Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Santa Barbara celebrates both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos

Halloween (Hallowed Eve)

Halloween began as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter, when the Celts believed spirits of the dead returned to earth. 

History of the Jack-O-Lantern

Every October, carved pumpkins peer out from porches and doorsteps in the United States and other parts of the world. Gourd-like orange fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns”—the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack—originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities.

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
November 1st

Day of the Dead (SpanishDía de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed. The celebration takes place on November 1, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skullsmarigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In BrazilDia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.
(information and photos from Wikipedia)
As a child growing up in the Netherlands, we celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day by visiting the family's grave sites.  Children would create shadow boxes and go around to neighbors to show them off and collect candy.   Our costume dress up days were held during carnival time just before the beginning of lent and fasting.  I still have great memories of those times!
It seems that every culture  enjoys a time for dressing up in costumes to celebrate a local holiday.  Kids and adults alike enjoy "dressing up" in costumes and Halloween is a fun time to do it. I have 3 big boxes of Halloween decorations!  I remember when my husband and I went as "little Red Riding Hood" and the "Big Bad Wolf"...but that's for another post!
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