It`s the one time of year we are allowed to explore the dark and sinister sides of ourselves. Witches, bats, spiders, ghost, and goblins commingle with angels, clowns, princesses, and superheros, all searching for the neighborhoods with the best candy. My personal favorite time of year, Halloween, is a holiday enjoyed by the young and young at heart. No matter the size of your bank account or social standing, for one night,you can become someone or something else and are only limited by your imagination. But, Halloween isn’t just for exploring your alter ego and binging on bite size treats. All Hallows Eve is also a night of mischief and pranks. Chances are , whether it be toilet papering your principle’s yard, egging the cranky old man next door, or politely going door to door to ask your neighbors for a treat, you have partaken in this tradition in one way or another. But where did these traditions originate? What are the roots of Halloween and how has it transformed into the holiday we celebrate today? We will not only answer those questions, but also will give you a few pranks to try that hopefully won’t have you dressing up like a convict on Oct. 31st.
As many Holidays are, Halloween has evolved from a hodge podge of many cultures and traditions, but most agree that it began as a festival called Samhain (pronounced sah-win) held at the end of the Celtic year. It was this festival that marked the end of summer and celebrated the harvest. It also was believed that during that time, the boundaries between the living and dead could overlap and the dead could regain life and would then play tricks on the living such as damage crops. This belief is likely what gave rise to the practice of pulling pranks. Bonfires also played a large role in Samhain and it is thought the attraction of insects and therefore bats, to the blaze, is where those long-standing trademarks of the holiday began. This festival also involved the use of mask and costumes made of animal skins to mimic the spirits.
When the Romans introduced themselves to the Gaelic culture, they brought with them the influence of their own celebration of the dead. Christianity was thrown into the mix around 800 A.D. and with it came “All Saint’s Day”, the Christian day to pay tribute to saints, or as some historians claim, an attempt by Christians to make the day take on a more palatable tone that fell more in line with their teachings. ? For the purposes of time and a desire not to drone on, eventually these combined to create All Hallow’s Eve and was later shortened to Halloween.
Of course the most popular and widely practiced tradition of Halloween is trick or treating. This is the custom of children, dressed in their favorite costume, swarming the neighborhoods at dusk to ask the residents for a treat, if one is not given, you may have unwittingly chosen a trick instead. Although trick or treating, as we know it today, has been around for approximately 100 years, how the tradition truly began is more difficult to pin point. Some say it has ties to the Samhain festival also, where small edible gifts were offered to the spirits in return for not destroying the harvest, or playing ‘tricks’ on them. After Christianity took hold of the holiday many of the traditions such as the bonfires and mask stayed in tact. Added to those customs was what later became the tradition known as “souling”. This was when the poor of a community would visit the homes of the wealthy and, in exchange for praying for the souls of their deceased relatives, be given pastries or small tokens of gratitude. This was eventually a practice left to the children.
Other cultures also had customs resembling trick or treating and with the influx of immigrants to North America those traditions followed. However, by the 1920’s pranks seemed to be the form in which youngsters preferred to celebrate Halloween, sometimes costing a larger city tens of thousands in damage due to vandalism. This continued into the 30’s, when weary communities began to encourage trick or treating as an alternative to the mischief. Trick or Treating took a hiatus during the war due to the sugar rationing but thanks to the baby boom that shortly followed, the sweet custom reigned once more and is now a $6 billion dollar industry.
The Halloween we know today is a far cry from its ancient roots granted, but it is quite telling to now know how much of the holiday has survived thousands of years, then again, I can’t help but think that with the foundation of our modern day Halloween being so young, is its transformation complete? I thought I would end with a short list of “tricks” I have compiled, just in case you find yourself in need. Please feel free to add your own favorite tricks and treats in the comment section.
- Carmel Onion-Just replace the popular apple with an onion and voila!
- Pancake Bites- Pour a box of pancake batter on the victim’s yard. The dew together with the sunlight will make the batter rise.
- Gagging for Apples-When fixing your bobbing for apples game, mix your water 3/4 water and 1/4 vinegar
- Forking-Get hundreds of plastic forks and stab them into the ground of your prey, handle side down. Place them so close together that walking across the yard would be impossible.
- Confetti-This works best if you have access to a paper shredder, but where there is a will there is a way. Spread paper shreds all over the yard of your least favorite co-worker. Make sure to pull them apart so clean up will not be easy.
Edited/Published by: SB