With its creepy, spooky origin and excited young children dressed for trick or treat fun, Halloween remains a fright night phenomenon to incite everything from hair-raising fun and revelries to scary things that go bump in the night.
Children and adults around the world dress up as everything from their favorite superhero characters and celebrities to their worst nightmares as witches, ghosts and goblins who knock on doors in search of treats.
Many residents have planned for this occasion as early as September in preparation for the one day when the worse a person looks, the better. Some even dress their home to look like a house of horrors in celebration of the macabre.
Kellie Daugherty, a Cleveland native, said she loves decorating her home for Halloween.
“You can go to the extreme with it or you can just put a few things up in your yard,” she said. “I have three children. My oldest is dressing up in 1960s attire with hippie pants and go-go boots. The middle one is going as a nerd and the baby is going as a blue man — off the Blue Man Band.”
According to Daughtery, the most noticable changes in Halloween customs seen in her lifetime involve the precautions parents must take to ensure their children’s safety.
“I lived on the other side of the street from where I live now,” she explained. “My parents gave us a black trash bag and we would go through the whole neighborhood by ourselves. You don’t even imagine doing that today. Back then it was normal. You never saw children with their parents. You just saw kids running. There were never any cars either. Parents didn’t drive when they went with their kids. All you’d see was people walking, which I wish they still had it that way. It’s scary having kids out there with cars going.”
Few changes have occurred over the centuries since Halloween, one of the world’s oldest holidays, became a global phenomenon.
Regarding its outset, history.com. states, “Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on Nov. 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of Oct. 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
Who or what is Samhain? The Encyclopedia Americana reveals: “The Celts had festivals for two major gods — a sun god (called Lug) and a god of the dead, called Samhain, whose festival was held on Nov. 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year.”
Philip Carr-Gomm related in his book, “Elements of the Druids in England,” that “Time was abolished for the three days of this festival and people did crazy things, men dressed as women and women as men ... children would knock on neighbors’ doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today, in a watered down way, in the custom of trick-or-treating on Halloween.”
He added, “With the coming of Christianity, this festival turned into Halloween, Oct. 31, All Hallows (All Saints Day), Nov. 1 and All Souls Day, Nov. 2. Here we can see most clearly the way in which Christianity built on pagan foundations it found rooted in these (British) isles.”
History.com explained, “In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated Nov. 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 Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating.”
In his book “Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca,” author Isaac Bonewits said, “Halloween is a time to lift the veil between many material and spiritual worlds in divination, so as to gain spiritual insight about our past and futures ... to deepen our connection to the gods and goddesses we worship.”
For such reasons, some choose not to celebrate Halloween while others see it as harmless fun for adults and children. Whether it is viewed as harmless fun, a seasonal tradition, sacred rites or something supernatural to avoid, Halloween has no skeletons in its closet. Even unmasked, it is still as scary as ever.