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Hallowe’en Round-Up

October 30th, 2011

Jack O Lanterns | Photo credit: Shawn Campbell

What’s a Hallowe’en?

The answer will invariably come back the same: dressing up in costumes –sometimes outrageously – and taking to the streets for mounds of candy. But the origin of the celebration we know today has much deeper connotations.

Let’s take a quick look at the original revelers before you head out, plastic bucket in hand, are find yourself surrounded by ghosts, Angry Birds, and more Charlie Sheens than you can handle!

It is believed that the tradition of celebrating Hallowe’en was brought to North America by the Irish, and derives from the ancient Celtic Festival Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

The day marked the end of summer and harvest, and the beginning of winter – a time associated with human death. The Celts believed that on the night before their New Year (October 31) the boundary between the worlds of the living and dead became blurred, and ghosts of the dead would return to the earth.

In an act of prevention and celebration, Celtic priests, or Druids, would wear costumes – typically consisting of animal heads and skins – to copy or placate evil spirits, and light bonfires to burn crops and animals as sacrifice to Celtic deities.

That explains dressing up, but where does the candy fit in? Trick-or-treating, modeled after “souling” or “guising,” was first recorded in Britain and Ireland in the late 1800s. Costumed individuals would go from house to house carrying lanterns carved out of turnips, asking for “treats”.

As for the lanterns, when Irish settlers brought Hallowe’en to North America, instead of using turnips, they discovered a valuable resource in pumpkins, which were plentiful, large, and much easier to carve.

The term “Jack O’Lantern” derives from a tale told of a farmer named Jack who tricked the devil out of taking his soul and, upon death, the sinful farmer was forced to wander the earth as a ghost. When he asked the devil how he would see, he was laughingly rewarded with an ember from hell that would never extinguish, which he placed in a lantern he’d carved from a turnip. He became known as Jack of the Lantern.

Check out our TOP 5 links to make sure you have a spooky Hallowe’en!

Catacombs of Paris | Photo credit: Christopher MacSurak

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We have had friends from Europe tell us that they have never seen people celebrate it with so much gumption.  While we may celebrate Halloween in full force, there are a lot of places around the world that I would love to spend the night for a good scare.

Castle Stuart, Inverness, Scotland | Photo credit: Dave Conner

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Sure, we all love telling a good horror story around a crackling fire, but why not hit the road and experience the chills and thrills firsthand? We’ve rounded up six spooky sites where you can do just that. Enjoy an afternoon in a gorgeous yet ghostly Harlem mansion, or spend a night at a creepy castle in the Highlands of Scotland. And if you scare yourself silly — well, don’t say we didn’t warn you…

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Strange Lands – Halloween Supersized

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Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans | Photo credit: Christian Paul

Travel Muse – Top 10 Haunted Hotels in the US

Halloween is approaching and spookiness is in the air, so we thought we’d bring you some of the country’s most notorious haunted hotels to consider for your next trip. Why settle for a plain old hotel stay when you could add apparitions, strange noises in the night, locking and unlocking doors, and more to the experience?

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