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Halloween Quiz and History

Published by Jack Pfeifle

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Halloween Quiz

Quick Quiz:

What do…

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#NAME?

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…have in common?

Stop! Don’t answer the question until you’ve read the lesson!

Halloween is hauntingly close at hand. The bulk candy is appearing in central displays at the supermarket. Spiders as big as your head are hanging from the department store ceiling en masse. There are witches and ghosts and goblins and black cats and pointy hats and spooky bats coming at you from everywhere. Pumpkins and corn stalks litter the aisles of every type of store from Food Town to Walmart. There’s a lot of product involved in the first holiday of autumn. Ever wonder where all the Halloween paraphernalia had its origins?

Take the Halloween costume, for instance. Why? We dress up on Halloween every year, probably from pre-school to post graduate school, and collect treats and goodies from the good people of the community.

What’s up with that?

Two thousand years ago or so, the Celts (who lived in what we now call Ireland) celebrated the end of their summer on October 31st. The beginning of their winter (the dead time) began on November 1st. To celebrate the “new” year ahead, they held a festival on the eve of the new year. They called it Samhain.

On Samhain, it was believed; the spirits of deceased ancestors would be allowed to enter the earthly realms once again. They came to visit living relatives but upon the sight of the living, they might decide to play a few pranks or take a few souls back to the land of the dead when they returned. In order to deter their long dead relatives from tricking them into the spirit world, they would disguise themselves in dreadful costumes so they couldn’t be recognized. They wore animal skins or home made masks to make themselves indiscernible from each other. Then they had a party!

The tradition of the costume on Samhain was brought to the United States by the Irish when they arrived on our shores during the great potato famine in the mid-1800’s.

The Celtic celebration was adapted by Pope Gregory 3 in an attempt to blur the lines between the Druids (Celtic religion) and the Christian faiths. He declared November 1st “All Saints Days” (previously it had been celebrated in May) but the eve before All Saint’s Day became Halloween. Today, we celebrate both, Christian and Heathen alike. Thanks, Pope Greg!

So then, the answer to the quiz above is: they are all traditionally ritualistic for the spooky season. Of course, Hannah Montana was not even a twinkle in some producer’s eye at the time but she does strike me as kind of scary when you think of how many young people are worshipping at her feet. The returning dead would not be able to tell which one of the millions of Hannah Montana faces were actually related to them, hence, they would have to leave us all alone.

If you threw a sheet over your head and cut out some eye holes, the dearly departed would just think you were one of them and leave you to your own devices.

A Captain Jack Sparrow disguise may just strike some fear into even the most evil of spirits upon first sighting-unless, of course, they happen to be related to Keith Richards in which case you’d be a goner. On second thought, though, Keith looks like death warmed over so maybe you’d still be safe with the Jack Sparrow get-up.

The best costume for Halloween, though, in my humble opinion is Chewbacca. There is nothing better than a Wookie to scare away the trickster dead folks on Halloween. Especially if you could execute a bellow like Chewy when Han told him Princess Leia was off limits. I wouldn’t want to be one of lingering dead when that racket ensued.

Whatever costume you should chose in which to disguise yourself on Halloween, make sure your great-great Uncle Rufus doesn’t recognize you or you could find yourself on the business end of a tombstone before the night is over.

I must heavily caution against making yourself too scary. You still want to elicit candy from your neighbors for your trouble. This tradition comes from the Celts, also. During their New Year’s Eve celebration, the townspeople would leave offerings of food on their door steps in order to appease the evil spirits and cajole them out of performing their tricks on them. Today, we give out a treat to ward off a trick as well. Although we now have litigation to deter tricksters, traditionally it is done with a sweet cake or two.

So thank your Irish buddies for bringing us Leprechauns, four leaf clover, and the walking dead. And keep in mind: when Irish Eyes are smilin’, it’s probably because they’re about to play the trick of the century on you unless you fill their bag with treats.

 

 

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