Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Halloween skeletons, witches, ghosts, spiders and crows along with pumpkins decorate windows and lawns with almost the same regularity as Christmas lights and crèches. Adults and children discuss and prepare costumes for their cheery trick-or-treating and parties. Youths visit haunted houses; television networks sponsor monster feasts featuring every kind of horror show; real witches and warlocks give interviews explaining the significance and importance of their special holiday.
The word Halloween is derived from the term “All Hallows Eve” which occurred on Oct. 31, the end of summer in Northwestern Europe. “All Saints Day,” or “All Hallows Day” was the next Day, Nov. 1st. Therefore, Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day.
Halloween began over 2,000 years ago among the Celts and their pagan priests called the Druids. The Druids are, without question, history’s king of the occult. Witchcraft, Satanism, paganism and virtually all facets of the occult acquire instruction from the Druids. From the popular jack-o’-lantern, trick-or-treat, costumes, to the pranks, ghoulish ghosts, demons, goblins and witches – Halloween owes its morbid birth to the Druids.
The Druids celebrated two special nights of the year: Beltane and Samhain. Beltane took place on May 1 and marked the birth of summer. Samhain occurred on November 1 and signified the death of summer. Samhain, a night celebrating death and hell, was the Druids most important ritual. It was a terrifying night of human sacrifices.
And it was the original Halloween.
Apparently, the origins of Halloween can be traced back to ancient Ireland and Scotland around the time of Christ. On Oct. 31st, the Celts celebrated the end of summer. This was important because it was when animal herders would move their animals into barns and pens and prepare to ride out the winter. This was also the time of the crop harvests. This annual change of season and lifestyle was marked by a festival called Samhain — pronounced ‘sow-ane’ and means ‘end of summer.’ Sow rhymes with cow.
There was much superstition associated with this time of change including the belief in fairies, and that the spirits of the dead wandered around looking for bodies to inhabit. Since the living did not want to be possessed by spirits, they dressed up in costumes and paraded around the streets making loud noises to confuse and frighten the spirits away. In addition, the new year began for the Celts on Nov. 1. So, the day of Samhain was believed to be a day that was in neither the year past or the year to come. Since it was in between, chaos ruled on that day. Often, people would pull practical jokes on others as a result.
Where did the jack-o’-lantern originate?
The Jack-O-Lantern apparently comes from Irish folklore about a man named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing a tree. Once the devil was in the tree, Jack carved a cross on the trunk, preventing the devil from coming down. The devil then made a deal with Jack not to allow Jack into hell after Jack died if only Jack would remove the cross from the tree. After Jack died, he couldn’t go to hell, and he couldn’t go to heaven. He was forced to wander around the earth with a single candle to light his way. The candle was placed in a turnip to keep it burning longer. When the Irish came to America in the 1800′s, they adopted the pumpkin instead of the turnip. Along with these traditions, they brought the idea that the black cat was considered by some to be reincarnated spirits who had prophetic abilities.
The idea of trick-or-treating is further related to the ghosts of the dead in pagan, and even Catholic, history. For example, among the ancient Druids, “The ghosts that were thought to throng about the houses of the living were greeted with a banquet-laden table. At the end of the feast, masked and costumed villagers representing the souls of the dead paraded to the outskirts of town leading the ghosts away.”
As already noted, Halloween was thought to be a night when mischievous and evil spirits roamed freely. As in modern poltergeist lore, mischievous spirits could play tricks on the living—so it was advantageous to “hide” from them by wearing costumes. Masks and costumes were worn to either scare away the ghosts or to keep from being recognized by them:
In Ireland especially, people thought that ghosts and spirits roamed after dark on Halloween. They lit candles or lanterns to keep the spirits away, and if they had to go outside, they wore costumes and masks to frighten the spirits or to keep from being recognized by these unearthly beings.So, it appears that the origins of Halloween are a mixture of old Celtic pagan rituals superstition and early Catholic traditions.
Halloween symbols, customs, and practices undoubtedly have had a variety of influences upon Western culture throughout history. However, in early American history, Halloween was not celebrated due to America’s strong Christian heritage. It was not widely observed until the twentieth century. Initially, it was practiced only in small Irish Catholic settlements, until thousands of Irish migrated to America during the great potato famine and brought their customs with them. To some degree, our modern Halloween is an Irish holiday with early origins in the Celtic winter festival. Interestingly, in American culture, the rise in popularity of Halloween also coincides roughly with the national rise in spiritism that began in 1848.
Analysts report that between $5 billion and $6 billion are spent on costumes, props and candy for the second-largest commercial “holiday” in the United States — Halloween. The annual fall event — not actually a holiday — has spurred the formation of industry associations, trade shows and magazines. The Halloween Industry Association, a trade organization begun in 2005, represents businesses involved in the manufacture, importation or distribution of Halloween-related products. Beer and booze companies are cashing in, too, unveiling Halloween ad campaigns and drinks, such as a Pumpkin Pie Martini from Blue Ice Vodka.
Overall, about seven in 10 Americans will open their wallets to celebrate Halloween this year, up slightly from last year, according to surveys by American Express and the National Retail Federation. Total spending is expected to reach $6.86 billion, the NRF found, or $72 per person. A poll by American Express estimates an average layout of $53. “It’s interesting to watch the evolution of Halloween to a full-blown holiday for people of all ages, especially adults,” says American Express spokeswoman Melanie Backs. “The people spending the most money are spending for Halloween parties. It’s a trend we are seeing overall in a lot of surveys — people really focusing on experiential spending.”
While for the most part people are staying home, American Express Travel saw a 50% spike over last year in bookings to Las Vegas, where Heidi Klum is hosting her 11th annual party at The Venetian, featuring a $10,000 costume contest. As for the more traditional experiential spending, about half of respondents will decorate their homes or yards, and carve pumpkins; more than one-third will throw parties; about a quarter will visit haunted houses; and one-third will take kids trick-or-treating, the NRF found. Finally there are the 15% who will put their pets through the humiliation of wearing a costume. Spending on Halloween pet-wear is estimated at $310 million. Over time, Halloween has really evolved from a one-night event focused on children trick-or-treating to something much larger. The season keeps extending — retailers are doing what they can to stretch the window.