All Hallows’ Eve

All Hallows' Eve

One thing I have noticed is that Halloween has definitely changed over the years.  When I was a kids the rule was “No costume, no candy”.  Really though this wasn’t a big issue because we all looked forward to dressing up in our costumes and going out to get as much candy as we possibly could.  As we became adults it turned to dressing up in the most unique costume to win that best costume constest at whatever Halloween party you were going too.  Now, things seem to be totally different.

Halloween is actually a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve.  Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the 19th century.  Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late 20th century including Ireland, the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom as well as Australia and New Zealand.  It’s origins are actually from an ancient festival known as Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”).  It was celebrated at the end of harvest season used by the pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter.  The Gaels believed on this day the boundaries between the worlds of the living and dead overlapped and the deceased would come back and cause sickness or damaged crops.

The bonfires were believed to attract insects which attracted bats which also attributed to the history of Halloween.  Masks and costumes were worn to mimic the evil spirits to appease them.  Trick-or-treating was for the children.  They would go house to house in costumes asking for treats such as confectionery with the question “Trick or treat?”  The trick is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner if no treat is given.  Now-a-days though police tend to get involved if a trick is involved to someone’s house.  In Ohio, Iowa, and Masachusetts, the night is often referred to as Beggars Night.  As for the costumes, this practice resembles a middle ages practice known as “souling” when poor people would go door to door on Hallowmas (Nov 1) receiving food in return for prayers for the dead  on All Souls Day (Nov 2).  It wasn’t until the late 1930’s that we have any mention of kids dressing up in costume and “trick or treating”.  National attention was given to it in Oct 1947 issues of the the childrens magazines Jack and Jill and Children’s Activities.

The Jack-o’-lantern or Jack O’Lantern is carved in pumpkin.  Typically you cut the head off, scoop out the inside flesh, cut an image into it and put the lid back on and at night place a candle inside it.  Foklore tells of Jack a lazy yet shrewd farmer who uses a cross to trap the Devil.  One story says he tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree then placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark so he couldn’t get down.  Another says he put a key in the Devil’s pocket while he was suspended upside-down.  Another version says he was being chased by villagers that he stole from and met the Devil.  He stalled his death by tempting the Devil to bedvil the church-going villagers chasing him.  He told him to turn into a coin which he would pay for the stolen good (The Devil could take on any shape he wanted); later when the coin/Devil dissappeared, the villagers would fight over who stole it.  The Devil agreed and turned himself into a silver coin and jumped into Jack’s wallet, only he was next to a cross he also stole.  He closed the wallet tight and the cross stripped the Devil of his powers trapping him.  Both myths he only lets him go when he agrees never to take his soul.  After Jack dies because his life was too sinful he couldn’t go to heaven, but the Devil promised not to take his soul, so he was barred from Hell so Jack had nowhere to go.  He asked how he would see where to go since he had no light, so the Devil tossed him an ember that would never burn out from the flames of hell.  Jack carved out one of his turnips (his favorite food) put the ember inside and endlessly wandered the Earth for a resting place.  He became known as “Jack of the Lantern” or Jack-o’-Lantern.

As for the costumes I already explained this history earlier.  They became popular for parties in America in the early 1900s for adults and children.  The first mass-produced Halloween costumes appeared in stores in the 1930s.  They are traditionally that of scarey beings, zombies, vampires, ghosts, witches, skeletons, pop culture figures like presidents, for film and television charactors.  Another trend for women and men is it is an excuse to wear revealing costumes, showing more skin than would be socially acceptable otherwise.

As I said Halloween has dramatically changed over the years and is nothing like it was when I was a kid or became an adult.  We took my step-dauther trick-or-treating tonight and at least 80 percent of the kids weren’t even wearing costumes.  They were in regular clothes just looking for candy.  The spirit of Halloween has gone from the kids.  The adults, it’s about looking as slutty as possible, now this part I don’t have an issue with cause — hey you can do that ever day as far as I’m concerned I won’t mind.  Granted this was something that happened when I first became an adult as well so it’s not really a new trend. I will say though I was shocked at the amount of kids not wearing costumes.  Are the parents to lazy to buy or make them something?  Are the kids being to lazy to dress up?  What is the reason behind this?  Whatever it is I don’t like it.  Let’s bring Halloween back.  Let’s make it fun again.

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