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Spooky fun abounds this weekend

Origins of Halloween date back thousands of years

October 31, 2010
By Serra Muscatello, Staff Writer

NEW ULM - The community of New Ulm and the surrounding area had some Halloween-inspired activity all weekend long beginning on Friday night.

Tonight, kids ages 15 and younger are invited to the New Ulm Sons of the American Legion's Annual Halloween Community Treat Night which will run from 5-8 p.m. (today) at the American Legion Club rooms.

Children will receive a chance for door prizes, free candy bag with an assortment of candy, a glass of juice and a place to sit, rest or warm up for a few minutes while they make their Halloween rounds. Kids are encouraged to come down in their costumes and participate in the event.

Article Photos

Staff photo by Serra Muscatello
Local students helped put on “The Slaughter Shack” haunted house Friday and Saturday nights at the Echo Teen Center located at 101 N. Broadway in New Ulm. Pictured in the front row: (left to right) Mikyla Denney of New Ulm, and Emily Miller of New Ulm. Pictured in the back row (left to right): Zach Lundstrom of Lafayette, Nick Wellmann of New Ulm, Quintin Branch of New Ulm and Colton Eckstrand of New Ulm.

The "Slaughter Shack" was back again this year inviting "brave and fearless" youth in fifth through twelfth grades to walk through the haunted house at the Echo Teen Center, located at 101 N. Broadway.

"It went OK (for the first night on Friday)," said Sheldon Rieke, who helped organize the Slaughter Shack, "People came through - some of the adults jumped more than the kids that was interesting. We had fun doing it."

The Slaughter Shack was held from 6:30-10 p.m. both Friday and Saturday nights. Kids paid $2 for a "spooky" visit. They saw "ghosts, demons and the undead." The event was sponsored by Healthy Communities/ Healthy Youth of Brown County, New Ulm Area Youth Council, United Way of Brown County, Underage Substance Abuse Coalition and ISD #88 Community Education Services.

Also on Saturday running from 1-3 p.m. youngsters up to age eight could attend a come-and-go-Halloween Party held at the Courtland Community Center. The event was sponsored by the Courtland Lions and the Courtland 4-H. The event featured hands-on activities, games and a sensory area, prizes, bags of goodies and a snack.

New Ulm Area Gymnastics Academy (NUAGA) held a Halloween-themed open gym from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday. The event featured decorations, candy and prizes.

What we have come to know today as "Halloween" actually dates back thousands of years to ancient Rome. Every October, the Romans celebrated the Feast of Pompona - the Goddess of Orchards. The holiday included things like bobbing for apples and exchanging small gifts of fruit and nuts. The Roman people also believed that they could be protected from evil spirits by hollowing out gourds and putting lit candles or even oil-soaked rags inside of them.

It was the ancient Greeks who believed that one time every year the souls of the dead would return to visit the earth. They did not want to offend these visitors, so they held a week-long festival of Anthesteria. The festival had banquets to honor the dead and the souls of the dead were invited to attend these banquets.

Meanwhile, while the Romans and the Greeks were having their festivals, the Celtic people living in Western and Central Europe were also celebrating the Celtic new year which fell on Nov. 1. Their new year's eve was marked by their festival of Samhain, the Lord of Death. Celtic priests, also known as Druids, led people to light big bonfires where animals (and sometimes people) were sacrificed to please Samhain.

Eventually, the Roman invasion and conquest of Celtic lands led to a combination of the festivals of Samhain and Pompona and new traditions began. Celtic children would begin parading the streets wearing costumes during Samhain and also took part in Roman feast of Pompona activities of apple-bobbing and giving one another fruit and nuts.

As Christianity spread throughout Europe and reached the Celtic people, the Christian missionaries were appalled at these pagan practices, but they had become important to the Celts and could not be discarded.

Church leaders decided to call Nov. 1 "All Hallow Day," as a day for honoring all saints who did not have a feast day of their own. The evening before became known as "All Hallow Evening" and was later shortened to be "Halloween."

Throughout the world, different countries have held unique Halloween superstitions. In Wales, for example, people thought that a sneeze released the soul from its body and if the devil was fast enough, he could catch the soul and drag it away. People began to say, "God bless you," which became a universal response to a sneeze.

In Scotland, the tradition said that every Halloween, the devil would appear wearing a kilt and playing a "ghostly bagpipe." In the villages of Scotland, people offered cakes to the goblins and witches who were thought to be on the prowl.

In England, Halloween was more closely related to the harvest season. It was called "Nutcrack Night" or "Snap-Apple" night. Families living in England would sit by a fire and tell scary stories while eating apples and nuts.

In the United States, Halloween was not widely celebrated until about the middle of the 19th century with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Ireland and Scotland. These immigrants carried their traditions with them and they became a part of the American culture.

Many modern American Halloween traditions like jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, pranks and practical jokes could be traced back to Ireland.

The tradition of

Trick-or-Treating

The origins of trick-or-treating comes from an ancient Celtic custom revolving around one of the Druid gods named "Muck Olla."

On the feast of Samhain, peasants traveled from house to house asking for money and food for Muck Olla and those who were generous were assured of prosperity, while those who did not give would become victims of jokes and other mischief.

This Muck Olla tradition came to America in the 1840s with youngsters considering the one night of Halloween to be a time when adults would be tolerant of behavior that would not be allowed at other times. Housewives offered the children candy, cookies, apples in exchange that they would not pull any pranks or mischief. The practice eventually became the tradition of "trick-or-treat."

Information on the origins of Halloween was taken from the book "The Great Halloween Book," written by Mark Walker.

 
 

 

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