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Halloween in the Rearview Mirror

Gabriela Rodriguez, Wanna hear something weird?

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Halloween is one of the most looked-forward-to holidays in Canada, America, and other countries, next to Christmas. Of course, Halloween wasn’t always about going door to door for a pillow sack full of candy. Halloween’s origin actually dates back thousands of years ago when an ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) took place.

Samhain took place on October 31st it was like their New Year’s Eve because November 1st marked the end of summer and the harvest season, and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. This was a time of year that was often associated with human death.

Since Samhain was the night before the New Year, people believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead temporarily vanished. It was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, and although these ghosts would be causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that their presence made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.

Druids built huge bonfires that were made to be sacred, and the people would gather to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic spirits. During this celebration, the Celts wore costumes that were made out of animal heads and skins in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them.

Later during the era when Christians came to convert the Celtic, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, includes some of the traditions of Samhain. Before it became known as Halloween, the day was referred to as All Hallow’s Eve as the day before All Saints Day.

As the centuries wore on, people began dressing like the dreadful creatures that haunted the Celtics, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This is called “mumming”, from which trick-or-treating evolved.

The “trick” part of “trick or treat” is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his property if no treat is given. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1st), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd). The earliest known reference of trick-or-treating in English speaking North America, occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, near the border of upstate New York, reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go through the streets on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m.

Although the tradition of Halloween dates back to 2000 years ago, death isn’t looked upon as something to be scared of by all cultures. For example, in places like Mexico, The Day of the Dead is about celebrating the dead, not being afraid of it. It’s a holiday for people to honor their ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. Families invite their family spirits back into their homes to be part of the family once more. The Day of the Dead is a celebration of family and a show of respect for those who have passed away which seems a lot warmer than the spookiness of a Halloween night.

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Halloween in the Rearview Mirror