Halloween is the contemporary holiday marked on the 31st of October every year. A lot of people from around the world do not understand what the holiday is about. Even some of those born and raised in families that mark the festival often cannot explain the true meaning of the holiday beyond creepy makeup, costumes, home décor, and the candy. The following is an in-depth exploration of the Halloween holiday as we mark it today and from whence it came.
Every year, Halloween comes back to haunt us. It creeps back stealthily so it catches us unawares nearly every time. So we shift from barbecues to carving pumpkins, when you are a busy adult and parent, it gets harder to keep track of all the trillion things you have to juggle and surely one more magical holiday to fulfill seems like too much to ask. But deep down you know that Halloween holds a special place in all of our hearts and so we have to manage some form of decorations, costumes and awesome food and ambiance for our loved ones.
Luckily it should cost you a fortune to make your house as creepy as they come. So whether you are planning your first Halloween party or you are simply on a fact-finding mission, here’s all we know about Halloweens from history with special attention to the decorations back then and now.
Origin Of The Halloween
This day has a long history of evolution that can is traced back all the way to the Celtic festivals of Samhain. During such occasions, it was customary for ancient people to light up bonfires and adorn themselves in special ghost repellent costumes. He all saints day and mass came with the inauguration by Pope Gregory III who set aside the first of November as a day to honor all saints.
Like ancients celts, Christian soon began to carry out similar rituals the night before the day of all saints which was then known as All Hallows Eve. Some of the borrowed activities include eating treats like candy, carving jack-o-lanterns and costume donning. It is noteworthy that some of the activities of the ancient’s celts during their Halloween were copied with decorations.
Just like modern-day Halloween, the Halloween of the Celts 2000 years ago was would scare the living lights out of the partakers. It was believed that on that material night, the boundary of the two worlds (that of the living and that of the dead) would become blurry and the ghosts of the dead would be allowed to roam our world.
Every person would put out their hearth fire and gather round to prepare a huge bonfire which sacred. There were deities to appease and fortunes to tell and so people gathered and lit huge bonfires that consumed their animal and crop sacrificed while attempting to tell each other’s fortunes.
These ghosts were believed to wreak havoc and damage crops. A special group of gifted priests called druids among the Celts would take advantage of the presence of the other beings to make predictions about the future more so with the long and cold winter that was coming.
When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
The Rise Of The Roman Empire
It’s impossible to trace discuss world history without mentioning the impact of the Romans. By 43 AD, the Romans had conquered much of the Celtic territory and their presence changed but did not put an end to Samhain celebrations. Instead, two of their own celebrations were absorbed in the traditional Celtic celebrations of the new year. These are the day of the dead (Feralia) celebrated in late October and the day of Pomona in which the Romans would honor their goddess of fruit and trees whose symbol is the apple. This might be the reason why after its entire evolution, Halloween still observes bobbing on apples.
It was not long before Christianity spread to the Celtic territory and gradually washed away many of the traditional practices of the celts. Around 1000 A.D. the church introduces All Souls day in a bid to supplant some new practices and replace the original Calan festivals with their ‘day of honoring the dead’ which was similar.
Soon the Samhain tradition was replaced with the All soul’s day also called the All-hallows and All-Hallowmass. More importantly, the night before this day continued to be marked with Samhain-like activities and also got its name changed to All-hallows Eve, Allhallow’en and finally to present-day Halloween.
Previously people would dress up as a ghost to avoid detection or some other groups believed that was a special night to imitate ghosts who were abroad. Curved out fruits and lanterns were used to play pranks on other people that night. Later Christians used lanterns made of hollowed turnips to represent souls of the departed saints. This may be the origin of the Halloween decorations tradition that is now hugely represented by a jack-o’- lantern.
Colonial Halloween In America
Moving to America was the next stage of the evolution of Halloween. In colonial New England, the demographic was mostly protestant based and therefore there were constraints in the spread of Halloween holidays there. The southern states colonies plus Maryland were more receptive of the European tradition but tweaked it with a native Indian touch to give rise to the Halloween as we know it.
The Halloween phenomenon was thus kept suppressed for a long time until the late 19th century when an influx of Irish immigrants came to America. It was them that helped to popularize the celebration making it an almost nationwide celebration.
The emergent American version of Halloween is now the most popular and commonly accepted around the world as it has crossed borders thanks to immigrants and ex-pats.
