The History of Halloween

It’s almost that time again. Things are about to go bump in the night. Spook masters would have you believe that the dead actually walk the earth on that day, but Halloween is as much a matter of shadows and mirrors as the horror movies we watch. For anyone interested, here is a history of the modern day holiday known as Halloween.

First of all, it was called All Hallows Eve. We are not speaking of Sleepy Hollow. Hallow means holy, like in The Lord’s Prayer for all the Sunday schoolers out there.

Early pagan religions specifically the Celts would celebrate different phases of the earth. One such festival was Samhain. It is pronounced “saw-in.” it was a festival that commemorated the lives of the dead. There was nothing wrong with this, except that they didn’t discriminate between the “good” dead and the “bad” dead. People remembered all of the dead. The date that this festival fell on was October 31st.

Isn’t sounding too scary so far is it? Well, you must remember that early pagan religions were prone to superstition as in the Middle Ages. They were afraid of spirits and the thought of them returning to the human world frightened them.

As history goes, during this time, priests of the religion would contact these spirits to divine the future of the harvest as this was also harvest season. People’s livelihood depended on those crops and they were afraid that the spirits would curse them and destroy the crops.

The church decided to combat such superstition by adding a bit of Christianity to the occasion. They moved the celebration of All Saints Day from March 13th to November 1st. People would hopefully be less scared and more into the Christian celebration than the pagan one.

Everyone didn’t change their long held beliefs however. People would cover their faces with masks when they went out at night in hopes that any roaming spirits would recognize them as fellow travelers and suspend their mischief. They also used large carved turnips with candles inside as lanterns.

All Hallows Eve became Halloween in modern times. Instead of walking through the veil between this world and the next, kids dress in a variety of costumes to scare each other silly and get a bit of candy in the process. The only spirits around on Halloween are the ones we create on the movie set. Watch out!

Vampires and Halloween

Halloween has been touted as the time when the undead decide they want to come back and visit. There is no bigger undead celebrity than the vampire. Armed with gleaming white fangs and a thirst for all things thick and red, vampires are a popular attraction on Halloween.

What is the basis for the vampire craze? Well, most of what we know came from the book by Bram Stoker. Through science and fiction, he was able to create a character of timeless quality. This is where most myths become immortal. Add a touch of truth to a lot of make believe and you get a concept that people won’t soon forget.

There was once an evil ruler named Vlad the Impaler, a Romanian prince. He was a cruel man, using torture and murder to subdue his victims. He was in perpetual war with the Turks and disposed of his enemies in gruesome ways. His moniker, Impaler, was well earned.

There is no evidence that this man had fangs or drank blood, but the name Dracula was applied to him. It was most likely an association with a knightly order, but his cruel ways perpetuated many myths.

Vampires are thought to be created by other vampires when bitten. Just enough of the blood is taken to turn the victim into one of the undead or the body is drained to kill them. The bloodlust of a vampire is so great that they must kill, or feed, on a regular basis.

There have been vampire chases throughout movies and books. They use garlic, wooden stakes, and holy water to damage their prey. The biggest vampire killer however is sunlight. As the undead, they dwell in darkness. Any light turns them into ash.

Europeans based their beliefs in vampires on folklore and stories of vampire bats. The fear of someone sucking their blood and turning them into an abomination of God frightened them into believing almost anything and doing even more to prevent it from happening to them.

On the American front, vampires are thought to be more sexual than sadistic. They still drink blood, but their dealings with humans are more for pleasure. Unlike witches who use animals as familiars, vampires use humans to do their bidding.

If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen one or all of the Blade Trilogy movies. Hollywood has scripted most of the modern day beliefs about vampires and Halloween. Demons or deformed gargoyles scare us, but vampires are beautiful and cool so they don’t scare as much on Halloween. Instead, they make a fashion statement.

My Autumn List

My twitter pal Melissa wrote an awesome list the other day about 20 Little Things To Treasure In Autumn. I need to join her – I just love Autumn!

  1. Apples
  2. Apple Crisp
  3. Candied Apples (OK you got it – I have a love for apples.)
  4. Cozy Sweaters
  5. Sleeping with the window cracked open just enough to let in the cool air
  6. Orange, Gold, Red, Brown – the beautiful colors of the leaves
  7. Pumpkin Pie
  8. Apple Pie
  9. Pecan Pie (alright already – I love pie!)
  10. Cinnamon smells coming from the kitchen
  11. The sound of rustling leaves
  12. Football
  13. School supplies on sale
  14. School pictures
  15. Halloween
  16. Carving a jack-o-lantern
  17. Roasting in the oven (yummy)
  18. The start of my favorite TV shows
  19. Sipping hot chocolate while cuddling under a blanket out on the deck
  20. Kids playing in the leaves

Now your turn – what do you love about Autumn? Share here, and at Melissa’s blog: TheInspiredRoom

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

It’s not Halloween until you’ve stuck your hands into a pumpkin to pull out all the guts to carve your jack-o-lantern.  Now you’ve got all those pumpkin seeds sitting there.  Don’t just toss them in the trash!  Roast them for a nice evening treat. 

