It might not be Halloween yet, but for those of us who love the holiday, the entire month of October is collectively called “spooky season.” The whole month becomes one big celebration of Halloween.
Recently, but not for the first time, I’ve been looking into the history of Halloween because I find it fascinating how time changes things. If you break things down to their base boards, you quickly realize that they were fundamentally different from what they have become in the current day.
Halloween is no exception to this. Innocuous things we do today, such as trick-or-treating, were once something done out of the superstitious beliefs. The Celtic people believed that disguising oneself would allow them to navigate the night of Halloween, then called Samhain, without being detected by the ghosts and spirits they thought to walk the earth that night.
Jack-o-lantern carving used to be done with, believe it or not, turnips. The people of Ireland purportedly had a legend surrounding a fellow named Stingy Jack who, upon his death, was forced to walk Earth as a ghost. The lighting of the Jack-o-lanterns was symbolic of a lump of burning coal afforded to him to light his way, according to the legend. Over time, they became a method of fending off marauding evil spirits.
Even trick-or-treating has enjoyed many changes. It was traditionally thought to be something the Celtic people started by leaving out food and drink as peace offerings to passing spirits on the night of Samhain. Over time, and in different regions, the practice transformed into something done by the needy and children to receive food in exchange for prayers for the spirits.
What I found most interesting in my deep dive is that Samhain was celebrated in the same way we observe New Years. For them, it coincided with the end of the harvest season, which was a more apt end of the year for their culture as so much of their daily lives were determined by farming.
This bit of research showed me that there’s so many different ways to celebrate Halloween that there is no such thing as a “wrong” way. Be it bonfires, movie marathons, parties or trick-or-treating the entire Warren County area, there are many ways to celebrate the spooky season this year. I, for one, am going to be settling in with some Halloween favorites such as "Harry Potter," "Halloween Town," "Hocus Pocus" and "American Horror Story."
In spite of what Halloween came from, the fact remains that it is still a holiday worth celebrating today. It is a day, or whole month for some of us, dedicated to spending time with friends and loved ones to enjoy scary movies, stories or simply some good food all in the name of fun. It seems that, at its core, Halloween was always something dedicated to being a time of community togetherness.
Standard reporter Nikki Childers can be reached at 473-2191.