by Diana Bulls
This week it started to feel like fall! There was actually a little nip in the air and a brisk breeze. I love fall—I always call it birthday weather (my birthday is in November). And I also love Halloween.
Halloween is the night before All Hallow’s Day or Hallowmas which occurs on November 1. Today, those of us in the modern church call this All Saints Day. This is a time we remember and celebrate the lives of the faithful men and women who have recently passed away. The feast day was established by Pope Gregory III around the 8th century. Halloween, or to be more correct, Hallowe’en is short for Hallows Eve.
At one time, November 1 was considered the beginning of the new year. The ancient Druids (Celtic priests) believed that as the old year “died”, all the souls of the dead would gather to see what form they would take for the next year. The wicked would be condemned to becoming animals, but this sentence might be lightened if the living offered up gifts and prayers to the lord of death.
For the Romans, November 1 was observed as Samhain (pronounced sow-in) or summer’s end. They thought that evil spirits were unleashed on the night before to create havoc and mischief on earth. To keep the evil spirits away, the Romans would dress up in costumes made of animal skins.
Christians condemned the old gods and goddesses, but assimilated local customs into the faith. On Hallowe’en fires were lit, prayers and gifts were offered to honor the recently departed and graves were visited. It was pretty much one big party.
Our modern-day tradition of going house to house for treats came from Ireland where the poor went from house to house asking for money for their All Saints Day feasts. This, in combination with the ancient tradition of dressing up to ward off evil spirits, is what makes up our American Halloween.
Jack o’ Lanterns are probably the most common Halloween symbol. According to the Vintage Halloween website (www.vintagehalloween.com), the lighted pumpkin comes from a tale of an old Irish miser named Jack. Jack made several pacts with the devil, but always had some trick up his sleeve in order to get out of the pact. When Jack died, he could not get into Heaven because of his sins and because he had tricked the devil, he could not get into Hell. The devil gave him a coal and Jack placed it in a hollowed out turnip, which lit his way as he wandered the earth until Judgment Day. Pumpkins, native to America, have taken the place of turnips and now sit on porches welcoming trick or treaters.
Pumpkins abound in all types of Halloween collectibles. Vintage items can run anywhere from $20 to $300 depending rarity. EBay is always a great place to go to look for vintage. But the good news is that there are a lot of new pumpkin-themed items just waiting to be picked up at stores like Cost Plus World Market, Michaels and even Big Lots—some even under $5.00. Plus just type in “vintage style pumpkin Halloween decorations” (or dishes or jewelry or toys or candles) in Google and you will get all kinds of links to great stuff from paper banners to plastic blow mold yard lights.
So be a kid again and get in the Halloween spirit. Decorate the front porch and be ready for all the little “goblins” that come knocking on your front door looking for treats. Be sure to save one or two treats for yourself!