Two thousand long years ago, the Celtic tribes of England, Ireland and France started their New Year at the end of their harvest and at the beginning of the cold winter months. In these parts of the old world, the new calendar year started on November 1. Their New Year’s Eve festival, which was held on October 31st, was called Samhain. Even in ancient times, Samhain was a spooky holiday: the Celts believed that all the laws of time and space were suspended for this one special night, to allow the spirits of all who had died in the past year to walk the earth again, commune with the loved ones they left behind, and settle old scores! Naturally, the living didn’t much want to be possessed with the spirits of the dead, so they put out the fires in their hearths so that the spirits would find their houses cold and unwelcoming. Then, they dressed up in ghoulish masks and ran amok in the dark outside, carrying lanterns and torches. The idea was to discourage the dead from possessing them. Another reason the Celts extinguished their fires, according to Historians, is so they could all be re-lit from the same Druid fire which was kept eternally burning in a sacred site in the middle of Ireland.
The pagan traditions of Hallowe’en evolved and were assimilated into other October festivals in the Catholic church. For Catholics, November 1st is the Day of All Saints or All Hollows Day, so October 31st is called All Hollows Eve, or Hallowe’en.
The fun of Hallowe’en was brought to North America by the Irish immigrants who came over in the 1840s to escape the potato famine. The kids (and young at heart) would try to trick their neighbours into believing their land was haunted by playing pranks on them, including tipping over the outhouses and unhinging the gates so they would blow in the wind and make spooky creaking sounds.
Those were the tricks.
The treats tradition probably came not from the Celts, but from the Catholics. In the ninth century, early Christian beggars would travel from village to village on November 2nd begging for “soul cakes” (November 2nd was All Souls’ day, after All Hollows Day – get it? Catholics have a special day every day).
The treats tradition probably came not from the Celts, but from the Catholics. In the 9th century, early Christian beggars would travel from village to village on November 2nd begging for “soul cakes” (November 2nd was All Souls’ day, after All Hollows Day -get it? Catholics have a special day every day). A soul cake was a piece of bread with currants (little raisins) which the lady of the house would give to the beggar. In return, he would promise to say prayers for the souls of the donor’s loved ones to make it into Heaven safely.
As for the Jack ‘o Lanterns, they were another way to keep bad things from happening. Legend has it that a guy named Jack, who was a notorious drunk and a trickster and a cheat. One day, he met the devil on the road, and tricked him up a tree. Jack was angry because he held the devil responsible for his own bad habits; • once the devil was up the tree, Jack carved a cross into the trunk and only let Satan come down if he promised never to lead Jack into temptation again…
When poor Jack died. Heaven wouldn’t let him in because of all the sinning he did. But Hell wouldn’t have him either, because the devil still held that tree-trickery against him. But to be a good sport, he gave Jack an ember to light his cold, dark way back to Earth. Jack put the ember into a hollowed turnip to keep it burning. Some say he still walks around on All Hallow’s Eve with his glowing vegetable.
The Irish immigrants brought their glowing vegetables to America, but they found that here, pumpkins were bigger and more plentiful, and made better lamps.
Do you want to make sure the only spooks and spirits that invade your house on Hallowe’en are the friendly kind? Well then, you only have a few days to make your house a terrible, ghoulish and uninvited place for all those ghosts to be – and they’ll avoid you too if you make sure to dress up really scarily.Read on for the Nation’s best ideas for costumes and to haunt-ify your house.
Haunting your house and other spooky Hallowe’en ideas Ideally, haunted houses are those creaky abandoned mansions high up on a hill that the kids in town all know not to go near… You can transform your own house so spookily that it’s not recognizable as the warm, inviting nest that welcomes guests the rest of the year. The best way to accomplish a house hauntify-ing is through the ancient art we call “goo-ifying.” Goo-ifying is the opposite of the Catholic rite of exorcism, in which priests come in and sanctify a space by mumbling and throwing holy water around. Mumbling is fine, mind you, but the substances you have around should be homemade versions of ghastly goo: ghost blood, spook splurge, beastie eyeballs and witch wash, wormy apples, (fake) blood and the like. These substances are not as hard to find as you might think.
