There’s nothing like a possessed baby in a window to put one in the mood for every dentist’s favorite holiday: Halloween. Add a few ghosties, that stringy cotton stuff that takes half a year to fully remove from trees post-rainfall, a couple rotting corpses, and a bunch of pumpkins, and lucky children all over West New York and Union City have got a full gathering of ghouls to wander through on Oct. 31.
Halloween wasn’t always the brightly-colored candy and costume extravaganza it is today. Two centuries ago, the Celtic people held a festival known as “Samhain” the day before their new year began on Nov. 1. It marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of a cold, starving season during which folks braced for the inevitability of death.
In fact, the Celts believed that on the evening of Oct. 31, the divide between the world of the living and the world of the dead disappeared entirely, setting the stage for a plethora of superstitious rituals.
Eventually the Celtic festival crossed into other cultures who added their own charming touches, like large bonfires and animal sacrifice, for instance.
The very first costume tradition resulted when some celebrants chose to wear the pelts of their animal sacrifices as disguises against death.
Colonists brought All-Hallows Eve to America, and the practice of feasting and trading food began as immigrants fled the famine of their former countries and discovered the bounty of their new land.
Combine all of these traditions, mix in a healthy dose of capitalism and an obsession with sugar, and modern-day Halloween was born.
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Gennarose Pope may be reached at email@example.com