Halloween: the most fun and fearsome time of year! For decades, people have donned odd and amusing costumes for trick-or-treating and parties, but where did this tradition begin?
According to folklore, Halloween originates from the Celtic festival of Samhain, the most important holiday of the Celtic year. It was believed that during Samhain, ghosts were able to mingle with the living. To prepare for the dead’s arrival, people lit bonfires to aid the ghosts on their journey and to keep them far away from people still living.
The spread of Christianity diminished these traditional pagan practices but they did not die out completely, or Oct. 31 would be just like any other day. By forcing the Celtics to celebrate All Saints Day, the Christian celebration was coined as “All Hallows” and Halloween became “All Hallows Eve.” People continued to associate All Hallows Eve with supernatural and superstitious notions and traditional practices endured. Today, we can trace all our Halloween traditions, such as trick-or-treating and mischief night, back to the “Ancient Celtic Day of the Dead.”
Though in the United States we celebrate the holiday by going door to door for candy and toys dressed as any character under the sun, not all countries in the world celebrate Halloween this way. In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, Halloween is referred to as Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Day. The Day of the Dead includes a three-day celebration beginning on Oct.31. Families build alters to honor their deceased relatives. These alters are colorfully decorated with flowers, photos and favorite foods and drinks. Families also light candles to assist the dead in finding their way home.
In Germany, people put away their knives to prevent being hurt by returning spirits on Halloween night. Also, major German cities celebrate in similar style to America by dressing up in costumes to go to parties and local bars.
The film-making industry has run wild with Halloween. From haunted flicks to laughable horrors, there are plenty of movies to match this haunted holiday season. Get into the seasonal mood and curl up under a blanket with hot cider and watch childhood favorites like “Halloweentown,” “Twitches,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Addams Family” and any Tim Burton film ever made. Tune in on Oct.19 for the start of ABC Family’s (I mean Freeform’s) Thirteen Nights of Halloween. On Halloween night, the channel will have a “Hocus Pocus” marathon running all day. If “Hocus Pocus” is not your favorite, go to Disney Channel for a “Halloweentown” marathon in honor of Debbie Reynolds (Aggie Cromwell) who passed away last December. Some of the original “Halloweentown” cast, including Kimberly J. Brown (Marney Piper), are gathering together in St. Helens, Oregon to honor Reynolds. St. Helens, where the first movie was filmed, tries to recreate the scenes from the movie series every year with a festival called The Spirit of Halloweentown. The event even includes a lighting of the huge jack-o’-lantern in the town square. A monument dedication will also occur this year to honor Reynolds and her movies.
With all the movies to watch this October, don’t forget about the many Halloween events going on nearby! The West Chester area and Greater Philadelphia Region are truly getting into the Halloween spirit by putting on many fun and fearsome activities. In town, West Chester is hosting the annual Halloween Parade starting at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25. Also in the area, the university is hosting the 4th Annual West Chester University Stomps Cancer Halloween Costume 5k and Fun Walk on October 22nd. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so come out to the 5k and show your support. In addition, the West Chester railroad has been hosting a Great Pumpkin Express and a Fall Foliage Express. Reserve tickets now because spots are filling fast!
If you love a good scare, visit Bates Motel and the Eastern State Penitentiary (go at your own risk). If ghosts and zombies are not your cup of tea, visit Highland Orchards for pumpkin and apple picking and delicious apple cider. Not a far drive from town, Chadds Ford is hosting a Great Pumpkin Carve from Oct. 19 to 21. The festival includes local artists displaying huge hand-carved pumpkins, local bands offering live music, festival food, and haunted hayrides. Admission for adults is $10. Lastly, The Glow: A Jack O’Lantern Experience is happening for the first time in Philadelphia. More than 5,000 hand carved pumpkins will be displayed down Jack’s Lane.
There is just so much to do this October and so little time! Happy Halloween!
Maria Marabito is a first-year student majoring in English on the writing track. She can be reached at MM883631@wcupa.edu.