Here we are . . . the last day of the month . . . and Halloween! The weather is cooperating and being perfectly autumn-ish (no, it’s not a word, but for today’s purposes we’ll allow it). Cold and crisp in the morning, many mornings with fog, and clear sparkling stars shining in the night sky. It doesn’t get any better than this, does it?
Carve a Pumpkin Day – well, my goodness, I would think that today would be a little late for carving a pumpkin, but I suppose for some people do put these things off until the last minute. I guess for anyone who hasn’t done it yet, this would be the last chance. No point tomorrow, right? So, if you’re going to carve one, pull out the carving tools, lay out some newspapers and get to work! When you’re all done, and your Jack-O-Lantern is lit up and happily smiling on your deck, it’ll be time to either take the kids out trick-or-treating, or to answer the door for all the little ghosts and goblins who knock on your door! Personally I think this celebration should have been celebrated a few days sooner, and enjoyed with hot spiced cider and pumpkin flavored treats.
Halloween – I grew up celebrating Halloween, all the way through high school actually. Right about the time my kids were born there was a lot of controversy about Halloween and people who attended church were discouraged from celebrating it, with the emphasis put on Harvest Celebrations instead. While I understand the reasoning behind it, I don’t feel that I suffered from celebrating Halloween growing up. I actually have some pretty wonderful and happy memories surrounding Halloween, and feel bad for depriving my kids of a few years of absolute fun. I can’t change the past though, and know that my kids didn’t suffer for lack of fun . . . they just had different fun. So what exactly IS Halloween? For the purposes of modern times, it is a day to dress up in costume, hand out candy and try to frighten each other and ourselves with spooky stories. Like many holidays that we celebrate though, that is not how it started out. Halloween’s origins have a history that started many centuries ago. The ancient Celts, who lived in the area that is now Ireland, Great Britain and Northern France celebrated November 1st as their New Year. This time of year was the beginning of winter and colder, darker days, and was more associated with death than any other time of year. The Celts believed that it was at this time that the souls of the dead traveled into the other world. They also believed that the dead were more likely to be moving among the living this time of year. To help the dead along their journey, and keep the living from being affected by those of the dead who were evil, the Celts held a festival called Samhain. During Samhain they would sacrifice animals, vegetables and fruits to the dead, and light bonfires in their honor. They also wore costumes of animal skins and heads, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the Celts were conquered by the Roman Empire, the influence of Christianity began to intermingle with the Celtic rituals and beliefs. Christian missionaries and church officials declared the festival of Samhain to be evil and looked for ways to make the festival Christian oriented. Making pagan holidays Christian made it easier for the conversion of those who were pagan. In the 7th century, Pop Boniface IV proclaimed November 1st as “All Saints Day”, or All Hallows”. From this came the name Halloween. In Christian traditions, the “Hallow” in “Halloween” came to represent saints that are revered as holy. The day involved a feast celebrating all saints and martyrs. Now THAT part I knew. But what I didn’t know was that Christians who followed All Souls Day practices commonly used what were called Soul Cakes. These cakes were given to people who were poor, so they would offer up prayers for the deceased. This tradition goes back to the ancient pagan practices where foods would be left out for the dead to either feed “hungry ghosts” or to honor the dead who returned to visit their dead relatives. In addition to all of this, poor people would go “souling”, traveling door-to-door in wealthy neighborhoods to get soul cakes, alms and fruit. And THIS was the origins of our modern day practice of trick-or-treating where kids dress up in costumes and go door to door getting Halloween candy. By the late 19th century, Samhain became identified as the Celtic New Year. They celebrate it as a holiday that marks the end of the season of light and the coming of darkness, the days becoming increasingly shorter and the nights longer, until the longest night happens on Yule in December. The day was celebrated with the lighting of bonfires, ritual cleansings, and of getting ready for winter. In Gaelic traditions, some people wore costumes to confuse the spirits who had mischief in mind. Turnips were carved out and turned into lanterns, which is where we get modern day jack-o-lantern carving. The light that came from the carved turnips was supposed to frighten off evil spirits. The history of Halloween goes on and on, but I figured I’d give the basics. Pretty interesting!
Beggar’s Night – Now, this is interesting. There are some places, mostly Ohio, parts of Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and western New York who celebrate Beggar’s Night. Basically kids make the rounds of homes for candy, focusing on the treat part of the holiday, without the tricks, and they go the night BEFORE Halloween so the smaller kids can avoid any mischief or problems caused by older kids who are definitely more into the tricks. Some areas the kids tell a joke to the person who answers the door, to earn their candy. Apparently the grown-ups really look forward to all the jokes and riddles every year, happily giving out candy the kids in exchange for a good laugh. Some local towns try to rigidly schedule Beggar’s Night and Halloween so that they don’t land on a weekend. I’m really not sure why, but that’s what I read. I would think that the years when we are fortunate enough for these days to land on the weekend would be good! The kids wouldn’t risk being out too late on a school night. Regardless, I think jokes in exchange for candy is an awesome idea and I have to wonder why this never took hold on the west coast.
National Knock-Knock Jokes Day – Knock knock jokes are likely to have been the very first joke we learned and repeated as children. As corny as they are, we love to tell them to each other. Always silly, but always fun. Here’s one in keeping with the spirit of the day!
“Don’t cry! I’m just a Halloween Trick-or-Treater!”
National Magic Day – Harry Houdini, maybe the most famous magician of all time, died on October 31, 1926, which paved the way for “Magic Day”, now celebrated each year on the anniversary of his death. Modern day magicians are celebrated today as well. Magicians such as David Copperfield and David Blaine come to mind. The famous magical team Siegfried and Roy just had the 10th anniversary of the day that Roy was attacked by his white tiger, Montcore. In the hours that followed the attack, Roy went “code blue” three times and doctors had to remove 25% of his skull. Obviously this type of work can be quite dangerous! So hard to believe that it has been 10 years already.
This Day In History –
1926 – Magician Harry Houdini dies from complications of a ruptured appendix.
1984 – Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi was assassinated.
Food Celebration of the Day –
National Caramel Apple Day – This is very interesting! Coating fruit in honey was an ancient preservation method, and apparently apples that were coated in toffee date back to the 19th century. I had no idea! The combination of caramel and apples works in all sorts of desserts, not just dipped apples on sticks.
Well, there you have it! Fun stuff all day long and into the evening. Are you dressing up today for work? My whole office is, so I need to get busy so I can get myself together and still make it on time. Have an amazing last day of the month, a fun and safe Halloween and don’t eat too much candy – you’ll get a tummy ache. God Bless You and I’ll see you tomorrow!