All Hallows Eve

Today’s tradition has it’s origins roughly 2,000 years ago during the time of Celts who celebrated their New Year on November 1st. The celebration was known as Samhain. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.  They would extinguish their woodstoves, light huge bonfires, and burn crops and animals as sacrifices. They would don costumes and masks – which were often animal heads. After the celebration they would relight their woodstoves from the sacred bonfire to protect them through the dark, cold winter.

By 43 A.D.  the Romans had conquered most of the Celtic territory and began incorporating their own celebrations. They would celebrate the passing of the dead in late October. On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III opened the celebration to honor all saints as well as martyrs and moved it from May 13 to November 1. All Saints Day was also known as All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day). The night before it, the traditional Celtic celebration, became known as All Hallows Eve. Which is where we get today’s name of Halloween.

Some theorise that Halloween lost its appeal to death and ghosts in Protestant, Colonial New England. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.

New immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped popularize the celebration of Halloween. Combining Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition.

As for the history of the Jack-O-Lantern you can read the story of Stingy Jack (it’s a very short one). It was named after the will-o’-the-wisp or a jack o’lantern that is the phenomenon of strange light seen flickering over peat bogs. People hollowed out pumpkins, turnips, or potatoes to imitate this light. Some believed it warded off the evil spirits associated with the celebrations of this time of year.

Therefore, as tradition proclaims, we have carved our pumpkins (their own designs) and will be trick-or-treating this evening. Thor and Captain America will collect treats and Mom and Dad will invoke the “parent tax” and help them eat it.

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I don’t have a picture of Crash and Bang in their costumes yet, but I do have one of my brother and nephew. It’s a classic.

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The Force is strong with them.

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