Jurich: Modified customsWritten by Stacy Jurich | | email@example.com
Like many others, I often wonder, “Where did this originate?” It could be a word, like “OK,” “freedom” or “gay” or it could be a holiday, like … Halloween! One of my friends is convinced I hate Halloween. I do not hate Halloween. What is Halloween, though? Wear a costume, get your buzz on — either from sugar and/or alcohol — experience something “haunted” or “spooky” and go to bed? Why on Oct. 31?
Whatever I was taught in elementary school about Halloween I have forgotten, probably for the better, so I started to do some research. Several resources spit out information that doesn’t all match up, but I got a little taste of all the influences on our modern-day Halloween celebration.
I do remember learning about Dia de los Muertos in high school Spanish class. This is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2, when Hispanics welcome the spirits of their ancestors back from the dead. Pictures, food and drinks are placed on altars, candles, trinkets and gifts are left as offerings, and picnics are held in cemeteries where the lost loved one is the guest of honor. Day of the Dead began as an Aztec custom, originally celebrated in August.
The Druids celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-in) on the eve of Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Also called Hallowtide, the Feast of the Dead, this signaled the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season.
They believed this was
when time stood still, and the souls of the dead walked the land.
Some legends say Druids chose children or animals to be burned in bone-fires (bonfire, anyone?) as offerings to the sun. The fat left over from the sacrifice was fashioned into a candle, and placed into a carved-out pumpkin (a vegetable with a round, sun-shaped design) to honor the dead and pay homage to the sun diety Woden (Wodens Day … Wednesday). Maybe this is why Halloween is so creepy!
After the Romans fell and Christian influence spread, All Hallows Eve, also called All Hallowmas, or All Saints, or All Souls Day … whew … was celebrated May 13, then was moved to Nov. 1 by Gregory IV. It began on the eve of Oct. 31 to honor all saints and martyrs.
It is thought that the tradition of costumes began by wearing masks to avoid being recognized by the ghosts, or spirits of the dead. Bowls of food left outside homes to satisfy the ghosts and prevent them from entering the home could be where trick-or-treating originated.
Black cats, bobbing for apples, witches on broomsticks, spiders, pumpkins, harvest, trick-or-treat, candy, candy corn — their relevance to Halloween all originated somewhere thousands of years ago, and are now merely a part of the multibillion dollar Halloween industry.
Religion, government and industry are all attempting to control beliefs and thus our actions through fear and an oppressive system. We have to dig deep to find a meaningful and real connection to holidays.
Most Americans are not purebred, our ancestral roots are a hodgepodge (see, where did this word originate?) of ethnicities and cultures from around the world. Whose traditions are we supposed to celebrate? Many of them were lost in the voyage overseas, many were erased by religious domination, and many that are still celebrated today were altered as they passed from generation to generation.
Perhaps it is time to modify our customs again. To re-establish meaning, connection, roots, pride and honor in the practices we celebrate with our family and community. A practice we all can agree on is eating! We all gotta eat, so even a simple ritual like sharing a meal can add a little sanity and comfort to the chaotic world outside.
I will probably dress up as a lumberjack, a baby, Pat from “SNL” or a burnt-out Uncle Sam for Halloween. I probably won’t eat any candy, I will bake pumpkin goodness, and I will go to a Halloween party or two. I may make offerings to spirits if I decide to seek them out (or if they, me), and I will give thanks to the season’s bountiful harvest and welcome the winter.
Happy Day of the Dead, All Hallowtide, Feast of the Dead, All Hallows Eve, All Hallowmas, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Samhain, Hallow E’en … Happy Halloween everybody!
E-mail Star columnist Stacy Jurich at firstname.lastname@example.org.