Today on “Days to Remember” we celebrate All Hallows Eve but how did this holiday tradition become what is known today as Halloween?
Halloween can be traced back more than 2,000 years to a Celtic festival known as Samhain (SAH-wen) that celebrated the end of the summer harvest season. The ancient Celts lived in Northern Europe, especially Ireland, Britain, and France. (The “C” in Celtic is pronounced with a “K” sound.)
The Celts believed that the spirits of the dead roamed the towns and villages on the night of October 31. Because the Celts were superstitious, they feared that these spirits could create havoc by damaging crops, creating sickness, and even taking over the bodies of the living. To ward off danger, the Celts made huge bonfires and dressed in animal hides to frighten away the evil spirits. Today people light up the night with creepy decorations, and Jack-o’-lanterns. And rather than parading around in animal hides, most kids prefer to wear spooky costumes.
The origin of trick-or-treating is not well understood. Some people think it began with a custom called souling, when the poor went to people’s homes begging for soul cakes, which were round pieces of bread with currants. In return for the treats, the beggars would pray to help the recently deceased enter heaven.
So how did Samhain turn into Halloween? Well, like all cultural changes, it didn’t happen overnight. Samhain was a pagan (nonreligious) celebration. As Christianity became the dominant religion in the world, the Catholic Church decided it didn’t like people celebrating a non-Christian holiday. Around the year 800 AD, the Church moved a spring holiday—All Saints’ Day—to November 1st. “Hallows” is another word for “saints,” so the night before All Saints’ Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve. From there, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump for All Hallows’ Eve to become Halloween.
So when you’re out Saturday night carrying a plastic pumpkin filled with Milky Ways, candy corn, and M&Ms, remember the ancient Celts whooping and hollering so keep safe from evil spirits.
One of my favorite songs on Halloween is called, “Monster Mash.”
Today’s YouTube presentation shared by user name Tamara Tenenbaum is today’s song called, “The Monster Mash,” as we celebrate Halloween today on October 31st.
Who wrote the song called The Monster Mash?
Pickett was an aspiring actor who sang with a band called the Cordials at night while going to auditions during the day. One night, while performing with his band, Pickett did a monologue in imitation of horror movie actor Boris Karloff while performing the Diamonds’ “Little Darlin'”. The audience loved it and fellow band member Lenny Capizzi encouraged Pickett to do more with the Karloff imitation.
Pickett and Capizzi composed “Monster Mash” and recorded it with Gary S. Paxton, pianist Leon Russell, Johnny MacRae, Rickie Page, and Terry Berg, credited as “The Crypt-Kickers”. (Mel Taylor, drummer for the Ventures, is sometimes credited with playing on the record as well, while Russell, who arrived late for the session, appears on the single’s B-side, “Monster Mash Party”) The song was partially inspired by Paxton’s earlier novelty hit “Alley Oop”, as well as by the Mashed Potato dance craze of the era.
A variation on the Mashed Potato was danced to “Monster Mash”, in which the footwork was the same but Frankenstein-style monster gestures were made with the arms and hands.
The song is narrated by a mad scientist whose monster, late one evening, rises from a slab to perform a new dance. The dance becomes “the hit of the land” when the scientist throws a party for other monsters.
The producers came up with several low-budget but effective sound effects for the recording. For example, the sound of a coffin opening was imitated by a rusty nail being pulled out of a board.
The sound of a cauldron bubbling was actually water being bubbled through a straw, and the chains rattling were simply chains being dropped on a tile floor. Pickett also impersonated horror film actor Bela Lugosi as Dracula with the lyric “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”
When black cats prowl, and pumpkins gleam, may luck be yours on Halloween!
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell