As a kid, if you were like me, we really didn’t stop and think about Halloween. We just looked forward to putting on our costume, walking the neighborhood with our family and friends and collecting as much candy as we could. When the evening started to wind down, we couldn’t wait to get home and dump the bag, bucket, or pillowcase out on the table. Some of our first negotiation skills were developed at this moment. What could we eat now? What would mom or dad allow us to keep for ourselves to eat at a later date? Or, what we had to pitch or share for this or that reason. It’s an annual ritual that hasn’t changed much since we were kids ourselves. But do we really know why, where, or when it came about?
According to the History.com website: “It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated Nov. 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints’ Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating sweet treats.” The Celts lived about 2,000 years ago. They lived in an area of Europe we known today as England, Ireland, and France. They celebrated their new year on the 1st of November. While celebrating this event they’d build large bonfires, sacrifice animals to their Gods and wear costumes usually made of animal skins or heads. Whew – thankfully some of the original Halloween traditions did not survive right?
Initially when Halloween came to the shores of North America, it was primarily celebrated in the southern colonies and Maryland. The protestant colonies of the New England had very limited celebrations because of their religious beliefs. As wave after wave of immigrants came to America shores, a unique version started to develop that integrated various Native American and European cultures. From Play Parties with singing and dancing events to telling ghost stories to attempting to predict the future of friends and neighbors. Scary stories and superstitions were shared. The holiday continued to develop until early in the twentieth century it was less about religion or ghosts and witches and more about community than superstition or fright. Trick-or-treating started to become a staple of the event as well as hosting more adult Halloween parties.
However as with any change, not all changes were good. In the early 1900s you also started to see elements of vandalism on this holiday. Smashing pumpkins, teepeeing trees, bushes, cars, or lawns; and other less than desired mischief, creeped into the holiday. These acts were usually performed by older minor children. Worse than that type of vandalism, you also started to see and hear about folks inserting foreign objects into the candy or fruit they were handing out. Moms and Dads had to become much more alert when checking their children’s hauls.
More recently you’ve also seen a move to hold safer, supervised school and community events to mitigate some of the negative aspects of Halloween. For example, as shown the Patch’s “Halloween Event Guide 2019” Community Corner page... Rohnert Park has the following Halloween activities. They are:
The Halloween Carnival & Costume Parade Oct. 26th at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Snyder Lane. This event has a DJ, a haunted maze that is kid friendly, and animals, crafts and games.
The Green Music Center will host an “Interactive concert with storytelling, music and delightful mayhem.” on Oct. 27.
In Cotati there will be: “City Hall-Oween Trick-Or-Treating & Haunted Hallway.” on the Oct. 31 at City Hall which includes a “Scarecrow display, too!”
I hope this story whetted your appetite to learn more about Halloween. There is so much more than can be covered here. I do want to thank and credit the History.com Editors for their article titled: Halloween 2019 posted on their website at: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween. I also thank the Rohnert Park-Cotati Patch staff for their “Halloween Event Guide 2019: Rohnert Park, Cotati and North Bay” that collected and published the various local events for our community. Have a great Halloween night. Be safe. Be happy. Have fun. And may all your ghosts be Casper the Friendly Ghost and your witches Glinda the Good Witch!