Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand.
Creatures crawl in search of blood to terrorize your neighborhood.
The foulest stench is in the air, the funk of forty thousand years,
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom.
And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller…
Long before that quote became emblazoned with immortality for its association with Michael Jackson’s most popular hit, just the thought of such haunting scenes spawned the holiday the world today knows as Halloween. Its origins are based in Celtic culture, with a holiday known as Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”). Samhain marked the end of the summer harvest season and the Celtic people would take stock of their supplies and prepare for winter. They also believed that on October 31st, the boundaries between the living and dead overlapped, and the deceased came back to life to cause havoc in their communities with sickness and damaged crops. The people would build bonfires and wear costumes of animal heads and skins to ward off or appease the evil spirits. It was also believed that the Celtic priests could foretell the future at this time.
Conquered by the Roman Empire in 43 AD, the Celtic practice assimilated two Roman festivals with Samhain. One commemorated the passing of the dead, and the other honored Pomona—their goddess of fruit and trees. The apple was a symbol of this goddess, so it is likely that from this day of honoring of Pomona the fun tradition of bobbing for apples came to be. The spread of Christianity throughout the empire in the early century, and the church sanctioned a holiday at the beginning of November that was similar to the Celtic Samain that honored saints and martyrs, which in Middle English was All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas. It was then that Samain started being called All-Hallows Eve, and eventually Halloween.
Celebrating Halloween in the Americas was limited due to the rigid Protestant belief system. It was more commonly commemorated in Maryland and the southern colonies at one time than anywhere else. They would put on parties that marked the harvest with dancing and singing, and the people told one another’s fortunes and stories of the dead. Halloween festivities became popularized nationally through Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine in 1846. It was also around this time the practice of “trick-or-treating” was incorporated. Since the early twentieth century, movements have been enacted to remove frightening and grotesque elements from celebrations for the children’s sakes and from the 1920’s to the 50’s, communities have made efforts to celebrate Halloween together safely. Today, Americans spend six billion dollars annually on Halloween, making it our second largest commercial holiday.
The funk of forty thousand years (in all respects of the word funk) has molded an ancient practice into a night of fun and fearsome frights and delights! More history on the holidays and its traditions can be had at http://www.history.com/topics/halloween and http://www.halloweenhistory.org/.
ToastPop wishes you a Happy Halloween!!