Monday, October 26, 2009

Evolving Halloween Traditions

(Photo copyright Halloween Addict)

The Halloween season is upon us and there are many superstitions and symbols connected with this holiday, many coming from the home garden. The Irish have a legend about Jack-o-lanterns telling of a man named Jack who couldn’t enter heaven because he was in so much misery. He was also afraid to enter hell because of all the jokes he had played on the devil. So, Jack was sentenced to wander the earth with a lantern until Judgment Day. Jack’s lantern was a hollowed-out turnip stuffed with coal.

The ancient Druids of Britain believed that on Halloween night, ghosts, spirits, faeries, witches and elves came out to harm every day people. They thought cats were sacred and had once been humans, turned into cats as punishment for evil deeds. This Druid belief is the basis for modern-day witches, ghosts and cats at Halloween. People began dressing as these creatures, using dyes made from vegetables and fruit to turn their faces into grotesque monsters.

The Druids also had an autumn festival called Samhain, or summer’s end. This holiday is still practiced by the Wiccan religion and pagans today. It is a time of feasting on all kinds of food that has been grown in the garden throughout the season. The custom of using leaves, pumpkins and cornstalks as Halloween decorations also comes from the Druids.

In the United States, Halloween was not a significant holiday until the 1800s arrival of Irish and Scottish immigrants. Halloween celebrations began to take on a modern form as Americans replaced the Irish turnips with pumpkins for making Jack-o-lanterns. The practice of “souling” – visiting homes and offering prayers for the dead in return for gifts of food – was replaced with trick-or-treating and Halloween parties.

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