Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween History, Legends, and Tales

Halloween is a tradition of celebration, superstition, and most importantly CANDY! Long Ride Shields delved deep into the tradition to find out some little-known facts about this 'spooky' holiday.

Halloween is thought to have made its origins over 2,000 years ago with an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). During this festival, people would divine futures, light bonfires, and wear costumes to ward off evil spirits. The Celts would celebrate their new year on November 1st. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the cold and dark winter. The Celts also believed that on the night before the new year, the veil between the world of the living and dead would be lifted and ghosts would return to earth. Druids and priests would use this time to divine futures for the next year and children would dress up and go to their neighbors and ask for food, wine, and money in exchange for a song, poetry, or even a joke.

Toward the end of the Roman empire, two roman festivals were combined with the now conquered, Celt's festival, the first being Feralia. This day was marked to commemorate the passing of the dead. Second, the festival of Pomona, which was to celebrate the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Pomona is symbolized with an apple, which many believe is the origins of bobbing for apples.

Later, during the height of the Holy Roman Empire, Pope Gregory III moved a feast for martyrs from May 13 to November 1 and included a celebration for all saints, not just martyrs. This feast was known as 'All-Hallows Day and has since been known as 'All Saints Day'. All Saints Day was celebrated very similarly to Samhain, where people would light big bonfires, have parades and dress up as saints, angels, and devils. The night before this day was called 'All-Hallows Eve' and eventually shortened to Halloween as we know it today.

Early American Halloween was very limited due to rigid religious beliefs, but as different European customs as well as Native American beliefs combined, a distinctly American Halloween began to develop. Colonial Halloween features the telling of ghost stories and mischief of all kinds.

The flood of immigrants to America during the mid 1800's helped to popularize the Halloween tradition. Americans began to dress up and go house-to-house to ask for food or money. In the late 1800's, Americans tried to move the holiday to a more community-based event rather than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft. Parents were encouraged to remove anything 'frightening' or 'grotesque' from the celebration. Due to this move, many superstitions and traditions were lost.

Halloween had always been a holiday filled with magic, mystery, and superstition. For instance, we avoid crossing paths with black cats as it may bring us bad luck. Many people, during the Middle Ages, believed that witches would disguise themselves as black cats to avoid detection. Some traditions even had to do with love. In particular, helping young women to find their future husbands. In Ireland, a matchmaking chef would bury a ring in mashed potatoes on Halloween night in the hopes it would bring her future husband to dinner.

In Scotland, girls would name hazelnuts and burn them to decern which would be their true love. Another legend was that a young lady would drink a concoction made of walnuts, nutmeg, hazelnuts, and other things (Spiced Latte anyone?) Halloween night and would dream of her future husband. Regardless of whether we were trying to get love advice to avoid bad luck, all these Halloween superstitions relied on the good will of spirits that came out on this day.
Trick or Treaters in 1950's
By the 1950's, town leaders successfully limited vandalism and Halloween was directed to the young. With the high number of young children due to the baby boomers, Halloween parties were moved from civic center to the classroom and at home. Trick-or-Treating was an inexpensive way for the community to celebrate this holiday together. In theory, families would prevent tricks from being played on them and their homes by providing the neighbor children with candy and other small treats.
1950's Candy

So whether you are in it for romantic aspirations, to know what the future holds, or just holding back on toilet paper in exchange for something sweet, we here at Long Ride Shields hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween . . . Enjoy The Ride!
Today, one-quarter of all candy sold annually
in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.

Composed by Long Ride Shields. Information cited below. Staff. "History of Halloween." A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

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