Halloween Traditions

27 10 2009

I am not a Halloween person. I have very little creativity when it comes to thinking up clever costumes and even less artistic ability when it comes to creating them. I inherited this from my mother, who loathes Halloween and had a great way of talking me into costumes that were easy to acquire, but incredibly random. (The highlights: I was a 6-year-old Jane Fonda because I already had a leotard, tights and leg-warmers and at 10 I was an electrical engineer because my father worked at PG&E and could bring home a hard hat.)

But costume or no costume, I love the holiday, and not just for the excuse to eat candy. Halloween is rooted in ancient cultural traditions, and I find the history rather fascinating. There’s Dia de los Muertos, of course, the Day of the Dead (or rather “days”—it traditionally lasts for three), perhaps best known for the colorfully dressed figurines with skull faces, but there is much more that goes into the rituals of this fascinating celebration of the the dead, which has its roots in Aztec and Mayan traditions.

Then there’s Samhain, the Celtic celebration of the dead, based around the idea that dead souls return on this one night when the veil between the two worlds is thin. Many of the Samhain traditions gave birth to our modern American Halloween traditions. For the full story check out the History Channel’s comprehensive website, complete with fun videos of New York’s parades and costumes of the Twenties.

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