Let the haunting begin!


October 31, 2012

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

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 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 Samhain, Oct. 31, 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 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 because 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, Europeans discovered gourds (pumpkins) were more plentiful than turnips, so the custom of hollowing out pumpkins to make “Jack’s Lanterns” was thus Americanized.

Want Northeast News articles sent straight to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
Enter your email address and click on the Get Instant Access button.
We respect your privacy

Comments are closed.

  • “Her husband may have built landmarks, but Sarah Coates helped build lives.”

    18 hours ago

    Michael Bushnell Publisher Sarah Walter Chandler was born on March 10, 1829, in Kennett Square, Penn., to Quaker parents John […]

    Lincoln Electric Park, a delight to the city’s Negro population

    February 24th, 2021

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News As part of our Black History Month, we revisit a set of images we ran in […]

    Paseo YMCA plays major role in Black History

    February 17th, 2021

    Michael Bushnell Publisher This week, as part of our ongoing Black History Month series, we spotlight the Paseo YMCA located […]

    Family Flower business a staple of Northeast Community

    February 10th, 2021

    Michael Bushnell Publisher Rose Marie Serrone opened her flower and gift shop in a single story, Art Deco-style building in […]

    Quindaro town-site, an important portal on the Underground Railroad

    February 3rd, 2021

    Michael Bushnell Publisher During Black History Month, our Historic Postcard column will spotlight locations and people important to Black History […]

    State of the art zoo for 1909

    January 27th, 2021

    Michael Bushnell Publisher This circa 1914 hand colored postcard published by the Southwest News company of Kansas City, Missouri shows […]

    Flying High in Kansas City

    January 20th, 2021

    Michael Bushnell Publisher This week, in theme with our Remember This column on a novelty transistor radio, we’re featuring another […]

    Faultless Starch Reading Library

    January 13th, 2021

    Michael Bushnell Publisher This week’s postcard is a bit of a departure from the penny postcard we normally profile in […]

  • New year, new calendar

    January 6th, 2021

    Michael Bushnell Publisher This week we continue our novelty postcard series with a couple of postcards that follow our “Remember […]

    Come to Kansas City soon

    December 30th, 2020

    Michael Bushnell Publisher Given the year we’ve had, this postcard seems fitting to close out 2020. “If you don’t soon […]

    Downtown Christmas decorations live on

    December 23rd, 2020

    Michael Bushnell Publisher This week we feature a Chrome-style postcard showing Kansas City’s downtown shopping district decorated for Christmas. The […]

    Escape from The Rock

    December 16th, 2020

    Michael Bushnell Publisher On December 16, 1937, one of the densest fogs to ever occur in San Francisco blanketed the […]

    The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile

    December 9th, 2020

    Michael Bushnell Publisher This week we’re taking a nostalgic look back at the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, that cool piece of […]

    Sears, Roebuck & Co.

    December 2nd, 2020

    Michael Bushnell Publisher Just in time or the holidays, we bring you this postcard of the iconic Sears Distribution Center […]

    Thanksgiving Greetings

    November 25th, 2020

    Michael Bushnell Publisher What Americans celebrate as Thanksgiving is traditionally tied to a three-day feast involving the Pilgrims after their […]

    The Wish Bone

    November 18th, 2020

    Michael Bushnell Publisher Phillip Sollomi opened the Wishbone Restaurant in 1948 in a renovated private residence, just north of the […]

  • Northeast Newscast

  • Faces Of Northeast

  • Postcard

    The Westgate Hotel

    November 11th, 2020

  • retorts illustrated by bryan stalder

  • Want articles sent directly to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
    We respect your privacy and will not distribute your information.