It’s that time again this year when many pumpkins are mutilated into grotesque-looking faces.
It’s the season of black cats, bats and skeleton decorations.
And, it’s that time when little kids, and some adults, too, get dressed in costumes to go trick-or-treating in neighborhoods, or go trunk-or-treating at Halloween events.
It’s a night of monsters and princesses, athletes and nuns.
It’s a night to pretend, and of course, to collect candy.
Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, is observed in many countries each year on Oct. 31.
It is the day before the Christian holiday, All Saints Day (All Hallows’ Day).
Early origins of Halloween are believed to date back to the ancient Celtic people living in present day Ireland, Scotland and England, according to the History Channel’s website, History.com.
Articles on the website detail how the Halloween season have evolved over time.
The Celts celebrated ‘Samhain,’ which signified the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter, the website says. The ancient Samhain festivities included community bonfires with Druid priests, cattle sacrifice and fortune-telling.
It was also believed during Samhain that the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world was thin, and that the dead would be able to cross over to visit. They would leave food around the home, and in the fields, as an offering for these unworldly guests.
The Celts also believed that evil spirits were able to walk among the living during this time, so they would dress up as animals and monsters, as a way to keep these spirits away, the website reports.
As time went on, another way to scare off malevolent entities became increasingly popular.
Even though the practice of carving vegetables is known throughout time in many cultures around the world, the earliest form of the Halloween jack o’ lantern began popping up outside of homes in Ireland and Scotland in the early 19th century.
While History.com reports that jack o’ lanterns from this era were made from turnips, other websites report that they were also made from potatoes, rutabagas and beets, as well.
Frightening faces would be carved into these vegetables, and small coals or candles were placed inside. They were placed inside windows and around the home in hopes to keep the wicked spirits at bay.
The name jack o’ lantern or ‘jack of the lantern’ originates from the Irish folklore story, ‘The Legend of Stingy Jack.’ The story is about a man named Jack, who after being banished from both Heaven and Hell, began to roam the Earth with just a burning coal that he placed inside of a turnip as he searches for a place to rest, according to History.com.
In the mid-1880s, the Irish and Scottish began settling in North America, bringing along their Halloween traditions.
And, it was here in America, that the pumpkin was first used to create their jack o’ lanterns — now the iconic symbol of Halloween.
Halloween became a major holiday in North America during the early part of the 20th century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that going door-to-door in costumes became known as trick-or-treating.
Trick-or-treating also has an interesting history.
In his book, “Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night,” Nicholas Rogers explains that it evolved from the ancient practices of “mumming,” “guising” and “souling.”
Early “mumming” and “guising” involved going door-to-door in costume, to recite a poem, perform a song, a joke, a skit, or some kind of ‘trick,’ in exchange for food or drink.
In later years, poor people would visit wealthy homes to pray for the souls of the homeowner’s dead relatives, in exchange for pastries called ‘soul cakes’ and money. That practice was called “souling.”
History.com reports that it wasn’t until after World War II that the candy bar replaced the coins and cakes, becoming a popular reward for trick-or-treaters.
By Christine Holtzman
Witches and goblins, and candy galore
It’s a season for trips to the pumpkin patch, kids dressing to go trick-or-treating and families passing out candy from their front porch, or from the trunk of their car.
Local churches, libraries and schools got in on the act, and offered a variety of activities for all ages.
In Land O’ Lakes, Harvester Community Church hosted its annual pumpkin patch for kids to play in, and choose their favorite pumpkin to take home.
San Antonio Elementary School in Dade City drew a crowd of people to its Trunk or Treat, where costumed kids got to trick-or-treat among Halloween-themed cars.
And, at the Land O’ Lakes Library, families could carve, decorate and paint pumpkins, to celebrate the holiday.
By Mary Rathman
Published October 30, 2019