The name Halloween was shortened from “All Hallows’ Evening”. It is also known as “All Saints Eve” and “AllHalloween” Halloween is celebrated in many countries, mostly, in the western world. Different countries and cultures celebrate in different ways. Let’s learn about how it is done.
Mexico, Spain, and Latin America
In the cultures of Spain, Mexico, and Latin America the celebration is not referred to as Halloween but rather it is the Day of the Dead or All Soul’s Day. The population of those countries are predominantly Catholic. During the yearly three-day-long celebration that starts on the evening of October 31 and lasts until November 2 many things need to happen to honour the loved ones and ancestors that have passed away. The family will build an altar for the dead in their home and decorate it with flowers, candy, drinks, and the favourite food of the deceased. The family will also have a wash basin and towel left out for the deceased to freshen up with before they attend the feast. The way to the home is lit by candles and lanterns.
It is also important to clean, paint, trim the grass, and plant flowers at the graves of the dead family members at the start of the celebration. On November 2nd the family will gather in the graveyard for a picnic and drinks with their dearly departed. I admire this celebration as it looks at death head on and makes it something worth celebrating and less feared. I also appreciate that this celebration makes people remember, speak of, and honour those that have passed away. North Americans could learn something from this culture.
Ireland and North America-A brief history of Halloween
Did you know that Halloween or rather All Saints Eve began in Ireland? News to me. In Ireland, Canada, and the United States Halloween happens on October 31st. It is celebrated in much the same fashion within these countries and is known for costume parties, decorating, and trick-or-treating. The children get dressed in costumes (and depending on the temperature the costume may have a snowsuit underneath it) and go door-to-door asking for candy from their neighbours. Yes, we teach our children to take candy from strangers! Parenting is confusing.
Okay, remember that thing about Catholics that I mentioned earlier? Well, England is not known for having a huge Catholic population. Historically it is known for persecuting them. Thanks to good old King Henry VIII and his desire to divorce his first wife in order to wed and bed Anne Boleyn in the hopes of creating a male heir, England broke away from the Pope and the Catholic Church. This means that although their close (and Catholic) neighbours in Ireland were celebrating All Saints Eve the English had to poo-poo it.
On November 5, 1606, Guy Fawkes was executed for his attempt to blow up the British Parliament Building. Guy Fawkes was a traitor and the English people lit bonfires and celebrated his death that night. This has become a yearly tradition. All over England on the evening of November 5th bonfires are lit, effigies are burnt, and fireworks and firecrackers go off. It is called Guy Fawkes Day and children will make effigies of a man and carry them around town knocking on doors while asking for a “penny for Guy” which the children keep for themselves. Sounds strange. Well in England there is no better reason needed to start a neighbourhood bonfire and celebrate the death of an English traitor with all your friends.
All over England on the evening of November 5th bonfires are lit, effigies are burnt, and fireworks and firecrackers go off. It is called Guy Fawkes Day and children will make effigies of a man and carry them around town knocking on doors while asking for a “penny for Guy” which the children keep for themselves. Sounds strange. But in England, there is no better reason needed to start a neighbourhood bonfire and celebrate the death of an English traitor with all your friends.
The Halloween decoration of the Jack-o-lantern comes from an old Irish folk tale. It represents a soul denied entry into both Hell and Heaven. It is just plain freaky looking to me.
The folktale goes like this: A man named Jack came across the devil and Jack tricked him into climbing a tree. Jack then cut the sign of the cross into the tree and trapped the devil. Jack made a deal with the devil that the devil would never take his soul if Jack let him go. After a life of sin and drinking, Jack was not allowed into Heaven. Keeping his promise the devil did not allow him into Hell and throws a live coal at him. It was a cold night so Jack put the live coal in a hollowed out turnip to stop it from going out. Since then Jack and his lantern have been looking for a place to rest. Poor Jack, he should have made better choices when he was alive. Like all folk tales, this Jack-O-Lantern story is a cautionary tale.
- Let’s all keep safety in mind on Halloween night:
-Slow down while driving and keep an eye out for those trick-or-treaters.
-Consider using face makeup instead of masks for the young ones.
-Trick or treat in groups.
-Kids costumes should be the right size to avoid tripping.
Now you have had a brief history of Halloween. We wish you all a Happy Halloween. Have fun and be safe. We would love to know about your best costume ideas. Comment below.
Bill and the Other Half