The time has come for one of my favorite holidays - Halloween (also known as HallOUween).
I'm sitting at work thinking about how excited I am for Halloween, and the festivities that will ensue in the next 24-hours. It got me to thinking about other cultures (and our own) and their Halloween...
Mexico: Day of the Dead (El dia de los muertos)
The day of the dead focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family who have died. It is typically celebrated on November 1 or 2. People build altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds and favorite foods of the deceased. Although it occurs close to Halloween, it is actuall celebrated in correlation with All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
In China, people offer water and food and light lanterns in order to guide the spirits of deceased loved ones on Halloween. The purpose is to remember loved ones, but also to help lost spirits go safely to Heaven.
In Japan, Halloween is called the Obon Festival. Here, food is prepared and lanterns are hung on houses and boats and rivers to show spirits where their families are. Japanese families clean memorial stones of lost family members. Unlike our Halloween, the Japanese celebrate this holiday in July/August.
Origins of the Halloween we know...
The word Halloween originated in the 16th century and represents a Scottish version of the phrase "All Hallows Eve". The Halloween we know is celebrated here, in England, Canada and Ireland.
According to historian Nicholas Rodgers, it is believed that Halloween originated from the aincent Celtic festival of Samhain, (derived from the Irish word meaning, "summer's end"). The festival celebrated the end of the "lighter half" of the year and the beginning of the "darker half". The Celts believed that the border between our world and the "other world" became thin during this time, allowing both good and bad spirits to pass through. Family ancestors were invited into homes and honored. It was believed that wearing costumes and masks warded off harmful spirits.
The Celts also used this time to slaughter livestock for the winter, and bonfires were a large part of this celebration because the bones of the slaughtered livestock were thrown into the flames.
In traditional Celt celebrations, turnips were hollowed out and carved, and candles were inserted to commemorate souls in purgatory and ward off evil spirits. Carving pumpkins is popular in North America because pumpkins are larger and more readily available.
Trick-or-treat dates back to the Middle Ages, and resembles the late midevil practice of souling when poor people would go door-to-door on Hallowmans (Nov. 1) and recieve food in return for prayers for the dead.
Our Halloween block party hosts from 20-30,000 people across four blocks of downtown streets. It is the third largest block party in the country. Thanks to Athens, Halloween has become one of my favorite holidays... This year, I'm going as Amelia Earhart.. one of my absolute favorite role models.