The Once One-Day Holiday is Turning into a Season Long Event
It is the season of the witch. Halloween, or All Hallows Eve was once a pagan holiday to honor the dead. It was originally called Samhain, pronounced sow-en. It was a time to reflect on the past year and try to divine what lay ahead. It was also a time to make ready for the harsh winter by storing the crops that had been harvested and slaughtering the animals. It was a time when the sun god was waning and the hag aspect of the triple goddess, or Cerridwen came into power. There are different versions of the history and mythology depending on the country, but the Celtic version is probably the one that is most familiar to us. It was a time when things on the Earth were dying and the spirit world was closest to the physical one. Therefore it was an ideal time for divination, to feast and honor your ancestors and ask them to look over you in the coming year. There were also dangers abounding as well. Since the world of the supernatural was closest that meant that certain unfriendly spirits could cross over too. You appeased them by either offering them treats or scaring them off with horrific masks and Jack-o-Lanterns.
The traditional meaning and rituals of Halloween have pretty much disappeared except for those who practice modern day Wicca or Witchcraft. Our other celebrations like Easter and Christmas, which have pagan origins and were then Christianized, have largely become secular, although some evangelical Christians are trying to bring back the original Christian meanings. But even that group usually celebrates the secular version also. And as a secular holiday, Halloween is becoming more and more popular every year. Instead of being a one-day event like it was in the recent past, it has now almost become a season, with celebrations and festivals starting as early as September and lasting all the way through October. In the tourist industry, it is now referred to as Fall-O-Ween. Illinois has even officially named it as such.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, (www.stltoday.com) the bi-state area is brimming with events this year, everything from the Morton Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 10-13 to the St. Charles Scarecrow Festival Oct. 10-12 to Six Flags Fright Fest, which begins Oct. 4th. You can check out www.enjoyillinois.com for a list of three-day Halloween getaways over there. In Missouri, www.visitmo.com highlights trick or treating at the governor’s mansion and the Darkness Haunted House down in Soulard next to the market. The house has been listed as one of the top ten in the country for the past few years. There is also going to be an impromptu street party in the Central West End that may be worth checking out.
Other activities across the country include a month-long celebration in Salem, Massachusetts, the home of the Salem Witch Trials. The celebration accounts for 30 percent of their yearly tourist dollars there. North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks is promoting “Ghosts on the Coast.” In earlier times that area was called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” because of the number of ships that sank off of the coast there.
There are even a few breweries that are getting in on the celebration. A number of them, including Schfaly here in St. Louis, brew a seasonal pumpkin beer and, not to be outdone, the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland is brewing “Nosferatu,” a blood-red brew named after the vampire in the 1922 movie by the same name.