It's no secret to anyone who knows me that Halloween is my favorite holiday. I don't know why, really, except that it's a chance to be a kid again. To be silly, let loose and have a little fun. A time to get the adrenaline pumping a little, but still feel safe.
The house is all decorated, I've got eight bags of candy (ok, ok - I admit it! Seven and a half bags of candy... I'm eating M&M's as I write this!) But do you know what Halloween is really all about?
The early Celts called it Samhain (pronounced "Sow-wen"), meaning "Summer's End". One of their four main festivals of light, all tied to the seasons, Samhain was a joyous celebration of the harvest. A wild night of feasting and plenty around the bonfire, as the Celts enjoyed the fruits of their labor before the harshness of winter. The Celts believed it was a night when the veil between the living and the dead was thin, and for this reason, it was also a night to honor their dead. In one of my earlier, unpublished novels called DRUID MOON, I wrote about how I envisioned Samhain might be. You can read it here if you're interested. :)
Anyway, the idea that Halloween night is the night when the veil was thin has stuck with us through the years, though the emphasis has changed from honoring the dead into something much more spooky. Lighted pumpkins with leering faces were derived from the carved turnip lamps peasants used to make to frighten away spirits. Early costumes were worn to confuse any curious ghostly wanderers, so they couldn't follow a poor, luckless serf home.
It wasn't until the early thirties, and the advent of silent movies, that Halloween as we know it came about. The silver screen ushered in a new era of spookiness with classics like Nosferatu and Phantom of the Opera. The 40's and 50's gave us Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price even Abbott and Costello... creep shows were hot, and horror movies were at the top of their game. All of this fueling America's fire for a little ghoulish fun on Halloween.
Fun, isn't it?