Wednesday, October 7, 2009

HISTORY of HALLOWEEN in AMERICA

That spooky time of year where children, and some adults as well, dress up in their finest spook-tacular costumes and trick or treat for candy. But where did one of the world’s oldest holidays begin in America?

In the mid-nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants, bringing with them their varied Halloween customs. The millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft. In Maryland and the southern colonies, the customs of different European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians, wove a distinct American version of Halloween.

At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate. Parties focused on games, foods of the season, and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of their efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.





HISTORY of the JACK-O-LANTERN

Today, we think of Jack-o-Lanterns as the carved pumpkins with candles lighting them from within; but did you know that the Jack-o-Lantern actually has deep historical roots and originally didn't even involve a pumpkin? The Jack-o-Lantern stems from an old Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack.



Stingy Jack

According to the story, Stingy Jack, an Irish blacksmith and notorious drunk, had the great misfortune to run into the Devil in a pub. Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a sixpence that Jack could use to buy their drinks in exchange for Jack's soul. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack and not try to claim his soul for ten years. When the ten years had passed, Jack ran into the Devil as he walked down a country road. The Devil was anxious to claim what was due but Jack stalled. Jack thought quickly and said to the devil. "I'll go, but before I go, will you get me an apple from that tree?" The Devil thinking he had nothing to lose climbed the tree as Jack pointed to the choicest apple. Perturbed, the Devil climbed high into the tree after the apple Jack selected. When he was high up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down. Jack, very proud of himself made the Devil promise to never again ask him for his soul. Seeing no other choice the Devil reluctantly agreed.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. Being unable to go to heaven or hell Jack asked the Devil where he should go. The Devil only replied, "Back where you came from!" The way back was very dark so Jack begged the Devil to at least give him a light to find his way. The Devil tossed Jack burning coal from the fire of hell to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern." Today we commonly spell it jack-o-lantern or jack-o'-lantern.


In Ireland and Scotland, people believed that spirits and ghosts could enter their world on Halloween. These spirits and ghosts would be attracted to the comforts of their earthly lives. People not wanting to be visited by these ghosts would set food and treats out to appease the roaming spirits and began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack-o'-lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o'-lanterns. They were softer and easier to carve than the turnips and potatoes of their homeland.

So remember this Halloween when you are carving your pumpkin the moral of the story of Stingy Jack.




BOBBING FOR APPLES

When the Celts were absorbed by the Roman Empire, many rituals of Roman origin began. Among them was the worship of Pomona, goddess of the harvest, often portrayed sitting on a basket of fruits and flowers. Apples were the sacred fruit of the goddess, and many games of divination involving them entered the Samhain customs.



HALLOWEEN MASQUERADE MASK


From earliest times people wore masks when droughts or other disasters struck. They believed that the demons that had brought their misfortune upon them would become frightened off by the hideous masks. Even after the festival of Samhain had merged with Halloween, Europeans felt uneasy at this time of the year. Food was stored in preparation for the winter and the house was snug and warm. The cold, envious ghosts were outside, and people who went out after dark often wore masks to keep from being recognized.


CANDY CORN HISTORY

Candy corn has a legacy that goes back over a hundred years. The Philadelphia-based Wunderlee Candy Company's George Renninger, invented this popular candy back in the 1880's. Then Gustav Goelitz, a German immigrant, began commercial production of the treat in 1898 in Cincinnati and is today the oldest manufacturer of the Halloween icon. The Goelitz Candy Company later became the Jelly Belly Candy Company and they continue to make candy corn today. Candy corn's introduction gained instant popularity among farmers due to its appearance of an actual piece of corn. Additionally, the three color on a single candy was revolutionary in its day.Today, nearly 8.3 billion candy corn kernels are sold every year - 80% of which are sold during the months of September and October!

From all of us at WSOAPP....


1 comment:

peggy said...

these stories were very interesting, I am enjoying your posts.