All Hallows’ Eve – Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has a very safe and happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. Y’all know I love holidays in general, but the magic of Halloween has always placed it at the top. I also love that it kind of “kicks off” the other holidays of this time of year, making it even more special to me.

So, for today, I’m here to give a brief history of Halloween, as well as a few traditions!

“Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.”

Following Halloween is All Saints’ Day on November 1st and All Souls’ Day on November 2nd.

 

Now for some traditions!Soul Cakes

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead.

In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)

Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.

Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.

Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

Southern Traditions, Mrs. Randall and Folklore

Growing up in the little community of Sulphur Bluff was very special to me. It was like a world by itself. So much so that I’ve had a hard time realizing my kids will be Wildcats instead of Bears. I’m slowly accepting that fact and have even become excited about it, but that’s a different post for a different day.

Today is about Southern Traditions, Mrs. Randall and Folklore. Mrs. Randall was a lady who substitute taught at The Bluff regularly. So much so that we (the students) all thought of her as another grandmother. She had a true presence about her and never seemed to age a day. She was tough as nails and kind as everything. She was also a God-fearing and God-loving woman who never hid the fact despite it being a public school. She didn’t have to talk about God non-stop for us to know her love of Him. She simply was who she was, and we saw it in her love of the students.

Now, I read a book once that said, “Nearly everyone in the South is Christian. However, we also have a few superstitions we hold on to, too.” That about sums it up. Heaven forbid you don’t eat black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day, open an umbrella instead of the house or don’t say, “Bless you,” to someone who sneezed. Not as familiar with the last one? Because of Mrs. Randall, even if I don’t know the person standing behind me at Walmart, I say, “Bless you,” to them. And to be 100% honest, it’s not completely done out of kindness.

I was in middle school the first time someone sneezed and someone did not bless said person, Mrs. Randall nearly jumped out of her skin crying, “Stars and stripes, child (another favorite saying of hers), bless them before the devil gets their soul.” It’s stuck with me, needless to say. Of course, it is good manners, which is also why I’m writing about it on my etiquette blog. But it doesn’t stop at just that.

There are a few different tall tales as to why we bless someone when they sneeze, beyond etiquette. A common thought as to why we bless someone who sneezes dates back to the days of the Great Plague. However, Southern folklore has said that when someone sneezes, their soul separates from their body, and without being blessed, the devil can snatch it. Now, I believe this simply because when I sneeze, I’m pretty sure my eyes separate, too. Ok, ok. I don’t really believe it…or do I?

Folklore becomes engrained in us, and I’m actually proud it does. In a monogamous world, I wish we could find ways to celebrate our uniqueness without tearing down someone else’s uniqueness in the process. We should love the things that make us, us. I also love these traditions being passed down from generation to generation, as well as passing on the “why.” For this simple reason I will fondly think of Mrs. Randall when I say, “Bless you,” to someone after they sneeze….and hope the devil didn’t steal their soul.  🙂