This article on Halloween was recently published in my community newspaper — a paper for which I will step in as editor at the beginning of 2005. The material is pretty basic and has obviously been simplified for the sake of brevity, but it’s still a fun little piece on my favorite holiday. 🙂
Happy Halloween, everyone!
ALL HALLOWS E?EN
Rev. Jen Willis
Autumn is my favorite season, October my favorite month?. And Halloween is hands-down my favorite holiday. Every year, I look forward to the trick-or-treaters, to see the excitement in their eyes as they show off their costumes and thrill to the magic of the night. And there is something mysterious and enchanting about Halloween, the one night of the year when Ouija boards and Tarot cards come out of the closet, pumpkins are carved, amateur s?ances held, ghost stories told, and the midnight ?witching hour? spookier than ever.
?Halloween? is derived from ?All Hallows Eve,? and this pagan holiday is the reason the Christian church centuries ago moved All Saints Day from the spring to November 1st, because they couldn?t stop the locals from celebrating their festival of the dead. If you can?t beat ?em, join ?em.
But Halloween ? more traditionally known as Samhain (pronounced ?SOW-en?) ? is also the Celtic New Year. Samhain marks the last harvest, when unharvested crops and fruits became the property of the fairies, and the beginning of the dark half of the year, when the days grow shorter and nights grow longer. Since the Celts began each day at sunset, Samhain falls between seasons, and between years. In this ?in-between time,? the dead are free to roam amongst the living, and the veils between worlds are at their thinnest.
Divination and prophecy are traditional on Samhain, and prophecies sought on this night might offer glimmers of hope and warmth during the coming winter. Druids held divination rites on Samhain, seeking the counsel and guidance of the ancestors, and it is said that journeys to the ?other side? might be made safely on Samhain.
Adults and children alike dressed in scary costumes when going out on this night, to protect themselves from malevolent beings by disguising themselves as fellow goblins, to make kindred spirits feel more at home, and to frighten away nasty spirits that might be up to no good. Children were quick to snatch up the soul cakes left on doorsteps to appease the roaming spirits and to keep them from entering the houses; others begged for food, ale, or money with promises to pray for the departed loved ones of those in the home: the origins of trick-or-treating.
For centuries, jack-o-lanterns have been placed in windowsills and doorways on All Hallows Eve, to frighten away the wandering and restless spirit of Stingy Jack, who had been too clever for hell, but not righteous enough to enter heaven.
Neo-pagans today continue to observe Samhain as one of the major holy days of the Wiccan and Druidic calendars, and the holiday is celebrated through religious ritual as well as more traditional activities ? carving pumpkins, divination and scrying, and costume parties.
I?ll have my jack-o-lantern out this year, though not out of fear of Stingy Jack. And while I don?t have a Ouija board, I can offer you a Twix bar and maybe some spiced cider if you come wandering by this All Hallows E?en.