Students become so excited about the Halloween customs. For some families, and communities, Halloween is controversial because of the pagan connection, as well as for safety issues, i.e. accepting candy from strangers, walking around in the dark. Some parents feel the ghosts and monster images are frightening for children. Modern day witches also feel that they are being misrepresented.
I think it is important to give the students background information on Halloween. They need to understand why they say "trick-or- treat, why candy is given and why they wear costumes.
So, let me share some facts with you:
- The name Halloween comes from "Hallow's Eve"
- It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.
- In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, "All Saints' Day" incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.
- The evening before was known as All Hallow's Eve and later Halloween.
- Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating.
- In medieval times, on All Souls'Day, (10th century Christians organized All Saints' Day to recognize all dead people), people made soul cakes. Children would go door-to-door begging for the cakes, hence trick-or treating. For every cake a child collected, they would have to say a prayer for the dead relatives of the person who gave the cake, which helped the dead relatives find their way out of purgatory and into heaven.
- Jack-o'-lanterns: As part of the Samhain celebration, Celts would bring home an ember from the communal bonfire at the end of the night. They carried these embers in hollowed-out turnips, creating a lantern resembling the modern day jack-o'-lantern. There are also Irish folk tales related to the significance of the jack-o'-lanterns.
- Another connection, The Days of the Dead, (Los Dias de los Muertos) celebrated in Mexico. This is a day for for families to remember the deceased. It's a time marked by festivities, including parades of skeletons and ghouls. Revelers lead amock funeral procession with a live person in the coffin.