Although some retailers are already putting up their Christmas displays, we like to take things one holiday at a time, and in just a few weeks, little ghouls and goblins will be making their rounds, along with princesses, sci-fi characters and more than a few superheroes thrown in for good measure. Grown ups will get in on the action as well, with an assortment of fun, frivolous and sometimes slightly naughty costumes of their own. Halloween is an opportunity to act out your favorite fantasy, if only for one night, without anyone thinking you’re in need of psychiatric care. It’s also a chance to get together with friends, celebrate the last days of nice weather before cold sets in, enjoy the warm smiles and laughter of children indulging in too many treats, and maybe even overindulge a bit yourself.
Halloween began as an ancient Celtic celebration of the harvest, on a night when it was said that the boundary between living and dead was at its nadir. The wearing of costumes or masks in order to placate the spirits goes back centuries, as do bonfires and many of the other traditions we associate with Halloween.
Although there were certainly harvest festivals and some celebrations on October 31st (the eve of All Saints Day) even during colonial times, Halloween really took hold in the United States in the mid-to-late 19th century, as Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine of 1846 came to America and brought their Halloween customs and traditions with them. The practice of going door to door asking for treats is one such popular custom that survives today.
Although there have been attempts through the years to tame Halloween of it’s more frightening aspects, as well as many of the religious connotations, it remains a time of spooks, spiders, witches, black cats and other scary symbols.
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