Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Trick-or-Treat Traditions!

This is my first blog post for the Pagan Blog Project 2012. Everyone else is already on T, so that's where I'll start.

Halloween Decorations

T is perfect timing for upcoming Samhain or as my kids know it, Halloween.

Up until now, October 31st has been, for our children, a day filled with transforming yourself (oh, another T!) into someone or something else and collecting as much candy as possible. They have no realization of the traditions our American version of Halloween was derived from.

The American version of Halloween is a combination of traditions from Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland. "Souling" was a common practice on Hallowmas in Great Britain and Ireland where children would go door to door, saying prayers and singing songs for the dead in exchange for food. Later, Scotland developed their own version in which children went "guising" and disguised themselves, going door-to-door with carved turnips for cakes, fruit, or money. Since pumpkins are more abundant in America, that tradition was also taken but modified to make our Jack-o-Lanterns. Houses are decorated in spooky ways to encourage a fright on Halloween night. We have had our Halloween decorations up since the last weekend of September. We get really excited about this holiday.

Since we live in Southern California, we also see a lot of Mexican influence in the holiday.  El Día de los Muertos is November 1st. This is the Spanish holiday of honoring the dead. Traditionally, toys are bought for children who have passed and alcohol is bought for adults who have died. These offerings are left on altars which are erected throughout the cities. Calaveras, or skulls, are seen everywhere as this is the traditional symbol for the day. Little sugar-candy skulls are given to each other as gifts.

In Wiccan tradition, this is the day that the God dies and we reflect on the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Traditionally, food is left on the doorstep for spirits and a candle in the window to help guide them. The veil between worlds is also the thinnest on this night. This belief, which is not just a Wiccan theme is usually what prompts the stereotypical teenager to hold a "creepy" séance or bust out the Ouija board.

Halloween in France was relatively unknown until about 20 years ago. It was known as an American holiday and thus, rejected by many. As time goes on, the holiday is more widely accepted. People go to costume parties and trick-or-treating is done from store-to-store and not house-to-house. Germans hide the knives on this night so as to prevent returning spirits from harming the living.
Learning about traditions around the world can not only open your mind, but also give you interesting new ways to celebrate Samhain with your family. 

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