Halloween symbology

By Meghan Smith
October 25, 2007


As soon as calendars turn to October, the spirit of Halloween can be felt everywhere. Superstitions take control of one’s every move and the supernatural is working overtime. Witches on broomsticks adorn the insides of shop windows while jack-o-lanterns and dancing ghosts haunt front lawns.

“Halloween is a holiday where you can just go out and have fun with your friends,” Jen Oakes, a sophomore English and communication major, said.

To some, however, Halloween is not innocent fun. The symbols and practices are believed to breathe new life into the dark rituals and symbols of past civilizations.

Halloween would be nothing without ghosts, the universal symbol for the departed. All Hallow’s Eve, as Oct. 31 was originally referred to, was a night to welcome the dead who were returning home for a bit of comfort on the eve of All Saints Day.

In Mexico, El Dio de los Muertos-The Day of the Dead-is celebrated. This traditional holiday is much brighter than that of Halloween in America. The Day of the Dead celebrates and honors the lives of the deceased and the continuation of their life.

“Carved pumpkins are the first thing that come to mind when I think of Halloween,” Jackie Morris, a sophomore business major, said.

The jack-o-lantern is the most well-known face of Halloween. It stems from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy old drunk who tricked the devil and trapped him in a tree trunk. For revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack which doomed him to wander the earth at night with only a burning lump of coal for light. In hopes that Jack would walk peacefully, families put jack-o-lanterns in front of their homes so he wouldn’t need to bother anyone for light.

Trick-or-treating is one of the most popular aspects of Halloween. The American tradition of children dressing up in costumes and going door to door asking for candy dates back to medieval practices of souling. The poor would go door to door, asking for food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day.

“Trick-or-treating really goes back to the basic Christian belief of hospitality,” Resident Chaplin Fr. Michael Bielecki said. “We welcome all who knock on our doors.”

Whether you believe Halloween to be a day that honors the evil of the supernatural or just an excuse to dress up and eat candy, it is a holiday that can be interpreted countless ways by everyone. It is a day rich in symbolism.

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Meghan Smith

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