October 28, 2015
Houses are decorated, jack-o-lanterns are carved, costumes have been selected and kids can hardly wait to stuff themselves full of loads and loads of sugar this Saturday. Halloween has certainly increased in popularity and, some would say, become much more commercialized over the past 50 years. However, many would be surprised to learn the origins of this spooky autumn holiday.
For Danish Protestants the night was named as the translation of All Hallows Eve: Allehelgens aften – the night before Allehelgens dag. It was a day to remember and pray for the deceased Christians. The feast was actually celebrated from 610 until 1770, when the Danish Protestant Church canceled it.
Around the 8th century (in Christianity), November 1st was known as All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse, meaning All Saints’ Day). The night before was referred to as All-Hallows Even, eventually abbreviated to Hallowe’en. In the early-to-mid 20th century the abbreviation was again changed to Halloween.
Halloween originated as a pagan tradition from Ireland called Samhain. November 1st was recognized as the beginning of a new year. The annual festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) took place the night before and it was believed that the lines between the world of the living and dead were obscured. Bon fires (bål) were lit in thanksgiving for the harvest. People dressed in masks in order to ‘trick’ the ghosts, and left ‘treats’ on the doorstep of their homes so the ghosts would be pleased and pass on by. Root vegetables were carved with ghoulish faces to scare away the spirits. A tradition we’ve carried on today with pumpkins.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Hallowe’en was often a time of mischief for children and adolescents. Private community groups began to organize dances and events to resolve this problem. As it became easier to have these gatherings at people’s homes, Hallowe’en again transformed in America. Whereas costumes and decorations had been homemade creations, by the turn of the century companies realized that a profit could be made, and they were right. It is estimated that Americans spend around 7 billion dollars a year on Halloween!
In recent years more and more countries have joined in on the festive nature of this celebration of scary. Many criticize the ‘Americanization’ of this annual frightful fete, but many different countries have actually shaped this celebration of scary that we know and love today. This is truly what makes Halloween extra sweet!
Are you interested in knowing how the Danes recognize and celebrate Halloween? Or just how did that jack-o-lantern get his name? And would you like some creative ways of donating all that extra candy? Well, treat yourself to our Pinterest page!
Upcoming Community Events:
Don’t forget about the Annual Fall Festival and Frikadeller Luncheon on Nov. 1st