A Message from the President: October, 2014

I knew that Halloween was one of the world’s oldest holidays, dating back to pagan times. But to know that it is celebrated today by more people in more countries than ever before? Well, that was news to me. Particularly that world-wide they have fun also. But some remember to honor the dead, as in Latin countries with El Dia de los Muertos.
So, that got me to thinking, which in my case translates to Googling.
The origin of Halloween can be found in the ancient Celtic festival of the dead. The ancient Celts celebrated it as the day when the ghosts of those who had passed away came back to earth. The celebration coincided with the final harvests of the year, the stockpiling of stores for the cold winter months ahead.
In Ireland the day is still celebrated much like it is in the United States. In rural areas, bonfires are lit as they were centuries ago, children get dressed up in costumes and spend the evening “trick-or-treating” in their neighborhoods. A traditional food eaten on Halloween is barnbrack, a kind of fruitcake that can be bought in stores or baked at home. A muslin-wrapped treat or gift is baked inside the cake that is reputed to foretell the eater’s future.
In some European countries, people will leave bread, water, and a lighted lamp or candles on the table before retiring on Halloween night.
Modern Halloween celebrations in Canada began with the arrival of Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 1800s. Jack O’Lanterns are carved and the festivities include parties, trick-or-treating and the decorating of homes with pumpkins and corn stalks.
In China, the Halloween festival is known as Teng Chieh. Food and water are placed in front of photographs of family members who have departed. An odd custom is to fashion boats of the law from paper. The purpose is twofold; as a remembrance of the dead, and to free the pretas, the spirits of those who died as a result of an accident or drowning and whose bodies were never buried.
Unlike most nations of the world, Halloween is not celebrated by the French in order to honor the dead and departed ancestors. It is regarded as an “American” holiday, virtually unknown in the country until around 1996. A combination of a love of parties and costume events, and commercialism has led to the rapid rise of the holiday in France.
No matter where, there is the underlying theme of making and offering of special foods dedicated to the dead.
So — remember to let the spirits guide your writing when they reward you for the treats.