Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays. Some folklorists have detected its origins back to the Roman feast of Pomona (the goddess of fruits and seeds) or the
festival of the dead called Parentalia. It is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain. The name of the festival historically kept by the Gaels in Ireland is derived from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end.”
The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century, and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows Even (Evening), the night before All Hallows Day.
The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in
1837 and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.
The practice of dressing in costumes and begging door-to-door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-Treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling when poor folk would go door-to-door on Hallomas (November 1st), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd) originated in Ireland and Britain.
American Historian and author Ruth Edna Kelley (of Massachusetts) wrote the first book length history of the holiday in the U.S. The Book of Hallowe’en (1919) and references souling in the chapter “Hallowe’en in America.” Halloween is not celebrated by all countries or regions of the world.
After doing this research on Halloween, it occurred to me that the holiday, much like the United States, is a melting pot reflecting practices from many other countries.
Halloween, being one of my favorite holidays, enables us, no, encourages us, to don another persona. Gives us permission to be caught up as a character that lives in another world, be it a world of fantasy, such as a fairy, or from a time long past, such as a prince. We delight in becoming a witch or wizard, cowboy or Indian, vampire, werewolf, a princess, a pauper or a pirate, as we go door-to-door in quest of the sweet chocolate booty.
I have two pugs, and each year we dress up in costumes and
walk around our neighborhood visiting the trick-or-treaters. The candy I carry in my plastic pumpkin is
given to those who stop to say hello to the costumed dogs. They have been a devil and angel, a cheerleader and foot ball player, spider man and wonder woman, and lastly, I dressed them in pig costumes and on the side of one dog’s costume I wrote in black marker, “H1”, and on the other dog I wrote, “N1”, and they went out as the Swine Flu. We have had a lot of fun, but unfortunately, this year, due to Milo having for the most part, lost of the use of his back legs, we will not be going out. I think instead I will allow them to get into costumes and greet happy tricksters at the door.
What traditions do you practice on this fun holiday? Do you give out candy? Do you dress in costume? What costume will you wear? Do you have a costume party? Venture into Nights of Passion, where paranormal creatures rule and share your wicked plans for All Hallows Eve …. if you dare.