‘Tis the season of All Hallows Eve(n).
The commercialization of holidays often means that their historic and geographic origins all but disappear from the public consciousness…spooky! So channel your inner Jack-o-Lantern and rekindle the flame of knowledge with these five tips for celebrating Halloween…geographically.
1. Learn about the geo-historic origins of Halloween: AKA All Hallows Eve(n), All Saints Day, Samhain, Day of the Dead.
Do a wee bit of research on the origins of Halloween–I’ll bet you’ll be surprised. Most scholars connect our modern celebration with the Celtic (Celts–a European cultural group with similar languages inhabiting the modern-day regions of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall (Southwest Engand) and Briton, France) pagan festival of Samhain, meaning “summer’s end.” Ancient Celts believed that Samhain marked a period of transition between the underworld and the “realworld,” when good and bad spirits could wander back and forth between the two. On Samhain, families would honor their ancestors and deceased loved ones, much like a modern All Saints Day or Mexican/Latin American “Day of the Dead” celebration. The practice of wearing costumes began as a way to protect one’s identity from the wrath of evil spirits.
Of course, the British largely tried to quell pagan Celtic rituals, thus the transformation of “Samhain” into the Catholic holiday of “All Hallows Eve(n), the eve (night before) All Saints Day.
2. Think local when planning your Halloween harvest.
The foods we traditionally associate with “Halloween”–pumpkins, apples–were popularized by celebrations of Halloween in the Northeastern United States, where these crops were readily available. The Celts would have originally carved jack-o-lanterns from root vegetables widely available in the British Isles–namely turnips and rutabagas. Use this Eat Local Guide from the National Resource Defense Council to find fall foods produced locally in YOUR area of the country–and try to include these in your Halloween harvest festival. Live in Florida? Skip the pumpkin and try another squash variety.
3. Go on a ghost tour.
Many cities and communities offer
ghost tours recounting tales of historic hauntings and paranormal
activities in the area. They’re fun and educational–make sure to do
your some research afterward to draw your own conclusions about the
truth behind the stories!
4. Plan your route: Create a trick-or-treat map.
In our 2008 October newsletter, we suggested a fun idea to map your
Trick-or-Treat route. So get out the paper and crayons and plan your
night. Or, use an online mapping tool like Google Maps. Where are the
houses that pass out the best candy? Where is your
friend’s Halloween party? Which road are you not allowed to cross
without Mom or Dad?
5. Dress the part.
In need of last-minute costume ideas? Dress up like a globe, compass,
famous explorer, or anything else geographic. Send us your pictures and
we’ll post them on the blog.
Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World
Image courtesy MarthaStewart.com