Ghouls, Ghosts and Gruesome Goings on

 

happysamhain-jpgby Saira Viola

Why celebrate All Hallows Eve, and what ‘s the reason for tiny tots donning scary frocks and demanding candy with menace?

Halloween, Devils Night — call it what you will — only rivals Christmas in terms of world-wide popularity and is uniquely American in its razzamatazz and showbiz glorification of all things scary. According to stats the average family in the US will fork out 75 bucks on candy, costumes and general carousing. But why and how did this yearly scream fest begin?

Well, allegedly it all dates back to the Celtic festival of Samhain. That’s right, blame it on the Irish who kick-started this annual shindig by marking the 31st October as the end of Summer and a time when the souls of the dead return for one night to walk the earth. The powers of the dead and the gateway to the hereafter soon took on more sinister overtures, but what exactly does that have to do with carving pumpkins and jack o lanterns?

Again, it’s based on Irish folklore. ‘Stingy Jack’ apparently invited the devil to have a drink with him, but true to his nature didn’t want to pay for that drink so he persuaded Satan to turn himself into a coin. ‘Stingy Jack’ didn’t stop there and was always scamming the devil. Eventually banished from both heaven and from hell, ‘Stingy Jack’ spent Eternity roaming the earth with a carved-out turnip lit by coal .

samhain_pg_2_by_brightstone-d3am3faSo what about Trick or Treat? The idea behind it stems from the poor praying for the souls of the dead in return for food and disguising themselves as supernatural beings to fool the dead. Hence the crazy costumes. How this morphed into children going door to door demanding candy “or else” is still shrouded in mystery but most probably is due to a marketing genius. The first recorded use of the Trick or Treat phrase was in 1927 middle America. More latterly Urban Dictionary suggested the term is used by Southern gentleman to describe dates with Southern females and how much money is spent on them.

And now ?

Well, this year the Vatican has declared Halloween a ‘celebration of fear death and terror’ and in another controversial move the Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina, intend to hold a ritualized burning of every English bible, claiming that they are all satanic except for the St. James’s version.

So, get your spook on, or don’t, but remember wherever there’s a scary myth a scary fact will followwwwww.