The True Spirit of Halloween

The beginning or origin of Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts, who lived about 2,000 years ago in what is now Ireland, celebrated their new year on November 1st marking the end of summer and the beginning of harvest.

part_1443542321120-1On the day before the new year, October 31, it was believed that the dead returned to Earth to cause trouble and damage crops. Halloween was a time of celebration and superstition. People would light bonfires a wear homemade costumes, usually made of animal heads and skins, to ward off spirits.

When Halloween was first celebrated in America, it consisted of public events to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would tell stories of the dead, sing, dance and tell each other’s fortunes. The celebrations were very small and limited. Colonial Halloween festivities were celebrated by telling ghost stories and making mischief of all kinds. Annual Autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not celebrated throughout the country.

When a new flood of immigrants, especially those fleeing from the potato famine in Ireland in 1846, came to America the celebration of Halloween was beginning to be celebrated nationally. Americans began to dress in costume and go door to door asking for food and money and that tradition became what we know today as “trick-or-treat.”

Halloween has changed from what it’s origin were years ago. Most recently children dress up as their favorite characters, whether a cartoon or historical character, and go from house to house collecting candy. It wasn’t so long ago that I remember, with a warmth, my children going door to door, trick or treating. I remember that time as fun. Speaking and socializing with my neighbors. But times change and we must act accordingly.

Today, a lot of the past traditions seem to have fallen by the wayside. Our world seems to have changed along with the traditions of Halloween. Parents today are fearful. The fun has been taken out of Halloween. But for those who appreciate the holiday, there are ways to celebrate with you children and keep fear at a minimum.

A few of the ways to change how we observe Halloween are by having small neighborhood parties, creating a celebration at a local social club, and maybe even having a small party in a public park. Most of all, just make Halloween memories that your children can cherish for years.

The Day of the Dead

dead

Dia de los Muertos, “Day of the Dead,” a Spanish celebration honoring the dead, is a Mexican holiday. It is celebrated, especially in the Central and South regions of Mexico. It’s a ritual that the Spanish have been practicing for at least 3,000 years. The day of the dead is also celebrated in certain parts of the United States.

The tradition was originated in Mexico and is celebrated on November 1. The festivities start on October 31st. Family members decorate the graves of their loved ones, often creating small, personal altars honoring the person. Sugar skulls, a skull made out of clay molded sugar and decorated with feathers and colored beads, are used to decorate the gravestones of the deceased. It’s a loving ritual filled with joy and love.

It is believed that, if a spirit returns and finds that no one has built an altar for them, they will feel sad and angry. Those neglected spirits may seek revenge on those who have forgotten them. Also, many folk tales explain how those who ignored their deceased loved ones will be struck ill immediately and die shortly after the holiday. Thus, some people take part in the festivities out of fear or superstition rather than love.

The most popular ways of celebrating Dia de los Muertos is by:

• Telling stories about the deceased loved one

• Creating an altar with offerings such as symbols and object of importance to the deceased.

• Cleaning and decorating their grave

• Holding all night vigils at the gravesite

• Making sugar skulls

So, basically, celebrating the “Day of the Dead” is nothing more than honoring dead relatives, both young and old and allowing them to return to the mortal world to visit loved ones. Instead of scary ghosts and goblins, the people of Mexico welcome their family spirits with the aroma of delicious food, decorated candy skulls and lighted candles to guide them home again.

This practice is new to me. I’ve never heard of it before, but I’m glad I happened across an article explaining the custom. In my opinion, it is a beautiful way to celebrate and honor a deceased family member, and a wonderful way to let that family member know how much they are appreciated, loved and missed.