Instructions:

Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and try to get off all the pulp strings.  Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray, or oil it down with your favorite cooking oil.  Sprinkle with salt to taste, you might find yourself using a little more salt than usual.  Bake at 325 degrees F until toasted for 15 minutes.  STIR and flip.  Bake at 325 degrees F until toasted for another 15 minutes.  Let them cool off completely before eating them.  You don’t want a burnt tongue.  Store in an air tight container or Ziploc bag.

Optional:  If you’d like you can soak your pumpkin seeds overnight in salt water for a more salty flavor and an easier to eat seed.  It doesn’t make a huge difference in the result, but some people prefer doing it that way.

Munchy Mummy Appetizer Dip

Ingredients:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons tarragon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons chili sauce
1 celery stick, chopped

Instructions:

Combine ingredients and chill for at least one hour before serving.  Perfect in the center of your veggie tray.  In addition to veggies, use Halloween shaped cookie cutters to cut out mini finger sandwiches, the dip can also be used as a spread on those, yummy!  For super festivity on the serving table scoop the dip into a hollowed out mini pumpkin.

Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Squares

Ingredients:

1 (12 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp. butter
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
1 (10 1/2 oz.) pkg. white miniature marshmallows
Assorted soft Halloween candy

Instructions:

Line a 13×9 baking pan with waxed paper, trust me you’ll be glad you used waxed paper at the end!  Melt chocolate in double boiler with milk and butter, remove from heat.  Combine nuts and marshmallows.  Fold those into the chocolate.  Press mixture into the lined baking pan, spreading it out evenly as possible.  Sprinkle the soft candy mixture evenly over the top of that.  Refrigerate until firm enough to cut into squares, then store at room temp.

This is a nice adaptive recipe, if someone has an allergy to peanut use another nut, or mix in some candy pieces or dry cereal.  You can even add other things in addition to what’s listed here!  Make it colorful and fun. 

Halloween Poke Cake

Ingredients:

CAKE:
3 ounces orange Jell-O mix
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1 package white cake mix

TOPPING:
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 envelope dream whip topping
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 handful of candy corn
Instructions:

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water.  Add cold water and stir until mixed and set aside until ready to use.  Prepare cake following the package directions for a 13×9 pan sized cake.  Let the cake cool for some time.  Using a meat fork or a bamboo skewer “poke” holes to the bottom of the cake about an inch apart, you can do it at random or in a pattern it’s up to you.  Pour the liquid gelatin into the holes!  Beat together the topping ingredients until stiff peaks begin to form, add food coloring if desired.  Frost your Halloween poke cake, sprinkle with candy corn for decoration.  Allow to chill so that gelatin sets. This recipe can be altered for other holidays and themes as well but changing the flavor of gelatin and adding food coloring to the frosting.

Halloween Party Punch

What’s a Halloween party with a big bowl of punch with floating eyeballs in it?

Ingredients:

1 (32 fluid ounce) bottle apple juice, chilled
1 (12 fluid ounce) can frozen cranberry juice concentrate
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 liters ginger ale
1 apple (optional)
Eyeball candies (optional)

Instructions:

Get a large punch bowl or other container to serve your punch from. 
Combine the apple juice, cranberry concentrate, and orange juice.  Stir until any frozen parts are dissolved.  Slowly mix in the ginger ale.  Slice the apple in whole slices to float on top as brain slices among the floating eyeballs.

Ginger Ghouls

Who said gingerbread cookies were only for Christmas?

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar  
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons warm water
1/4 cup raisins for decorating
Different color gel icing

Instructions:

Cream together shortening, sugar, egg and warm molasses.  Dissolve baking soda in warm water, and then add to the egg mixture. Next, add flour, spices and salt,  mix it all up until well blended.  Cover and chill overnight.  Prepare a floured surface and get out the rolling pin and cookie cutters.  Cut out gingerbread men (or other Halloween like shapes!) and place an inch or two apart on a greased cookie sheet.  Use raisins and cinnamon candies for eyes, buttons, etc.  Then add gel icing to make bloody legs, arms, and dripping eyeballs! 

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