The time of year has come around again, Halloween is rapidly approaching. Stores are flooded with consumers looking for fake spider webbing, jack-o-lanterns, corn husks, scarecrows, plastic tombstones, gobs of candy and the all-time best seller for Halloween, costumes. This week in writing club we discussed this holiday in great detail and researched the traditions not only here in America, but also in Ireland (the original country to celebrate Halloween) and Mexico (El Dia de los Muertos).
We first learned that Halloween was carried to America via Irish Immigrants during Irelands Great Famine of the 1840's. It has roots in the Celtic Festival of Samhain and the Christian holy day of All Saints' Day. Samhain celebrates the end of harvest season in the Gaelic culture. Ancient Celts associated the dead (buried under ground) with the crops and harvest. So a tradition was born to hold bonfires into which slaughtered livestock were thrown. The only reason costumes were worn was to disguise mortal beings from evil spirits during this celebration. Most of these disguises were ghosts, zombies, witches and other relevant evil-spirited phenomena that could make an appearance during the celebrations.
A far cry from our American take on Halloween, and furthermore, costumes. The National Retail Federation in the United States found that American consumers spent nearly $5 billion on costumes in 2006. I have a feeling that the Ancient Celts would be greatly displeased with a Britney Spears School Girl wanna-be dancing around their bonfire. We, as a group, discussed the overindulgence in the 'ostentatiousness' (putting it very nicely) of female costumes in America. It could be argued that the traditions of Halloween are a bit lost on our generation. So the Writing Club is digging a little deeper and writing essays on the traditions of Halloween in other cultures. Stay tuned to see what we come up with!