Halloween icons have been determined though history. Some of the more popular are listed here.
JACK-O-LANTERN: Several stories are told as to how this icon became a symbol of Halloween. One such tale comes from Irish folklore. It was said that Jack was known for his obsessive drinking and for playing tricks on the townspeople. At one time, Jack was said to have tricked Satan himself to climb a tree and would not let him down again unless the Devil promised not to tempt him again. When Jack died, neither the gates of Heaven nor Hell were open to him. Satan gave Jack a single ember to light his way through the frigid abyss that Jack found himself in. The ember was placed in a hallowed out turnip to keep it glowing for an extended time. The Potato Famine in Ireland took place between 1845-1850. During this period, many Irish immigrants came to America. They brought their Halloween traditions with them. However, they could not find an ample supply of turnips. In light of the fact that pumpkins were abundant in their new land, they began using them as a substitute. Thus becoming one of our Halloween icons the Jack - O - Lantern.
COSTUMES: Various costumes and/or masks were worn in days past in several countries on All Hallows Eve. It was felt that ghosts of people who had died would come back to earth to play tricks on them or perhaps more sinisterly possess their bodies. If masks and/or costumes were worn (when folks left their homes) it was believed that they would not be recognized as the living by the spirits and would be left alone. They would "blend in" with the ghosts.
TRICK - OR - TREATING: Some trace the origin of this custom to the
Holiday of Samhain.
Frightened that the spirits of the dead would want to return to their former homes, the villagers attempted to keep these spirits and demons (who were also set free) away from the interior of their homes by setting out plates of food. The spirits would thus be appeased and move on through the village.
Others maintain that Trick-or-Treating began as the European custom of "Souling". Beggars would go door to door and the occupants would give them "soul cakes". One cake for each departed soul that they wnated prayers said for. In that period of time, it was felt that when a person died, he or she went to a place called "limbo". They stayed there until enough prayers - even from strangers - were uttered to release them to heaven.
WITCHES: Witches believe to be followers of an ancient religion called "wicca". They are said to view Halloween as a festival for the dead and feel that this is perhaps the best time to be able to contact the spirits. It is often felt that this holiday also symbolizes the end and the beginning of a witch's new year.
BLACK CATS: These animals were felt to be reincarnated spirits with the bility to fortell the future. During the Middle Ages, it was determined that witches could turn themselves into cats. Black cats as Halloween icons are often deemed to be harbingers of bad luck.
Halloween icons are very symbolic of this holiday and its' ancient beginnings.
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