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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Halloween history provides insight

By Cpl. Phuong Chau | | October 31, 2002

Darkness will fill the skies of southwest Georgia tonight like it does every night. Except tonight, a grim creepy feeling may entice the hair on your neck to stand at attention. Pumpkins with burning candles will cast menacing shadows. The shadows will seem alive with the flickering flame that gives them life. The ambience might make visitors apprehensive until they hear the laughter of ghosts and goblins walking door-to-door break the silence ... for tonight is Halloween.

Halloween traditions began 2,000 years ago in what is now Great Britain and Ireland, according to many historians. Druids led and taught celts, the people who occupied that part of the world at that time, or Celtic priests.

Cloaked in dark robes, the Druids believed the arrival of fall and winter brought death and decay. The new year was celebrated Nov. 1.

Druids would construct a sacred bonfire on which they sacrificed animals and crops. Celtic families would build a fire using this bonfire.

On the evening of the festival, the Druids ordered the Celts to extinguish the fires burning on their hearth. Festival goers believed they could tell the new year?s future by studying the sacrificed remains.

The celebrants would honor Samhain, the Celtic lord of death during these festivities.

Running around dancing and frolicking, the Celtics would disguise themselves in costumes and masks. The Celts and Druids would be happy to know that their legacy of disguise on this day continues.

Eventually, Christianity's following grew and spread throughout Europe. Hoping to avoid conflict those who believed in the Celtic celebration from becoming Christian, the Roman Catholic Church incorporated some of their beliefs with their own.

Nov. 1 was designated by the church as All Saints Day or All Hallows Day. The day before All Hallows Day was forever to be known as All Hallows Eve or today, Halloween.

According to The World Book Encyclopedia, this is one explanation of the holiday Americans celebrate religiously, even though many do not associate it with religious beliefs.

Other historians give credit of Halloween to another activity. In the early days of the country, Americans hosted harvest festivals to celebrate a successful crop reaping.

Dancing, eating and other activities were part of the festive celebration. Eventually, the harvest festival evolved into Halloween, said some historians.

Today, Americans celebrate this time of the year in a variety of ways.

The most notorious present-day Halloween activity is probably trick-or-treating, where neighbors generously pass out candy or other treats to costumed children.

"Trick-or-Treat," screams a group of kids.

"What are you supposed to be, an Army person'" the neighbor asks a young boy dressed in camouflaged utilities and boots.

"I am a Marine," yelled the boy.

Showing off their costumes is one Halloween tradition that will probably stand the test of time.

Trick-or-Treating may be entertaining for children, but parents should take safety precautions to ensure their little ones come to no harm.

Parents will want to make sure an adult escorts young children. Many adults dress up as well and spend quality time with their children.

Who knows' Maybe they have more fun than the children.

While walking through the streets gathering candy, trick-or-treaters should carry a flashlight, glow stick, or some other lighted or reflective object.

Children can wear reflective belts similar to the ones issued to Marines for physical training.

Parents will want to make sure their children's costumes do not impair their vision. Costumes should also be flame retardant.

Although trick-or-treating is widely accepted as a nighttime activity, going door-to-door during daylight hours is safer and just as entertaining.

More importantly, trick-or-treaters will have first choice on the best candy. Parents who allow their children to go out after dark will want to tell their children to stay along well-lighted, more populated areas.

Candy should always be inspected. Many parents only allow their children to consume sealed candies.

Most stores carry individually packaged candy specifically for the Halloween season.

One option parents have to deter their children from eating candy prior to inspection is to make sure they eat dinner before trick-or-treating.

While walking through neighborhoods, trick-or-treaters may see Jack-o' Lanterns in front of many homes that welcome them, which are hollowed-out pumpkins with a face carved into the side of the squash.

Historically, the English and Irish used beets, potatoes and turnips as the famous lantern during Halloween.

According to Irish folklore, the Jack-o'-Lantern was named for a miser named Jack who was banned from heaven.

Jack was not allowed in hell either because of the jokes he played on the devil, so he was forced to walk the earth with his lantern. 

Whether people plan to visit the local haunted house or just a trick-or-treating stroll, this Halloween should be as much fun as it was 2,000 years ago.

With all the history behind Halloween and its traditions, The Emblem staff wishes the MCLB Albany community a safe Halloween.