All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, Samhain, Dia De Los Muertos. Five different names that all center around one thing we have come to know worldwide, even if it is celebrated differently: Halloween. Halloween, at least in America, has come to be a night where kids dress up and go around trick or treating, gathering up enough candy for a small army. It may surprise you, though, to know that this wasn’t always how Halloween was celebrated. In fact, it’s because of Disney and Charlie Brown that the United States tradition of trick or treating for candy really blossomed.
In a few weeks’ time, kids all over will be braving the unusual cold Mississippi is experiencing this year, all so they can worry their parents with the overhanging threat of cavities due to the copious amount of treats they’ll be scavenging for. This is how the majority of the world recognizes Halloween nowadays, and while the tradition of trick or treating is centuries old, it’s actually the Spanish cultures which celebrate Dia De Los Muertos that are a little closer to the original aspects of Halloween. In English, Dia De Los Muertos translates to Day of the Dead.
Quite a few people believe this holiday to be a bit morbid; that, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth. In actuality, it’s a day of love and a celebration of life. It’s a day to remember those we’ve lost, a day for families to come together to feast on the impressive displays of food, to light candles on an ofrenda (altar), leave a picture up, or just talk about those you miss, to honor their memory.
While this isn’t exactly how the old holiday of All Saints Day, (adapted from the Celtic tradition of Samhain) was, it’s not far off and has quite similar aspects. Originally, All Saints’ Day was a day used to celebrate and honor the saints and martyrs, celebrated with bonfires, parades, dressing up as angels and saints, and a big feast. It was believed that there was a special bond between the living and the spirits of those in heaven, and on that day the barrier between the two was “thinner”, so people would also pray and set bonfires for loved ones’ souls. This is actually how the tradition of trick or treating came around. People would go door to door and offer to pray for the family’s deceased souls in exchange for a treat, which could be anything from a full meal to a piece of bread.
So while there may be traditions and holidays closer to the origins of Halloween, it seems that aspects of how it’s celebrated in most places have roots in the past. Maybe you haven’t been a fan of the dressing up or the commercialization of the holiday. This year, why don’t you try a new tradition? After all, traditions come from someone deciding to do something new, change something, or revive an older tradition. Whether you like to watch spooky movies, ignore the holiday completely, or pray for a loved one, just remember to have a Happy Halloween!