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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Halloween Traditions

Many of the Halloween traditions originated with the pagan religious practices of the Celts later modifying and, in some cases, adopting them. The main origin is the myth that ghosts and other supernatural beings would rise on All Hallows' Eve because they could not come out on All Saints' Day, which followed. with the Catholic Church
The holiday of Halloween is second only to Christmas in popularity in the United States and in money spent. The reasons for this are varied, one being is that it provides a rare opportunity for adults to act out fantasies that are normally not part of the adult landscape. For children, it is a chance to experience the idea of the supernatural in an enjoyable and safe way.
There are numerous popular activities and events that have become Halloween traditions. Most of these are enjoyed by children and adults alike.

1. Trick-or-treating is the most widely recognized Halloween tradition. It is an activity for children in which they proceed from house to house asking for treats such as candy with the question, "Trick or treat?" Trick-or-treating is done with children donning Halloween costumes and it is one of the main traditions of Halloween. It has become socially required that if one lives in a neighborhood with children to purchase candy in preparation for trick-or-treaters.

Trick-or-treating declined in the late 1970s and early '80s with the tainted candy scare. Hospitals even got involved offering free x-ray scans of Halloween candy. This turned out to largely be an urban legend and trick-or-treating is making somewhat of a comeback.

2. Halloween decorations Yard and house decorations, which once were the purview almost solely of the Christmas holiday, are greatly increasing as spending for Halloween continues to climb. Where once it was difficult to find outdoor decor for Halloween, these items are now commonplace. Sheets made to look like ghosts, jack-o'-lanterns, and other ghastly ghouls are favorites. The Halloween equivalent of Christmas lights, primarily in orange, are becoming increasingly a seasonal fixture. In addition, many more homes are now featuring haunted houses. It is no longer a rarity for homeowners to spend large sums of money on Halloween decorations.

3. Halloween carnival are usually put on by service groups, churches, and schools to celebrate Halloween. The carnivals are sometimes called Halloween festivals and are usually held in the latter part of October, shortly before Halloween. They often involve people dressing in costume, typically with a supernatural or horror theme. The people who are working at the event are the ones most likely to be in costume. The carnivals consist of attractions such as haunted houses and haunted walks. There are also games of chance and skill such as cake walks, bobbing for apples, target games, and similar activities.

4. Creatures traditionally associated with Halloween Creatures that are traditionally associated with Halloween fall into three categories, although not necessarily into just one of them. There are the mythical creatures from folklore that have come to be connected with the holiday. Then there are creatures from fiction that are now thought of in relation to Halloween. Finally there are actual creatures that are related to Halloween, although often their relation is established through folklore.

a. Mythical creatures One of Halloween's mythical creatures is a ghost. This is a creature that has a strong connection to the original pagan holiday of Samhain. Another is a ghoul. Ghouls are foul beings that haunt graveyards. Vampires are also prevalent. A vampire is an animated corpse, one of the undead. For it to continue to live it must drink human blood. A werewolf is a human who has been placed under a curse, usually by being bitten by another werewolf, and during a full moon they turn into werewolves. A Halloween witch is a female who engages in magic and casts spells. The male version is generally referred to as a 'warlock' or a 'wizard'.

b. Creatures from fiction Count Dracula is a vampire from fiction that was created by author Bram Stoker. He was loosely based on Vlad Tepes of Romania and our image of him as cultural icon has largely been shaped by the portrayal of him by Bela Lugosi in the 1931 movie version of Dracula. The Grim Reaper, or Death, is another product of literature. He has appeared in many forms in literature for centuries. Today he is normally featured as a skeletal figure wearing a black gown with a cowl. A Halloween mummy is inspired by the 1932 movie The Mummy. This is an Egyptian mummy that has come back to life and is malevolent.

c. Real creatures Bats are very prominent as a Halloween symbol. In folklore bats are closely associated with vampires, who are said to be able to transform into them. Bats are also a symbol of ghosts, death, and disease. Black cats are also very popular during this season. They are traditionally associated with witches or demons. Skeletons are used to symbolize death. Also, spiders, rats, mice, and worms are often included in faux graveyards and haunted houses.

5. Jack-o'-lantern Jack-o'-lanterns are the ubiquitous Halloween symbol. They are made from hollowed out pumpkins with a face carved into them. Often the face is made to appear frightful or humorous. A candle is placed inside the lantern to illuminate it.

From Irish folklore comes the legend of the jack-o'-lantern. A drunkard named Jack stumbled home from a night of drinking at a local tavern. The Devil appeared and demanded that Jack come to Hell with him because of his evil ways. Jack convinced the Devil to climb a nearby tree to pick an apple. As the Devil climbed the tree, Jack carved a cross in the tree's trunk thereby preventing the Devil from coming back down. The Devil demanded that Jack release him. Jack said he would if the Devil promised to never admit him to Hell. The Devil agreed. When Jack died he was too sinful to be allowed into Heaven, but the Devil would not let him into Hell, so Jack carved out one of his turnips, put a candle inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth looking for a place where he could find eternal rest

6. Movies and television The showing and viewing of certain horror and Halloween themed movies and television shows have become Halloween traditions. Some of the perennial horror film classics from the 1930s and '40s that are Halloween staples are Dracula (1931 film) with Bela Lugosi, Frankenstein (1931 film) and The Mummy (1932 film), both with Boris Karloff, and The Wolf Man(1941 film) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi. Also, the animated TV show It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) has become a Halloween favorite.

7. Various other Halloween traditions Bobbing for apples is a game customarily played on Halloween. It consists of putting apples in a container filled with water and then trying to grab them with one's mouth. The practice has been criticized as being unsanitary.

Candy apples, candy corn, pumpkin pie and cider are traditional Halloween food and drink.
Halloween costumes are worn for trick-or-treating, at Halloween parties, and at other Halloween events. They traditionally imitate spooky or supernatural creatures.
Halloween yards are Halloween themed lawns of residences or other buildings.
Haunted walks are walks which feature objects and actors with supernatural and horror motifs.
Orange and black are the traditional Halloween colors.

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