One of the Major Holiday Events: Halloween

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As the seasons begin to change from Summer to Autumn, society begins to look forward to three major holiday events: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. All of these holidays have traditions and customs that we continue to follow every year. The one that I want to focus on for this paper is Halloween. Halloween, which comes from an early rituals of Samhain, was a time of the year that showed the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was a time in which the Celts celebrated the dead and the supernatural. During this time the veil, a psychic barrier between dimensions, was considered thin giving people increased physic abilities. As time has gone by, this holiday has changed and developed into a something new.

Many of these changes to this Pagan holiday were brought by the Church to change these rituals into a style that fit their beliefs and rituals. This began the evolution to the holiday that we know today as Halloween. In this paper I will describe how even as these rituals are not practiced the same as the Celts did, we still follow the same rituals in America as the Celts did as we prepare for a night of trick or treating with jack-o’-lanterns, giving out candy and dressing up.

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Like many American families, Halloween was a such a big holiday that my family celebrated and one of my favorite things to do was to carve pumpkins. I loved carving the different faces and lightning the candle to have it glow on our porch all night long on Halloween. This ritual actually dates back to early Irish folklore of “Stingy Jack”. The story tales the tale of man who wanted to have a drink with the devil but did not want to pay for his drink and tricked the devil into turning himself into a coin so that he could pay for the drink – essentially give him the nickname Sting Jack. 

With the Devil upset by what Jack had done, he would not allow him into hell, and instead gave him a carved-out turnip with a burning coal in it and left him to roam the Earth. As this story was passed down, many countries began to carve their native fruit with scary faces and placing them in placed where they could be seen so that wandering spirits would not bother them.

While other countries use them to ward off evil, America had adapted this ritual, but with a different meaning. As this yearly ritual has developed in America, Americans have lost the story behind the jack-o’-lantern and made it a symbol of Halloween. Families now look at carving pumpkins as a family activity, which welcomes people to their door, instead to keep the ghosts and demons away.

Moving to the rituals of costumes, dressing up as ghouls and demons has been a ritual that has been passed down for many centuries. The idea of dressing up in costumes has a few different reasonings. Some people claim that dressing up was another way to ward off the evil spirits that roamed during Halloween night. Other sources say that this celebrated the veil being thin and would dress up as ghouls and ghosts to “walk among the dead”. Nancy Deihl of New York University states that “Anonymity was a big part of the costumes,' she added. 'The whole point of dressing up was to be completely in disguise”. While both be part of the same celebration, they both talk about going to other people’s houses to get treats.

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