Every autumn the temperature drops, the leaves turn into a beautiful array of colors, and we all await the very end of October, where we dress up and wait until the night sky falls and the spirits rise, so we may celebrate them and everything else that goes bump in the night. As you cover your hands in pumpkin guts, plan the perfect costume, cozy up to a scary movie, and scope out the parties, you are probably soaking in the classic Halloween you grew up celebrating, however it just happens that all of these things we have come to love are actually a culmination of centuries of tradition.
The first markings of Halloween tradition actually go as far back as thirteen BCE, with the earliest of the Celtic Samhain celebrations. The Celts were a band of tribes all over Western Europe, that eventually settled around Ireland and Britain. They were known for their warriors, their weaponry, their distinct language, and their religion. Their religion was a polytheistic religion that incorporated gods from the Greek and Roman religions, as well as creatures and folklore from the Irish tradition. Samhain was a fire festival that celebrated a seasonal change, specifically the time between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice and was the most important out of four yearly celebrations. The festival celebrated the harvest and their lives, both given to them by the gods. They believed that on Samhain the walls between the worldly plane and the spiritual plane were weakened. In the days before Samhain, many would put on costumes to hide their faces and go door to door singing songs for the dead, for which they would be rewarded with small cakes. During the festival they gave thanks to their gods by lighting a large community fire, as well as lighting fires in their homes that would burn throughout the night. They prepared offerings and laid them throughout the village and on their doorsteps, to thank ancestors and appease the monsters that came through the spiritual plane with them. As time moved on the celebration narrowed to a specific date, which was October 31st through November 1st.
Over the centuries the Roman Empire had conquered most of the land in which the Celts lived. During this time two traditional Roman holidays began to meld into Samhain. The two holidays were Feralia and Pomona. Feralia was celebrated in late October and was meant to celebrate the dead. Pomona was around the same time, and celebrated the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, who was often symbolised with an apple. When the Roman Empire came into the first century AD, the Catholic church began to rise in power, and eventually swept across all of Western Europe as the dominant religion. Through the years the church tried to do everything to convert the Celts, and therefore tried to reconfigure their traditions. In the fifth century they tried change the holiday by moving it to May and naming it All Saints Day. However that did not work, and the autumn fire festivals persisted. Finally, four centuries later the pope moved All Saints Day to November 1st, with All Souls Day following on November 2nd. Of course this did not stop the Celts' traditions which started on October 31st, so it was renamed All Hallows Eve. These celebrations continued on for centuries.
For those familiar with an American Halloween, the traditions did not simply flow in from Europe, like so many others have. The strict protestant lifestyle of colonial America prevented such wicked celebrations. However over time the southern colonies’ culture began to evolve into something vastly different then the traditional Protestantism of the north. They began to learn of native celebrations for the harvest and incorporated traditions into their harvests. Large festivals where they would celebrate the harvest by dressing up and putting on small skits for the town to watch. These festivals went on even after America became independent. Then in the 1840’s the Irish Potato Famine happened, and there was a flux of Irish immigrants into America. From there the traditions from Celts, Romans, Natives, and the new American market mixed, making the celebration you see today. Of course as time went on the celebration became more secular, moving from a religious festival to a way to bond communities together.
Now you know why you like carving and lighting up pumpkins like the harvest fires, going door to door to collect treats much like the singers of Samhain, watching movies of monsters like those that crossed the spiritual plane, bobbing for apples like the Romans celebrating their goddess Pomona, and dressing up like many natives and early colonists to parade around as someone else.
Markale, Jean, and Jon E. Graham. The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: Celebrating the Dark Half of The Year. Inner Traditions, 2001.
Morton, Lisa. Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween. Reaktion Books, 2019.
We’ve reached that time of year where candy fanatics get prepared to go trick-or-treating on Halloween in the hopes of scoring a bucket full of their favorite treats. (I’m personally partial to Almond Joy and Twix, just in case you were wondering…) Have you ever wondered how your favorite candy got its name? Do you know which candy bar Mars Chocolate invented first? Here are some fun facts about the Halloween candy that you know and love.
10 Fun Facts about the Origins of Halloween Candy
1. Candy Corn was originally called ‘chicken feed’ due to its appearance. That name helped market the candy to rural clientele.
2. Nerds were originally available in only strawberry and grape flavor when they were invented in 1983.
3. Smarties were invented because Ce De Candy company wanted a candy that would not melt in the sun.
4. Tootsie Rolls were named after the inventor, Leo Hirshfield’s daughter, whose nickname was Tootsie.
5. When created in 1932, each individually wrapped 3 Musketeers consisted of three smaller bars, one of each filled with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry filling.
6. Hershey’s Kisses were originally little squares when they were invented in 1907.
7. M&M’s were named for their co-creators - Forest Mars and Hershey’s executive William Murray.
8. The Snickers bar, invented in 1930, was the second candy bar invented by Mars Candy Company. The first one was the Milky Way.
9. The Milky Way is named after a popular 1920s malted milkshake and is considered to be America’s first filled candy.
10. The Butterfinger bar name was decided by a public naming contest. It is the second candy bar creation of Curtiss Candy Company, who first invented the Baby Ruth bar.
Prof. Rorey Padfoot
This past week I participated in one my most favorite fall time activities, a corn maze. A friend of mine asked if my significant other and I were able to join them and a few others at the local farmers' market that evening and walk through the newly completed corn maze.The market tends to have one every year, but each year they make the design a little different. There was a small charge to get into the maze, but since we are friends with the owner we were given a discount.
The most interesting part was that the creator of the corn maze was at the market when we arrived, so he was able to give us a little insight into how he creates the maze each year. He told us that first he designs the maze on paper which includes the name of the farmers' market and then the design he is choosing as the path. Typically the beginning of the corn maze is the patrons walking through the letters of the name of the market and then the people can choose to go the easy route, or the advanced route.
Once the final design is chosen, the owner draws it to scale and maps it out with chalk on the field. Mind you he has already planted some corn at this point, so the stalks would be tall enough by the time the maze is ready for customers. Once the chalk is down, he stated he mows (with a regular size lawn mower) the path to start it off. He says this can take a full day or two just to mow out the design. Once this mowing is done, he then gets on the big tractor mower to make the path larger and wide enough for families to walk through. He says in total it takes him a good two weeks to get the corn maze ready for people to start walking through.
When my group started walking, we of course chose to go the advanced route. We were told there were four checkpoints in the maze that if you were able to find them and take a picture of them with your phone you could show it to the ticket booth person for a prize. My entire group was quite competitive so we needed to find all the checkpoints. My group walked around the maze for 45 minutes total and we logged over two miles of walking with our pedometers and we only found three of the checkpoints. After we found our way out of the maze and looked on google maps, we realized there was an entire back section we missed completely which we decided must be where that forth check point must be. Either way we still had fun.
Do you know if your area of the world has a corn maze nearby? Around here they tend to be connected to farmers' markets or local park areas. I have seen haunted corn mazes that are held at nighttime, but I’m not sure I could handle ones that had people jumping out at you while on the path. We went early enough in the season the corn wasn’t super tall yet, maybe as tall as we were, but by the end of season it will be taller than the height of an average person, making it harder to see where you are in the maze. I highly recommend supporting your local market area if they have a corn maze safely available for you to enjoy.
Contrary to what people might think, the idea of the existence of alien life is not a modern one.
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