The Paw Print
The changing of leaves signals not only the arrival of fall, but also the arrival of one of the most popular holidays of the year, Halloween. The urge to dress up and cause mischief on Old Hallows Eve makes children of us all.
Halloween is not a unique holiday because of the fact that it actually is descended from a hybrid combination of pagan, Catholic, Roman, and European folk traditions. The holiday’s celebration occurs at the time of the year between winter and fall which ties into its overall theme of death and rebirth. Halloween, though a universal celebration to many cultures, went under many different names such as All Saints Day by the Catholics, the Celtic holiday Samhain, and the Roman festival of Feralia. The general thought behind Halloween is that the souls of the dead return to earth. The Celts wore costumes in attempts to ward off spirits. This tradition is still practiced today except that the purpose of the costume has changed into a way of extracting candy.
Halloween arrived in the Americas by way of the Puritans that left England in search of religious freedom. Considering the religious strictness of the Puritans, Halloween was practiced conservatively. The varied beliefs amongst Europeans, in addition to Native American beliefs, merged into a general celebration for the harvest of the year.
The practice of wearing costumes and trick-or-treating in America began with the combination of Irish and English traditions. Both traditions helped Halloween become more of a national holiday. People would dress up and go house to house asking for food or money. This is the obvious precursor to Halloween trick-or-treating as we know it. The actual act of trick-or-treating began with the celebration of All Souls Day in England. During the All Souls Day parade, it was customary to distribute “soul cakes” to the destitute who would exchange prayers for souls for the cakes. The distribution of “soul cakes” was also encouraged by the church in an attempt to leave behind the older tradition of leaving food and wine for wandering spirits. Children soon got into the act of “going a-souling” which was essentially going door to door asking for food, ale, and money.
Later on, Halloween became a holiday that focused more on community get togethers and unity. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, Halloween lost most of its religious and spiritual superstition and became what could be called family friendly.
This year Halloween promises to be an exciting time. Adams State College is getting into the act with a number of fun activities to get your spook on. Chris Moon, a ghost hunter, will be here at Adams State College on Saturday, October 30 at 7 p.m. A pumpkin carving contest is also being held.
Remember when you are out celebrating Halloween that you are partaking in a celebration that has been practiced for hundreds of years. Be safe and have a Happy Halloween!