Halloween: "The evening of October 31; the eve of All Saints' Day; observed especially by children in costumes who solicit treats, often by threatening minor pranks" ("Dictonary.com").
Halloween began with the ancient Celtic Festival of Samhain, a festival to ward off roaming ghosts ("History" 1). During this festival, they would hold bonfires and wear costumes ("History" 1). This reminds us of some of the traditions Halloween holds today. When Pope Gregory III named November 1 as All Saints' Day, some of the traditions from Samhain were connected to this new holiday ("History" 1). After the evening before became known as All Hollows' Eve, Halloween became the name ("History" 1). Overall, Halloween had been celebrated several years before it was actually called Halloween. After Halloween became known, new traditions became associated with it, including trick-or-treating and other activities ("History" 1).
Halloween Around the World
Everyone celebrates Halloween differently, and here are a few examples of that:
- Mexico: Instead of "Halloween," Mexicans celebrate "Dia de los Muertos" or Day of the Dead on November 1st and 2nd (Lucas 2). On the Day of the Dead, they remember the happy thoughts of their loved and lost; they showered their loved one's graves with their favorite treasures, food, flowers, candy, photos and beverages. They take this day to honor and remember those who are no longer with them.
- Germany: Many Germans take Halloween as a big deal. Some hide knives the night before Halloween to prevent an unpleasant encounter with evil spirits (Lucas 3) .
- Austria: During the week of "Seleenwoche," or All Souls Week (October 30 - November 8), the Austrians celebrate in many different ways ("Halloween from around the world Halloween in Austria" 3). They leave bread, water, and a lamp on a table before bedtime to help welcome dead souls ("Halloween from around the world Halloween in Austria" 1-2).
- China: Instead of Halloween, China celebrates "Teng Chieh," a Lantern Festival to end the Chinese New Year celebrations (Lucas 6). Several lanterns are formed in the shapes of animals, such as dragons or swans, to protect from evil and to light wandering spirits' ways (Lucas 6). Another way they celebrate is by honoring their lost family and friends; they often place food and water in front of their loved ones pictures (Lucas 6). This has a similar connection to Mexico's "Dia de los Muertos" festival. Another celebration celebrated in China is the Festival of Hungry Ghosts, a celebration where people offer food and gifts in exchange for no negative feelings and no revengeful thoughts (Lucas 6).
Halloween in North America
The most common colors when thinking of Halloween are orange and black. Others include purple and green, and the most known symbol for Halloween is the jack-o-lantern. Several families in the United States buy pumpkins, scoop out the insides, carve a scary or funny face in the front, and place a candle inside to light the face. Other symbols that remind American's of Halloween are trick-or-treating, witches, apples and cats. According to "Monstrous.com," "The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune" (7). Along with the symbol of apples, black cats also remind many of the Halloween season. Because it was believed that witches could miraculously turn into black cats, cats that were seen were thought to be witches in disguise ("Monstrous.com" 8). Halloween holds both symbols from the haunted section, and from the autumn section, though. For example, when some think of pumpkins or scarecrows, Halloween automatically pops to their mind.
Trick or Treating
Trick or Treating is very popular in many countries. Trick or Treating consists of children or young adults dressing up in a costume of their choosing, and heading to their neighborhood. They go from door to door looking for candy and other goodies during this everlasting tradition. According to Tom Harris, "85 to 95 percent of U.S. children go trick-or-treating or engage in other Halloween festivities every year, and many adults also join in on the fun" (3). Due to so many children participating, the parents decide to follow along. Harris states that 65 percent of U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 34 found themselves attending some sort of costume party (3).
For Halloween get-togethers, parties or dances, many party-goers may find some scary snacks attempting to crawl onto their plates. Several Americans redo traditional foods to become symbols of Halloween. This has become a tradition that is used all over the world. For example, many make cookies into Frankensteins, Nutter Butters into ghosts, carrots into fingers, corn dogs into mummies, Oreos into spiders, or deviled eggs into eye balls. This only begins the list that Americans have tried in an endless attempt to make the creepiest treat out there.
Games and Activities
There are several games and activities that have became a custom to Halloween. Some of these include dances, scary movies, haunted houses, ghost stories, and greeting cards. Other traditions include decorating, contests, corn mazes and baking. According to Tom Harris, "The holiday is second only to Christmas in total revenue dollars for retailers" (4). Although this shows how popular Halloween is, this holiday follows New Year's Eve and the Super Bowl in total numbers of parties, yet is second to Christmas when it comes to total dollars spent (Harris 5).
According to B.A. Robinson, "Darkness, cars, drunk drivers, and children dressed in costumes with limited visibility can make a deadly combination" (7). During the Halloween time, several families take caution due to these conditions. Robert Robillard offers a helpful tip: take some time to read labels on costumes, and look for flame resistant fabrics (Robillard 1). Another thing to stay away from on Halloween night is open flames; Robillard suggests to try alternatives that look like flames but aren't as harmful (1). Other helpful tips include using flashlights, costumes that fit well to avoid tripping, using reflective tape, examining treats before eating, keeping flammable objects away from landings and walkways to avoid fires, and not overusing extension cords (Robillard).
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