For me, Halloween always meant having my mom make a costume, and going trick or treating with my three brothers. After a few blocks, I'd have to go home while they got to go farther collecting more candy. My mom usually kept my costume simple, making me up to look like a gypsy or some exotic princess, which I LOVED. I think we ususually did those types of costumes though because it was a little easier and cheaper--not a lot of money back in those days. Some red lipstick, a pair of pretty shoes, a long billowy skirt and ta-da! You have a costume!
I don't think I understood anything about Halloween when I was a kid. It was scary movies, lots of candy, and one night where we weren't forced to go to bed on time. After I had kids of my own I did the same things with them. Carving pumpkins, roasting seeds, cute costumes that I just HAD to get pictures of... I guess it wasn't until I recent years that I started to get more curious about All Hallow's Eve.
Halloween has origins in the ancient celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in or sau-an), which is derived from Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end". A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced kalan-geyf). The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half", and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year".
The celebration has some elements of a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces.
Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.
Truthfully, and maybe I'm going to sound dumb here, but I really didn't know ALL that. I knew there was more to Halloween than candy and pumpkins, but I didn't know the whole of it.
So, tell me, how much importance do you place on this particular holiday? Do you have any special traditions? Do you dress up still??