Goblins and ghosts & ghouls oh my!

halloween postcards.tif

By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
Northeast News
October 30, 2013

The word “Halloween,” actually traces its origins to the ancient Celtic holiday “Samhain” (pronounced “sow-in”) celebrating the end of the traditional summer growing season on Oct. 31st.

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on Nov. 1. This day marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter – a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.

On the night of Oct. 31, Samhain, it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during Samhain time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.

Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of Oct. 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

The custom of carving gourds on Halloween also traces its roots to Ireland and an old Irish tale about a man named Jack who was a noted trickster and drunkard. According to Irish lore, Jack tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of the cross into the tree’s trunk, thus trapping Satan up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that if he never tempted him again, Jack would let him out of the tree. After Jack died, however, he was denied access to heaven because of his evil ways. Hell had no welcome mat out for Jack either, since he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave Jack a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer. Upon arriving in America, it was discovered by Europeans that gourds (pumpkins) were more plentiful than turnips, so the custom of hollowing out pumpkins to make “Jack’s Lanterns” was thus “Americanized.”

Comments are closed.

  • Kansas City’s First Streetcars

    September 20th, 2017
    by

    by Michael Bushnell Northeast News Kansas City’s street railway began humbly in 1869 with the advent of small, animal-drawn  cars […]


    Benton Circle: The Early Days

    September 13th, 2017
    by

    By MICHAEL BUSHNELL Northeast News This week, we feature a card John Straley published between 1925-1930 titled “The Benton Circle,” […]


    Community still served from stately edifice

    September 6th, 2017
    by

    In January of 1885 a lot at the corner of 9th and Harrison was purchased by T.M. James for the […]


    A tribute to the American worker

    August 30th, 2017
    by

    By Michael Bushnell Northeast News The postcards shown this week are real photo postcards from the estate of long-time Northeast […]


    Memories of the 1908 flood

    August 23rd, 2017
    by

    By M. Bushnell The Northeast News This week’s postcard shows the result of countless days of rain and the lack […]


  • “One of the greatest playgrounds in America”

    August 16th, 2017
    by

    by Michael Bushnell Northeast News The description inside this vintage 1930s Curt Teich linen postcard folder of the Lake of […]


    The Mother Of All Rallies

    August 9th, 2017
    by

    By Michael Bushnell Northeast News In honor of the 77th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South […]


    Orange Crate Carpenters

    August 2nd, 2017
    by

    This week, in place of our weekly Historic Postcard feature we publish the final installment of a four-part series of […]


    A Dime and the Dinky

    July 26th, 2017
    by

    This week, in place of our weekly Historic Postcard feature we publish the third of a four-part series of short […]


    The Alleys of Childhood

    July 12th, 2017
    by

    Northeast News July 5, 2017 This week, in place of our weekly Historic Postcard feature, we begin a four-part series […]


  • What’s Happening

    Northeast Newscast Episode 27 – Northeast HS Homecoming and sports at KCPS w/ athletic director Dr. James Sanders

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News This week on the Northeast Newscast, Kansas City Public Schools athletic director Dr. James Sanders […]

    New development announced at site of former Northeast Apple Market

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News The site of the former Apple Market at 3719 Independence Avenue is expected to become […]

    CID

  • Local Weather