October 28, 2012

Halloween a time for superstition, celebration

Do you say “hallo-ween” or “hollo-ween”?

If I had to guess, I’d say many people would admit to the second pronunciation. Truth is it’s not hollow at all. It’s hallow. Far be it from me to be a Halloween policeman, but saying it right might be a good way to tune up for the 31st. There are no demerits for making it a hollow holiday. This is just for fun.

I can’t find a use of the word Halloween until the 1500s, but some scholars trace the celebration back to my Celtic ancestors thousands of years ago. Halloween is no doubt a variation of what was called All Hallows’ Eve. I’m pretty sure my Irish ancestors brought Halloween with them to this country during and after the infamous potato famine and really got the holiday cranked up in America in the mid-19th century.

I’m interested in the origins of Halloween because it was believed to be a time when the door was opened between this world and the place where spirits exist. I’m sure ghost stories have been around since the beginning, but All Hallows’ Eve became the focus. Everyone knows my interest in collecting and writing ghost stories, so Halloween is a really cool time for me.

I got to tell my stories around a couple giant bonfires again this year, and that makes them even more special. The bonfires have also been around as part of the celebration for at least a couple thousand years. Those Celts really knew their stuff, didn’t they?

Costumes? History tells us people dressed up in the olden days to ward off the evil spirits who tried to come back and possess the living, raising havoc and killing all the crops. It was also a time when the living could communicate with the spirits and predict the future. That, to me, was so fascinating that I have spent much of my adult life studying the paranormal.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice

Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk
Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time