Sunday 30 October 2016

Happy Halloween

Tomorrow  is Halloween: a fun time for both children and adults. If you have little trick-or-treaters, here's some safety tips from Reader's Digest

1. Plan a route in advance.

Map out a route before leaving home. Stick to paths that you and your child are familiar with to avoid getting lost.

2. Wear comfy shoes.

Make sure you and your children are in comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Girls in dresses should avoid heels, and all shoelaces should be double-tied to avoid tripping in the dark.

3. Stay well-lit.

Apply reflective tape to your child’s costume to ensure they are seen by drivers on the road. Also, carry a flashlight with you to keep your child’s path lit at all times.

4. Make sure all costumes are short.

Long costumes that drag on the ground can be dangerous, especially at night. After purchasing your child’s costume, make sure it’s an appropriate length, and hem anything that’s too long to avoid tripping.

5. Avoid masks.

Masks can make it difficult for your child to see or breathe. If possible, skip the mask altogether and use non-toxic make-up to complete the costume instead.

6. Use flexible props.

Try to avoid costumes that have weapons as accessories. But if your child’s costume won’t be complete without a weapon, make sure it is rubber or plastic. Choose a prop that won’t cause injury to your child or their friends.

7. Check your child’s candy.

When sorting through candy at the end of the night, be sure to throw away any candy that is not in its original wrapper, or looks as though it has been opened.

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Monday 17 October 2016

The Origins of Halloween: Second Installment

Here are some fun facts regarding Halloween:

Originally, Jack-o-lanterns were carved from turnips because pumpkins were not grown in Ireland. An ember was placed inside to ward off evil spirits. To find out the various stories behind "Jack" please click here.

The tradition of bobbing for apples dates back to the Roman invasion of Britain when the conquering army merged their own celebrations with traditional Celtic festivals. The Romans brought with them the apple tree representative of the goddess of fruit trees, Pomona.

It was during the 1950s that candy became popular as a treat for children.Throughout the 1960s, other treats were still offered, and it wasn't until the 1970s that candy came to be seen as the only legitimate treat.  An average Jack-o-lantern bucket holds about 250 pieces of candy with about 9,000 calories and about three pounds of sugar.

 In Canada, Halloween is a billion dollar industry with holiday-related spending that is second only to Christmas.

Monday 10 October 2016

The Origins of Halloween, First Installment

In the lead-up to October 31st, I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts on the origins of Halloween and its evolving traditions.

Halloween’s origins date back two thousand years to the Celts, who lived in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1, which marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter: a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-in), when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins.
After the Roman Empire conquered the majority of Celtic territory, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. (The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees.)

The later influence of Christianity also affected the Celtic rituals. The Celtic festival of the dead was eventually replaced with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls' Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. It was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas and the night before it--the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion--began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

The celebration of Halloween in North America reflected the influence of the different European ethnic groups who settled there. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds.

The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food, and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. This practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling,” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.


Stay tuned for the second installment in next week's post. 

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, they would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.