Halloween: A Brief History

Halloween is yet another party for which we can thank the Irish, even though the pagan rites it represents were also practiced in England.

More than 2,000 years ago, the Celts and their Druid priests in Britain and Ireland celebrated an annual festival called Samhain, when evil spirits and the souls of the dead could return to earth. The Druids sacrificed animals and people to appease the goblins, and also left out “treats” of food to prevent their ghastly visitors from performing a “trick.”

The Celts’ descendants, particularly in Ireland, maintained shadows of these traditions even after the Druid rites were forgotten. People dressed as evil spirits and went from home to home demanding “treats,” sometimes carrying a demon face made with a candlelit, hollowed-out turnip. They also had parties with rites to divine the future. For example, anyone who could retrieve an apple from a tub of water with their mouth was destined to enjoy a year of good luck.

The Catholic Church tried to eliminate the pagan rites by creating an alternate holiday –- All Saints’ Day on November 1, to be preceded by All Hallows’ Evening, which is where the name Halloween derives. The new name took off, but people still enjoyed wearing the accoutrements of witchcraft one day a year. Around the eighth century, the Christian church made November 1 All Saints' Day to honor all of the saints that didn't have a special day of their own. Over the years these festivals combined, the mass held on All Saints' Day was called Allhallowmas. The night before was known as All Hallows Eve. Eventually this name became Halloween.

Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine in the mid-1800s brought the customs to the United States. In those days, people not willing to feed a trick-or-treating Irishman might awaken on November 1 to find their outhouse overturned.

American movies have spread the holiday worldwide, although outside the English-speaking world, it is still mostly a curiosity. However, with the spread of paganism in the 1990s, some groups are trying to rediscover the original meaning of Samhain. If you meet somebody who professes to be doing this, don’t let them show you any handcuff tricks. Give them a treat and send them on their way.

Halloween was not always a happy time. October 31, or the night before took on other names. Some called it Devil's or Hell night, to others it was mischief night. To some people this became a time to play tricks on others. Some of these tricks were not fun at all. Luckily, community groups and individuals took action and started to change Halloween into a family event. Dressing up in costumes and going "trick or treating", costume parades, community parties and Fall festivals are some of the ways that Halloween is celebrated today.

Halloween Candy: The Yuck List :o)

What prepares us for the disappointment of a bad date? Bad Halloween candy. And if the candy’s bad enough, who knows what we might do before they reach dating age.

Don’t let your treats send us up a Texas observation tower.

Here is what not to give

Bit O’Honey: Old people candy. The wrapping is in old people colors, and the taste of honey is something old people like because they didn’t have chocolate in their day, not unless Pa brought it back from Sleepy Eye or Mankato. That’s what all kids think, anyway. You’re not old — your candy shouldn’t be, either.

Fruit: Inevitably there’s a bowl of scarred Delicious apples lurking within one house. Sacrilege. The pumpkin is to Halloween what the lion is to the jungle — you can’t challenge its rule by introducing another fruit or vegetable into the environment. Besides, when you give candy you give the grade-school teachers a challenge on November 1st. They live for that stuff!

Toothbrushes: When you go to a party, you bring flowers or wine, not a broom. Please, no matter how much you care about periodontal health, give something that adds to the celebration, not the cleanup.

Raisins: See “fruit.” Only more so, because these are dried versions of fruit, and they get all mushed together, and you have to dig them out with your fingernails. That is, you would have to if you cared enough to go digging to the bottom. If that’s not enough to dissuade you, here’s an adult argument: Raisins are just as bad for teeth as any candy, because they get stuck in molars and their sugars cause tooth decay.

Necco wafers: “Hard” and “dusty” are two unwelcome qualities in candy. These wafers are both, combining the texture of slate with an undertaste of convalescent-home mints. It’s easy to confuse the black (licorice) with the purple (grape), so these discs are hazardous for licorice haters. Plus, the wax-paper wrapping reminds one of butter quarters.

Popcorn: In any form. Popcorn balls are brittle and an unsatisfying treat to take to lunch the next day. Popcorn popped at home and packed into plastic bags gets stale and leaves greasy butter marks on the plastic. If it’s unbuttered, it’s often stale and tasteless. Save yourself some trouble and leave the popcorn to the movie theatres.

Dum-dums: They can’t fool us; those aren’t real lollipops. They’re not big enough, for one thing. And for another, the colors are muted. What candy does that? This, together with the insulting name and their tendency to have a gooey melted crust on the outside, makes these suckers, well, suck. Boost the kids’ self esteem with some Smarties instead.

Anything not individually wrapped: These Halloween stragglers always get left at the bottom of the bag to mingle in each other’s juices. A handful of sweaty candy corn here, a couple of peanuts there, a sad Vienna finger. Once marked with the taint of unwrappedness, they lose their appeal. If you want to give small sweets, wrap them in cellophane and tie them with a length of string — it looks better, it’s hygienic and it will get eaten.


A bald-headed ghost drank some witches' brew
And on top of his head a strange thing grew.

It was pointed and tall and black as a bat
With stringy long hair where his head was flat.

The sad little ghost didn't want any hair
Or a black pointed hat so he said, "Witch beware!"
Then he chanted some words with a spell-casting switch
And gave Halloween Night a bald-headed witch!!

~Barbara M. Hales~

Witches' Hats
1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate squares -- melted
1 c miniature marshmallows -- melted
3 tbsps corn syrup
3 c puffed rice cereal
12 ozs semisweet chocolate chips -- melted
Preheat oven to 350. In a saucepan, melt unsweetened chocolate and
marshmallows. Add corn syrup. While chocolate is melting, place
puffed cereal in a shallow pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Then, place in
prepared bowl. Pour chocolate mixture over puffed cereal. Stir to
coat cereal evenly. Form into 8 cones, flattening large end to make
brim. In a double boiler, melt chocolate chips. Dip cones into melted
chocolate to coat. Place on waxed paper to cool and harden.

12 ozs semisweet chocolate chips -- melted
2 cups chow mein noodles
40 pcs M&M's chocolate baking bits
In a double boiler, melt chocolate chips. Stir in noodles. Drop by spoonsful onto waxed paper. Add 2 pieces chocolate baking bits for eyes.
NOTE: Add 2 to 4 tablespoons water, if needed, to thin chocolate.

Day After Halloween
-Shel Silverstein

Skeletons, spirits and haunts,
Skeletons, spirits and haunts.
It's a halloween sale:
A nickel a pail
For skeletons, spirits and haunts.

Skeletons, spirits and haunts,
More than most anyone wants.
Will you pay for a shock,
'Cause we're quite overstocked
On skeletons, spirits and haunts.


Spooktacular Halloween Links

An AWESOME Halloween Site
Adopt a Ghost
Goosebumps Ghoulish Gathering
Halloween on the Net
Halloween Tricks and Treats
Grandpa Tucker's Halloween
Alphabet Soup's Halloween Page
Ben and Jerry's Halloween Page
The Golden Rules of Halloween Safety



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