Thursday, October 18, 2012

History lessons and stuff!

I spent the majority of my morning thinking about what to write about today. And eating doughnuts. There really isn't a need to even mention that since that is the everyday normal for me. I'm pretty sure that every single photograph of me that doesn't contain a doughnut is a lie. I seriously eat them that much. This is all beside the point. I couldn't think of ANYTHING to talk about. I wanted to talk about costumes, but Emma covered that territory. I wanted to talk about scary movies, again, Emma covered that (plus my mom recently explained the premise of 'Sinister' to me, and I've been crying ever since). I'm not one to enjoy scary movies. Oh, but how I've tried. Ugh. So what to do?

Well, the Halloween spirit still hasn't hit me yet, so I knew that I had to write on this topic, even if only to act as the final push to get me into the mood. Kyle casually suggested that I talk about the history of Halloween. BOOM. Done. You all haven't received a history lesson from me in a while, so of course this is not only the best option, but a necessary one.

I grabbed my coke, put my chapstick in my knapsack (its a really a stupid ugly purse, I just wanted to make this image more poetic), and happily set out to drive to work. Then I had a moment of realization, the worst kind of realization: I didn't know that much about this subject. Skip to a fifteen minute drive of self-deprecation for not knowing about the history of Halloween. I arrived at work and just decided that we will learn about the history of Halloween together. Starting....now!

So, as we all know, Halloween often gets attached to  evil and pagan things. This is not the basis of Halloween! Halloween's origin is often attributed to the Roman feast of Pomona, who is the goddess of fruits and seeds. In the same vein, the holiday is said to be connected with the festival of the dead, otherwise known as Parentalia, which again was a festival held in Rome. This particular festival was held in early February, so theres that.Most commonly known, however, is the attribution of Halloween to the Celtic festival of Samhain. A basic translation of this is 'summer's end'. Makes sense. Basically, during this festival, everyone took stock of their crops and made plans to prepare for winter. That seems pretty tame, right? So how did we get all these spooks involved? HOLD YOUR HORSES. The festival also included a darker side. It was said that this was the time of year when the physical world and the supernatural world were the closest together, and so many odd things would happen. It was said that the souls of the dead would visit their homes on Samhain Eve, so as a precautionary measure to keep the spooks away, giant bonfires were built, and residents often worse costumes and masks to mimic the haunts. Pretty darn neat, right? 

So, that sort of explains the dressing up part. But theres more! The practice of people dressing up and going from door to door dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. People would often go door to door on Hallowmas in the act of 'souling'. During this, they would receive food and treats for the prayers they offered up. This act originated in Ireland or Britain. There is some dispute there. In Scotland and Ireland, the act of guising was taking place. This was recorded all the way back in 1895, and involved children dressing up, carrying carved out turnips and other vegetables and gourds filled with candles, and going to peoples' homes to receive trinkets such as cakes, coins, and fruits. First off, I'd like to say I have never once in my life received a cake whilst trick or treating and this hurts my entire soul. Moving on, it seems that 'guising' didn't hit North America til a few years later. 

A Halloween historian and avid Halloween postcard collector, whose name I shall not mention not because I don't know it, but because I want to keep them anonymous (I don't know their name), stated that through all of his/her research, it can be safely stated that the act of trick or treating did not take off until 1930. As a proponent of getting candies, cakes and fruits for free, I can argue that had I lived pre-1930, I would have been trick or treating on the regular.

Just like Christmas traditions and depictions of Santa or St. Nick, so too does Halloween vary from country to country. Some countries still practice bonfires and even fireworks on their holiday night. North America's influence on the holiday, mostly in its iconic and commercial aspects, has really spread to many other countries. I wish the bonfires and fireworks would catch on over here. Just saying.

 So, well, thats the short of it. I hope everyone learned a little bit, but most importantly, I hope everyone decides that this is the year for your very own Halloween bonfire. Make it happen! Safely, of course.

I'll leave you with this. As a child, my mother dressed me up as Pocahontas because my hair was so very long, and well, I fit the role. This isn't me, but the feeling of throwing down that pillowcase full of candy and then laying on it is something I can relate to. I pretty much do this with all of my clothes and shoes purchases. Content as ever. Happy almost Halloween, everyone. 
 



 






1 comment:

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