Today is one of my favorite days of the year, and it ties for second favorite “holiday” (while not a technical -i.e. government- holiday, I consider any day that involves costumes, parties and candy worthy of the title).
A great (Irish) cultural tradition
Interestingly, Halloween’s origins are Irish. How perfect is this interlude to my Irish road-trip coverage? But more on these origins later….
As a child, I recall those moments of uncontainable happiness. The classic Halloween cartoons started their cycle on the Disney Channel. Like the Skeleton Dance (1929)
or the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (loved that one! Have you ever been on the ride??)
All of October was spent thinking about costume choices and focusing on Halloween decorations and activities. How many pumpkins would we carve this year? Let’s add another witch or skeleton or tombstone to our spooky silo.
So many moments of celebration
A Halloween-themed fall fair at school with apple bobbing and the coolest (scariest) haunted house you can imagine (at least to an eight-year-old). Daily classroom Halloween parties with ghost cookies and pumpkin cupcakes. The half-school day celebration solely focused on the costume parade for each class around the gym. And the culmination- a night of Halloween parties and trick-or-treating with neighborhood friends.
Halloween ushers in the fall. It’s the first celebration we focus on before Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. In my eyes, Halloween has always kicked off the holiday season.
True, as we get older, All Hallows Eve tends to loose its magic, but there’s still plenty to celebrate.
Creepy Halloween Travel Articles and Attractions
I thought I would share some interesting, scary, strange and fun Halloween articles from around the interwebs.
- Check out the Huffington Post’s A Halloween Buffet: A Scary Food Tour of the World. The duck embryo in Thailand is pretty disturbing. Rabbit and lamb head platters made me a little squeamish as well. My friend Cindy included her photo of edible scorpions from China. Those things give me the total creeps, alive or dead. I would add eating tarantulas in Cambodia to their list, of course!
- Wandering Earl shares his seriously ominous story of the headless man in India. His tale resonates so deeply, drawing distant memories of my 1999 visit to India to the surface. I’ve found myself telling tales of India, about the strikingly different worldview and perception of life. I’ve said more than dozen times that I was most shocked by the blatant ambivalence towards human life- or life in general. I saw quite a few bodies on the sides of roads- likely untouchables hit by a bus or car. I saw that happen once or twice. Rampant poverty and overpopulation seemingly desensitize the general population to the occasional (or frequent) dead body. Earl’s story reiterates this.
- Here’s a list of 10 Best Halloween Vacation Spots. Dracula’s Castle has long been on my list!
- Another cool list from the Travel Channel of the Best (American) Halloween Attractions 2013. Some of these “attractions” are actual events, like the Zombie Pub Crawl in St. Louis or a Ultimate Horror Weekend in Orlando.
- Or TC’s list of Scariest Halloween Attractions. I’m personally chomping at the bit to visit Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly. A few other travel bloggers have written about the 11-acre complex.
- World’s most haunted places? There’s that Eastern State Pen again!
- History.com has one of the best and briefest videos on the history of Halloween, Bet You Didn’t Know. Circling back to Irish origins, let’s talk about the highlights of that video…
The (Brief) History of Halloween
Two-thousand years ago, an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in) was celebrated on November 1st. Folks believed that the dead returned as ghosts on the eve of Samhain. To keep the spirits from entering houses, food and wine were left on outside doorsteps. These peops were so paranoid that when they left their homes, they would wear ghost masks so the real ghouls would think they were part of their clan.
The Christian church turned Samhain in to All Saints Day or All Hallows in the 8th century. Thus, the night before was All Hallows Eve, shortened to Halloween.
Trick-or-treating, along with souling and guising, originated in medieval Britain. On November 2, All Souls Day, the needy would beg for soul cakes, then they would in turn pray for peoples’ dead relatives. This was known as souling. In another tradition, young people would partake in guising; they wore costumes and accepted food, wine and money in exchange for singing, telling jokes, or citing poetry.
Fast forward a thousand years, then fly on over to the New World. Scottish and Irish immigrants in America revived these traditions in the 19th century, which resulted in our current practice of trick-or-treating. At first, the tricks (pranks) were more in vogue than the treats. By 1950, the tradition became the family-friendly, kid-centric version that we know and love today.
Like I said, watch the Bet You Didn’t Know video if you want the two-minute, visual version.
What’s your favorite thing about Halloween?