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The day of the dead – reborn every year

By Brian StieglitzStaff Writer The day of the dead; Samhain; All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, whatever you call it, this day brings around quite the celebration.  Whatever it may go by, there are a lot of traditions and rituals we celebrate. But how did we get these traditions for Halloween? The holiday’s roots began back in pagan Celtic times as the day of harvest and celebration of the dead. Halloween may be one of the oldest holidays we still celebrate, which is why the customs are so nebulous today. Traditional Celtic mythology was influenced by the growth of the Roman Empire and the mass emigration to America from Ireland. We know Halloween as the one day in the year when we can be as scary as possible, but do we know what our own holiday traditions mean? The following are guesses I got from students: Q: Why do we trick-or-treat? Senior Karen Lieng said, “Because we need to make the spookiness less spooky and gear it toward fun for kids!” Senior Daniel Jacas said, “To get free candy, why else?” Freshman Chris Lovering said, “It’s an Americanized holiday; it’s good for the kids and it’s basically become a market holiday in today’s day and age.” A: The Celts believed the dead roamed the earth on Halloween night, so the living would put out offerings of nuts or fruit to please them. People would also dress up in horrific masks to scare away evil spirits. Eventually when the Celtic Religion began to fade, this became more tradition for children who would collect the fruit or nuts. Q: Why do we carve pumpkins; why did the jack-o’-lantern originate? Sophomore Regan Hamm said, “I feel like it has to do with scaring off things that are scary; it’s an urban legend that scares something off.” Freshman Christian Ladigosky said, “Because we got bored and decided to make creepy faces to scare people for fun.” Senior Mike Horowitz said, “Pumpkins are a food, so there was probably a surplus of pumpkins and we didn’t know what to do with them so we figured we’d carve faces in them.” A: According to a Celtic story, there was a man named Stingy Jack who cheated the devil. When he died he was rejected from Heaven and banned from Hell, so he carried a lantern made from a turnip as he wandered the world. The ancient Celts used to carve turnips and place a light inside to ward off Stingy Jack and other wandering spirits. Settlers in America found that this was much easier to do with a pumpkin. Q: Why do we bob for apples? Sophomore Ciara Weatherbee said, “I guess to have fun in a weird way.” Freshman Joanna Soares said, “It probably has to do with witchcraft.” Sophomore Josh Lovell said, “It seems like a rural tradition; maybe an orchid owners kids got bored and started to bob for apples and it caught on as a colloquialism.” A: This was a ritual associated with the druids of the Celtic religion. The apple was the Celtic symbol representing fertility and new life, and when cut in half the seeds form the pagan pentagram. The apple was used in a divinity ritual in which young women would try to catch an apple floating in a vat of water. The first one to do so was the next to get married, much like catching the bouquet at a wedding.

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