What is Halloween all about?

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Halloween is lurking around the corner and the anticipation of the holiday season is in the air. We can look forward to costumes, parties, spooky decorations and the never ending supply of sugary treats straight through until January. While it is easy to get caught up in the fun, Halloween is an ancient celebration that has its roots in paganism and is celebrated throughout the world as a time to remember our ancestors.

While the modern celebration is more about costumes and candy, Halloween evolved from the Celtic holiday, Samhain, which marked the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. It is believed that this transition between seasons provided a bridge between worlds. This is the time when the veil between the living and dead is the thinnest and communication with the deceased is accessible.

Samhain was a fire festival where bonfires were lit on hilltops. The villagers would honor the Gods with gifts of food. An ember would be taken from the fire to relight the hearth at home. The ember was carried in a pumpkin, with a carved face to scare away evil spirits through the dark walk home. They dressed in costume to keep the spirits at bay.

Trick or Treating evolved from the tradition of folks dressing up to impersonate souls of the dead while receiving an offering of food on their behalf.

Latin cultures celebrate Dios De La Muerte on November 1st to honor loved ones that have passed over. This is a joyous celebration where altars are filled with fruit, candies and candles in memory of friends and family. There is a parade where revelers dress up as skeletons, ghosts and mummies. Graves are visited and decorated with flowers by family members.

All Saints Day is a Christian holiday also celebrated on November 1st to honour all the known and unknown saints. Many churches take this day to remember members of the congregation that have passed.

Having an understanding of the holiday and the reasons behind the revelry gives us a framework for our own lives and an appreciation for those that have gone before us. Educating our children keeps the traditions and stories alive. Regardless of your beliefs, take a moment amidst the debauchery to reflect, remember and honor your loved ones that have passed.