‘Tis the season for Halloween

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Natasha McCallister
CONTRIBUTOR

A cat is sitting amongst Jack o Lanterns
Natasha McCallister’s cat, Salem, enjoying the Halloween season. Photo by Natasha McCallister/the Gateway

Witches … ghosts … monsters, oh my!

Halloween is my top favorite holiday because it is about more than the candy and scaring people. It is the time when the trees change color and the crisp breeze tells me it’s time to bring out my cozy sweaters and grab a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. Let’s not forget pumpkin carving, haunted houses and parties.

Some of my favorite memories are around Halloween. Back in high school, my sister and I would host a Halloween party complete with a bonfire, food, fog machine and lots of décor. One of my best friend’s birthdays is a few days before Halloween, and we would celebrate by going to haunted houses followed with a sleepover and watching scary movies.

Halloween is the best time to do things you would not normally do. In my senior year of high school, my group of friends and I went to a graveyard and performed a séance after seeing a scary movie at the theaters. After about 20 minutes sitting in the dark and the cold, we left. Now I celebrate Halloween by decorating and making sure to watch “Hocus Pocus” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Why do we celebrate Halloween? Why do we have parties and dress up in costumes and love scaring people at this time of the year? Someone did not just come up with all these ideas. It may be silly to believe that pumpkins with a candle inside can ward off evil, but it sure is fun carving a picture in vegetables.

According to History.com, Halloween originated from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain when people would start bonfires and wear costumes to celebrate the season harvest. It was also once called All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints day back in the eighth century. No matter the religion or celebration, it is believed that Oct. 31 is the one day where the veil between the living and the dead is the weakest. Not everyone believes in ghosts today, but that does not keep them from celebrating.

Early America celebrated Halloween by mixing the different European and American Indian beliefs, creating a different version of celebration with sharing stories of the dead, telling fortunes and dancing. Halloween really kicked off during the 19th century in America with Irish immigrants.

Many of today’s Halloween festivities derive from the different European beliefs. The reason masks were worn was to ward off evil spirits that wanted to possess the body or to fool spirits into believing the person with the mask was one of their own. It has now turned into a more fun activity with better reasons to dress up such as getting candy or winning an award for scariest costume.

Jack-o-lanterns were once a way to ward off spirits from the home. The light inside would attract the spirits and keep them from entering the house. Now pumpkins are carved into fun pictures. Today’s “trick-or-treat” comes from early England when the poor would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes,” which was encouraged by the charge at the time. Telling stories of dead relatives and praying for them has turned into a more entertaining event of ghost stories.

Halloween is not just a holiday “invented by the candy companies” as Max Dennison on “Hocus Pocus” would say. It’s about having fun, enjoying the change in seasons and celebrating life with friends and family.

Are you ready for Halloween?

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