Ghosts Goblins

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 28, 2004

It’s Halloween and that means little ghosts and goblins will abound both Saturday and Sunday evening, so drive with caution.

In my life, I cannot remember having two nights to go trick-or-treating. I do not remember, either, Halloween ever being celebrated on a Sunday.

In the 1990s, Oct. 31 fell on a Sunday. On that particular year, everyone uniformly acknowledged Saturday as the day to trick-or-treat.

This year, however, towns throughout the area and across the state are allowing trick-or-treating to be held Saturday and/or Sunday and in some cases, both nights.

I can’t help but wish we could stick with &uot;celebrating&uot; Halloween on Saturday in such a situation. I suppose that comes from my narrow-mindedness.

In reality, if we are not celebrating the occult side of Halloween, it really shouldn’t matter when the trick-or-treating takes place… I suppose.

But that brings me to the topic of this column today – the origin of Halloween.

Like many aspects of today’s Christmas traditions such as Santa Claus and the evergreen tree we commonly refer to as the Christmas tree, Halloween traditions are hand me downs of old Pagan rituals, superstition and quite possibly even have some Catholic background.

Halloween is derived from an ancient European celebration known as &uot;All Hallows Eve.&uot;

All Hallows Day, also known as All Saints Day, was held on Nov. 1. Thus the day before became known as All Hallows Eve and later called Halloween.

All Hallows Eve was an ending of one season and the beginning of the next, and was a time of great harvest and celebration as the people of the day celebrated the changing from summer to fall as they prepared for winter.

The dark side of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, comes about from, literally, the fear of the dead.

Many believed that on this day, Oct. 31, the spirits of the dead returned looking for other lost souls to take over.

Possibly as much superstitiously then as today, the living did not want to be taken over by the spirits of the dead so it became somewhat a ritual to dress in costume and to walk around making lots of noise in a way to ward off the evil.

It is believed that the Catholics continued to celebrate what was called Samhain (original name for the changing of the seasons) and with this continued celebration or acknowledgment, the traditions of what we today know as Halloween began to transform.

Looking back at trick-or-treating, some believe this tradition may have developed from a Catholic tradition held on Nov. 2 where people went door-to-door asking for small cakes in return for prayers for loved ones who had died in the house.

The ancient belief was that when a person died their soul was in limbo – not being able to enter Heaven or hell. They believed prayers could help determine the fate of these souls. Because the saints of the Catholic Church were honored on All Saints Day (Nov. 1), the tradition of going door-to-door would have come the following day as the people began their new season.

The black cat and the jack-o-lantern also come about during this same period, both of which have somewhat twisting origins.

The best origin of the jack-o-lantern comes from folklore of the devil and a man named Jack.

As the story goes, Jack tricked the devil into climbing a tree and then he marked the bottom of the tree with a cross which prevented the devil from exiting the tree.

The devil then made a deal with Jack that he would not go to hell when he died if he would remove the cross from the tree.

When Jack died, he did not go to hell, but because he had made a deal with the devil he was also not allowed into Heaven, thus he was forced to wander the earth for eternity with a single candle to light his way.

The story adds that Jack placed the candle in a turnip to keep it burning longer.

Over time, and as the Irish moved to America, the tradition of keeping the candle lit longer was changed to placing it in a pumpkin – thus today’s carved masterpieces we continue to call the jack-o-lantern.

The black cat is simply an unfortunate creature that has come to be associated with bad luck, witchcraft and unbelievable prophetic abilities.

Because of the solid black color and the fact that cats are somewhat nocturnal, the cat – over time – slipped into the darkness of night and into the eerie realms of tradition that today place this felines in a world shrouded by mystery and evil. Poor kitty.

Witches, ghosts, goblins and the devil have all been linked to evil and to the mysterious world outside of our own that seems to somewhat challenge our imagination. Because of this simple fact, these characters – if you will – have long been associated with Halloween and paved a tradition of favorite costumes.

As the years continue to go by, we see more and more non-traditional costumes that have now become tradition such as dressing as famous people, characters and even items.

There are countless ways of looking at Halloween in both a positive and negative light. It can be made into anything good or bad, it just depends on how a person wishes to make it out to be.

Many people are not in favor of celebrating Halloween at all. Some think that it is the work of the devil to keep this tradition alive.

Others have accepted that, as long as there is no devil or occult worship involved, the simple act of going door-to-door donning the creativity of a child in costume is harmless.

I suppose the little things that go bump in the night get a little louder this time of year… can’t find too much wrong with that can we?

In a nutshell, Halloween is what you make it. So if you make it a night of going trick-or-treating, be sure to check today’s (Thursday) front page to determine when you may do so.

And no matter what you think of it, be careful as you drive around this weekend. Just because you do not feel the holiday should be observed doesn’t mean the children won’t be out there.

Happy Halloween.