Happy Halloween from the Jefferson County Post!

The spookiest holiday that takes America by storm time and time again is upon us! Halloween is more than basic trick-or-treating. It is a scary rite of passage, from haunted houses, to hayrides, to the pumpkins, to picking out the perfect costume. Halloween today is a far cry from its humble ceremonial origins. How did this creepy cultural juggernaut make its way onto the scene?

Halloween began as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced SAH-win). Samhain is the celebration of Celtic New Year, which usually occurred on or around November 1st. The festival marked the end of the summer harvest and ushered in winter. The cold and dark of the season evokes a sense of melancholy, with death clearing out the vegetation and crops that flourished in spring and summer. Livestock are also selected for slaughter. The Celtic day begins and ends at sunset, and traditions surrounding the holiday include the belief that the season is a liminal time: a time where lines between the human and spirit realm were blurred. Therefore, sunset on Samhain (October 31-November 1) is the point at which the human and spirit realms were most connected. Tables were set for the spirits of dead ancestors and relatives, and, eventually, people would go to homes in disguises and ask for food.

Many would use this time to honor the dead by building bonfires with the remains of animals and crops from the past season. These sacrifices would be burned in the names of ancient Celtic deities. Many would also wear animal pelts for these events to tell each other fortunes by the light of the bonfires.

Eventually, history and social changes would create a somewhat different nature of Halloween. Many parts of the world commemorate the holiday in their own uniquely cultural ways. In Mexico, they celebrate the spooky season with their Day of the Dead ceremonies. Usually taking place on November 1st or 2nd, the day is used to honor and celebrate the deceased Many believe that they are visited by their long lost loved ones over the 48 hour period.

In Tokyo, people gather for the annual Kawasaki Halloween Parade. Over 4,000 Japanese enthusiasts gather to take part in the event. Not everyone can participate in the parade, though. If you wish to participate, sign ups start more than two months before the actual parade takes place. O-Bon is also celebrated in Japan. This is a traditional holiday to honor the spirits of dead ancestors. Traditionally, lanterns are used to ceremonially guide the spirits home.

Romania has their own day of Dracula. People from around the world flock to celebrate the holiday in what is believed to be the home of the infamous Vlad the Impaler. His supposed home in Bran Castle in Transylvania offers guided tours around the castle, and a party is also thrown yearly to celebrate the holiday.

Back home in the United States, there is a lot going on for Halloween. Those with younger children use the holiday to go trick-or-treating and make some family memories. For older crowds, there are haunted houses and corn mazes that are sure to incite chills and thrills. The holiday has become a classic for millions, with its bountiful selection of candy, movies, costumes, and decorations that make many want to revel in fright. However you end up celebrating the holiday, please do so safely and responsibly. Happy Halloween from all of us at the Jefferson County Post.

Source: Elizabeth Lane, Jefferson County Post Staff Writer