Halloween

By: 
Jane Clark, Writers Bloc
Halloween, a holiday whose origins combine ancient pagan customs and the Christian festival of All Saints Day, is a popular event for both young and old.  It was first celebrated in 610 A.D. when the Roman Parthenon was rebuilt to serve the Christian religion.
 
October 31 is the "Holy Evening" before All Saints Day which is observed on November 1 to honor all the saints who do not have specific days named after them.  All Souls Day, celebrated on November 2 in the Roman Catholic Church, is a day to offer prayer and masses for souls in purgatory.  In some countries, such as Mexico, candles are burned on graves and food is set out for the dead.  Perhaps this is the origin of the tradition of "trick or treating" for candy.  The making of Jack-o-lanterns evolved from the practice of hollowing out turnips and placing a candle inside to light the way for lost souls.
 
Some churches today object to celebrating Halloween saying it is "demonic" or worshiping the devil.  They chose instead to have fall harvest celebrations.  Yet, that, too, has it's origin from the Druids, an order of priests in Britain in the 600's A.D.  They held autumn festivals called Samhain or "summer's end" with huge feasts serving all kinds of food grown during the summer.  Our current custom of decorating for Halloween with pumpkins, leaves and cornstalks comes from the Druids.
 
The Druids believed that on Halloween ghosts, spirits, fairies, witches and elves came out to harm people.  To scare them away they built large bonfires.  Costumes, parties and pranks were added in modern times.
 
Playing harmless pranks became a part of Halloween in this country, however, some pranks were not so harmless.  I recall while growing up in the 1950's that small sheds or outhouses were overturned, eggs were thrown at cars or houses, and windows were "soaped" with bar soap or, worse yet, with paraffin which was much harder to remove.  
 
We lived in the country in the early 1950's and rode a bus to school. The day after Halloween we would watch to see what mischief had been done along the way by pranksters.  One year an outhouse was moved into the middle of the road.  Our bus driver and a couple of older boys had to move it. Many kids got into serious trouble when pranks were a part of Halloween. 
 
Thankfully, the tradition of playing pranks has given way to costume parties, wiener roasts, bonfires and hayrides.  Adults as well as children enjoy dressing up in elaborate and creative costumes, and decorations for Halloween have become big business.  Decorations range from bales of hay and pumpkins to lighted displays of ghosts, goblins, gravestones and even coffins.  
"Haunted houses" are a very popular attraction for the older crowd.
 
 
Many of my fondest memories are of parties held at church or with classmates at school.  Our costumes then were made up of items we had on hand. Now costumes are much more elaborate  and parties are no longer just for kids but for adults, too..  
 
Halloween has evolved and changed over several hundred years. The religious connection is generally lost in the modern-day version of the celebration. But whether Halloween is celebrated as a fall festival or with a traditional costume party and '"trick or treating,” it can be fun for all ages.  Celebrated in the right way, Halloween can continue to create childhood memories for many generations.
 
Jane Clark is Co-Director of Writers Bloc and has been a member of the group since 2005. She enjoys writing memoirs, essays, poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in several regional and national publications. True Allegiance, her first novel, is available on Amazon.com and Books A Million.com.

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