It doesn’t take a lot of money or special spell-casting abilities to spookify your house. With a little bit of effort and ingenuity you can decorate your space so that the familiar seems unfamiliar, and therefore eeeeeeeerie. You’d be surprised at how many everyday objects can be used to make special hallowe’en purposes and uses objects and noises and smells.
Spook snacks: What colour is ghost blood? Clear, because ghosts have no bodies, of course. Often, it tastes just like Sprite.
Spook Splurge can be made out of green jello-o when it’s still in the runny phase. Put it in a bowl and make sure you eat it with your hands.
Beastie eyeballs are made by peeling grapes and keeping them lukewarm in the oven. Put them in a bowl and look at them in the dark. Mmmm, yummy.
Witch wash is a wormy, clammy substance that you should wash your hands with in the dark. Washing your hands in it is a good way to start gooifying. Cook some spaghetti until it’s pasty (several minutes longer than it says to on the package) and then wait till it gets really cold and put it in a bowl. Feels just like brains.
Here is a recipe for fake blood: it’s not terribly tasty, but it is edible: 5 tablespoons com starch 2/3 cup com syrup 1/3 cup water 4 teaspoons red food coloring a couple of drops green food coloring Mix the corn starch with the water, make sure it is totally mixed, then add the com syrup, again make sure it is mixed well. Add red food coloring into the mixture, then add a couple drops of green food coloring to take the “pink” edge off the red coloring.
Decorating: The most important thing about a haunted house is the lighting. Think about it; we all know that friends’ faces look spooky by a campfire even if you just shine a flashlight in their mouths. Some good ways to spookify your lighting: putting coloured scarves over the lamps (make sure the fabric is not touching the bulb!). Make lots of Jack o’ lanterns, and you can even make re-usable lanterns by cutting designs into old tin cans and putting candles into them. Get the kind of candles (called votive candles) that are short with a metal base around them – they last a long time and are safe enough to put inside little paper bags on which you’ve painted witches and skeletons. And when all else fails, strings of those cheap Christmas lights (red, of course) and lots of candles will do the trick.
A couple of scarecrows add a touch of lifelessness to any gathering: stuff some old clothes with straw or bunched-up newspapers and give them heads made of wrap some balled-up newspaper with duct tape and draw or glue a face onto it. Or, you can make papier-mache heads around a balloon (then you can hollow out the round head shape by popping the balloons, carve out faces with an x-acto knife, and run a string of lights through the head to light up the faces.
Hang lots of bouncy bats and ghost lollipops from the ceiling with rubber bands (see diagrams).
You can also blow up surgical rubber gloves and hang them low so that they brush people’s necks as they walk by (ick!). Glue plastic bugs onto the fingers for that special back-ffom-the-grave effect… Drape your un-scary walls with cheap black, plastic sheeting or lots of opened-out black garbage bags. Also, cover your windows so too much light doesn’t come into your haunted house.
Making a life-sized coffin is a fun project: Use an old refrigerator box and cut out the panel sections with X-acto knives and glued them together using a hot glue gun. Spray-paint the outside black (You can also paint the inside black or red). Or, use plywood if you want to get really fancy. Make a lid for your coffin, and make hinges out of duct tape to attach it. You can wrap a • couple of friends in mummy bandages and they can play at being Undead by popping out of the coffin at the opportune moment.
Make sure there’s some spooky music playing in the background, or you can make strange ghostly woooooooooo sounds by running a comb along waxed paper (it’s true!).
Or, for scary background sound and pictures, drape your TV in black sheets and play special Hallowe’en videos all night long: this is a great way to get a soundtrack of creepy music and screaming, etc. Horror flicks are great ghoulish mood enhancers.
Heres a list of some Nation favourites: The Hallowe ‘en series (the first and 5th ones are best).
Nightmare on Elm Street (# 1 ) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (an art film and a trash-horror movie in one).
Psycho Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein Dawn of the Dead (best zombie movie ever!) Alien (scary monsters) Dracula (the 1931 black-and-white version starring Bela Lugosi version is the scariest) The Haunting (best movie about haunted houses) Invasion of the Body Snatchers Night of the Living Dead The Shining And of course…no Halloween is complete without a Tim Burton flick. Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow would do fine, but The Nightmare Before Christmas is crucial: this animated modem classic is probably the best movie for parents and kids to watch together because everybody loves it. Everybody.