Today, Halloween themed weddings, Halloween makeup and Halloween costumes for pets are popular trends. This is perhaps the best time ever to be alive thanks to the ease with which the internet has enabled the spread of ideas and traditions. Every year around the time of Halloween folks flood Google search with Halloween questions mostly over where to buy the best costumes, the best Halloween makeup, and home decor.
Trick Or Treat
The tradition of moving from house to house asking for food, treats and money was inherited from the European Halloween practices. This is what later became what we now call the treat or trick tradition. The pre-colonial festivity also came with embedded elements of magic and trickery with yarn, apple parings, and mirrors. This was perceived as evil and Americans wanted to make this tradition more about family and communal living. So in the late 19th century, we began to see Halloweens that are more child-friendly and neighborly as opposed to witchcraft and pranks. Interestingly the decorations still spoke of magic and spookiness.
The costumes became more distinct and unique with a competition simmering to outdo the other hence Halloween makeup and dress up the industry. Even with the costumes, All Hallows Eve has now lost more of its grotesque, frightening and religious overtones.
People now focus on family games, parties, and foods for the season and festivities. From the 1920s onwards we are now at community-centered Halloweens and concerts and other featured and themed entertainment events. During this time decorations became an integral part of the festival.
Transition To A Children’s Treat Or Trick
Of course, the baby boom of the fifties had the little ones steal the show and so the parades were brought closer home or to the classroom where they could be easily manageable.
When the practice was eventually taken over by little children, families could bribe their way out of tricks with treats, ideally sweets. So in the mid-twentieth century, the old trick-or-treating practice was reborn.
This proved to be an inexpensive way of making the holiday more pleasurable and inclusive. Today, one-quarter of all sweets bought by Americans are consumed during the Halloween festivities. Cumulatively, families spend more than $6 billion on Halloween making this the second most expensive holiday after Christmas.
The decorations for Calan/ Samhain are one of the few elements of the original Celtic Samhain that have stood the test of time. They may not have been meant as decorations back then but people want to recreate the same mood back then.
American decorations initially borrowed from European ones but have since evolved to have a life of their own. For ancient Celts, marking Calan was not just about showing off at the family and friends gathering but survival. Since ghosts were going to be roaming the land that night, the idea was to look as ghostly as possible so that spirits would mistake them for fellow spirits and not harm them.
The original idea is that on this particular night, people would feel very close to their dead. This prompted practices like leaving food and treats along pathways as well as lighting to aid their loved ones to find their way back to the spirit world. In contemporary society, that bond of mutual friendship has been shoved aside for more fearsome and malevolent ghosts. Some of these ideas still remain and since we have lost connection with the religious bit of the celebrations we retain them as decorations.
How To Decorate For Modern Halloween
A good Halloween party is about making everyone have a good time. Like any other party or even, a little planning goes a long way in making sure that your guests have the most memorable evening of their lives. There are safety precautions and boredom pitfalls to avoid even as you are trying to make this coming Halloween a thundering success. We will take you through the steps necessary when planning out your party.
Get Your Family Involved In The Decorations
It goes without saying that even with the best tips and tricks and the most comprehensive Halloween party planner checklist you cannot put together a party on your own. Technically, you could but would it be awesome? You need to get your loved ones to contribute ideas and help with some of the chores; after all, they need to own it. You can start by delegating some duties so that everyone is working on something they enjoy doing.
If you are sure your next-door neighbor also marks the holiday you can consider going over to ask them to team up with your family and plan an amazing party. A good party is tailored to each of the guests’ needs and has decorations that scare everyone just enough. The secret lies in careful consideration of the guest list. Too many kids are the recipe for disaster when they are not catered for in your plans.
It is not impossible to throw a last-minute Halloween party and achieve a measure of success and awe. But planning early (like 6 weeks before D day) will help you cater to all your guests, more guests and make sure that everyone has a memorable experience.
Get The Decorations Right
You probably still hold some of the memories you had during Halloweens as a kid. As a parent you know just how valuable the family time is especially for the young ones and you owe it to them to put together a lively and eerie scene in your home for their amusement. You don’t have to break the bank to get the best Halloween decorations ready, you can as well use some of the materials you already have in the house. For instance, candles and holiday lights can add to the eeriness of your scene and toilet paper makes a good wrap to mummify your furniture and doors. You can also try adding spooky music on your home entertainment system to help set the mood.