2016 is the year of the Killer Clown Epidemic, and October 31st is the day when wearing a clown costume for Halloween might just get you incarcerated. For a good reason I might add. But if you cross off clown costumes, there are still millions of other personas whose shoes you could step into for a day. But why exactly do we dress up? Why do we even celebrate Halloween at all? The companies do it for the money. The kids, including myself, do it for the candy. Can Halloween still be considered a religious holiday at all?
The idea of Halloween started about 2,000 years ago with an ancient Celtic ritual known as Samhain, celebrated on November 1, which marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, or the ‘’darker half’’ of the year. On the night before, the people left various kinds of offerings like food and wine on the doorsteps to ward off the ghosts that they believed were the dead returning to haunt them. Wearing masks whenever leaving the house was also believed to cause the wearer to be mistaken for a ghost, and thereby spared from the haunting.
Once the Catholic Church became prominent and Pagan faiths were deemed unlawful, Samhain was renamed ‘All Hallow’s Day’’, and the day before it ‘All Hallow’s Eve’’, later to be shortened to simply ‘’Halloween’.
Some of the current traditions also have their roots back in the 8th century, for instance when children in Medieval Britain used to go ‘guising’, whereupon they would visit the houses of the villages and beg for food in return for singing, dancing or telling a joke. This would later be revived by Irish immigrants to America, who turned into what it now known as ‘trick-or-treating’.
The tradition of the ‘Jack-O’Lantern’ comes from an Irish legend as well, where it is said that a man named ‘Stingy Jack’ tricked the devil into not being able to claim his soul once he died, so once he did, he was not allowed to enter hell, but since his deviousness caused God to reject him, he was banned from heaven as well. Thus, he was sent off into the nights with nothing but burning coal as a light source, which he then put into a turnip (there were no pumpkins in Ireland) to use as a lantern. Legend says ‘Jack O’Lantern’ still roams the Earth today.
To wrap of your brief history lesson, Halloween might be the second biggest commercial holiday after Christmas, and is celebrated by millions of costume lovers who go around begging for candy and telling ghost stories, there is much more to this day than what meets the eye. So off with you, and don’t forget to trick or treat!