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By: Michelle 




Ah, my favorite holiday. The time of year when it is said that the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. Halloween began in Ireland, and various countries have their traditions for celebrating this magnificent holiday. I will discuss some of them in this article. I will begin with Ireland since this country is the Mother of Halloween. In rural areas in Ireland, bonfires are lit, and just as in the United States, children dress up and go trick or treating. After trick or treating, some may attend parties. At the parties various games are played. One game is called snap-apple. In this game an apple on a string is tied to a door frame or tree and players try to bite the hanging apple. Residents of Ireland may also do bobbing for apples,  or treasure hunts with candy or pastries as the treasure. The Irish also play a card game where cards are laid face down on a table with candy or coins underneath them. When a child chooses a card, he receives whatever prize is found below it. A traditional food eaten on Halloween is called barnbrack. It is like a fruitcake. A muslin wrapped treat is basked inside the cake.


It is said that it can foretell the eater’s future. If a ring is found,it means that the person will soon be wed. A piece of straw means that a prosperous year is on the way. Children are also known to play tricks on their neighbor,such as knock a dolly, a prank in which children knock on their neighbors’ doors, but run away before the door is opened.


“sásta Oíche Shamhna” ~ Happy Halloween in Irish.


Moving on now to a few other countries.


Canada: Modern Halloween celebrations in Canada began with the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 1800’s. As with various countries, Jack O’Lanterns are carved,and festivities include parties, trick-or-treating, and the decorating of homes with pumpkins and corn stalks.


England: While the Irish and Scots preferred turnips,children in England made what is called “punkies” out of large beets,of which they call beetroots. They carved a design in the turnip of their choice. They would then carry their punkies through the streets while singing the “Punkie Night Song” as they knocked on doors and asked for money. Halloween became Guy Fawkes night,and moved a few days later. Recently,it has been celebrated on October 31st,but recently it has been celebrated on October 31st in addition to Guy Fawkes night. In some rural areas, turnip lanterns were placed on gateposts to protect homes from the spirits who roamed on Halloween night. Another custom was to toss objects such as stones, vegetables,and nuts into a bonfire to frighten away the spirits. These symbolic sacrifices were also used as fortune telling tools. If a pebble thrown into the flames at night wasn’t visible in the morning, it was believed that the person who tossed the pebble wouldn’t survive another year. If nuts tossed into the fire by young lovers then exploded,it signified a quarrelsome marriage. For the most part however, the English ceased celebrating Halloween with the spread of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Followers of that religion didn’t believe in Saints, so they saw no reason to celebrate Eve of All Saints Day. In recent years though, the American trick or treating custom, together with the donning of costumes for going door to door, has become a relatively popular past time among English children at Halloween, although many of the adults {mainly the older generation} have little idea why they’re being asked for sweets, and are unfortunately usually not prepared to hand out candy to the kids.


Moving onto the history of Halloween now!


Halloween is of course celebrated on October 31st. The word Halloween is a shortening of All Hallow’s Evening also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve. Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain,meaning Summer’s End. Pagans, such as myself still celebrate this holiday. It in fact,is one of our biggest Sabbats. I didn’t participate in ritual for Samhain last year but I hope to this year. It is said to be a good time for divination. It is also a time to reflect upon loved ones who have passed. In Gaelic culture, it is a celebration of the end of the harvest season. Samhain was a time used by ancient Pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for Winter. The ancient Gales believed that on October 31st, the boundaries between this World and the ‘world’ of the dead overlapped,and the deceased would come back to life,and wreak havoc such as damaged crops or sickness. The festival would frequently involve bonfires. It’s believed that the fires attracted insects to the area which attracted bats to the area. These are additional attributes of the history of Halloween. Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them. Onto a tidbit of knowledge about the history of trick or treating. The ‘trick’ in trick or treating is,in history,a threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his or her property if no treat is given.


Part of the history of Halloween is of course costumes. The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick or treating resembles the late medieval practice of ‘Souling’. Poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas, which was on November first, receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day. It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. There is no evidence that souling was ever practiced in America. Trick-or-treating may have developed in America independent of any Irish or British antecedent. There is little primary Halloween history documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween in Ireland, the UK or America before 1900. The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston,Ontario reported that it was normal for children to go street guising on Halloween between 6 and 7 pm., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs. Thousands of postcards that were produced between the turn of the century, and the 1920’s commonly show children,but they do not depict trick or treating. It didn’t seem to become a widespread event until the 1930’s, with the earliest known uses in print of the term ‘trick-or-treating’ appearing in 1934. The first use of the phrase in a national publication occurred in 1939.


Trick-or-treating spread from the western United States eastward, stalled by sugar rationing that began in April 1942 during World War II and didn’t end until June 1947. Early national attention was given to trick-or-treating in October 1947 issues of the children’s magazines Jack and Jill and Children’s Activities. Also by Halloween episodes of network radio programs like The Baby Snooks Show in 1946 and The Jack Benny Show, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1948. The custom had become firmly established in popular culture by 1952,when Walt Disney portrayed it in the cartoon Trick or Treat. Ozzie and Harriet were besieged by trick-or-treaters on an episode of their TV show. UNICEF also first conducted a national campaign to raise funds for the charity while trick-or-treating.




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