupil! For a final touch, dip the tip of a toothpick in red food coloring and draw broken blood vessels in the cream cheese. (Recipes from TheFamilyCorner.com)
Source: HowStuffWorks, Wikipedia, Halloween.com, TheFamilyCorner.com, and Halloween Online