Tuesday, March 11, 2014
A house on Summer Street in Kennebunk welcoming trick-or-treaters, also on October 31, 2012. Press Herald file photo.
As the days grow shorter and the nights frosty, harvest season is coming to an end in Northern New England. The last two weeks have been spent under frequently gray skies in my insulated Carhartt overalls clearing out the garden beds, planting garlic, piling hay bales around the chicken coop in the barn (as a wind block), and disposing of field mice caught by my cat. Dead leaves are scattered behind the beehives in the back, lending a deeper look into the woods.
Every year as this inevitable transformation from life to death takes place so too do harvest celebrations and the commemorating by families and neighborhoods of Halloween with old-fashioned traditions including dressing up in costumes and carving pumpkins.
Modern Halloween is largely different from its origin, which is believed to have been around 2,000 years ago with the ancient Celts and their celebration of Samhain. At sundown on October 31, the night before their new year, they believed the souls of the dead returned to earth. A primarily agrarian society, the farmers attempted to appease these spirits to prevent damage to future crops and to help the Celtic priests communicate with the dead and make predictions about the next crop season. Large bonfires were built, sacrifices (animal and plant) were made, and the Celts danced in costumes made of animal skins to make them look like the evil spirits with which they believed they were convening.
Irish-Catholic immigrants arriving in Colonial America primarily left the pagan traditions of their ancestors at home. It was not until during the mid-19th century that poor Irish immigrants seeking refuge from the potato famine in Ireland brought some of their ancestors Halloween traditions with them to the United States. Carved vegetables with candles in them were placed in windows to welcome ghosts and offer prayers to wandering souls and people dressed up as angels (likely a Catholic influence) and demons at parties.
After sugar rationing ended during World War II, Halloween evolved into the neighborhood-centered holiday we identify with today. However, it has lost some of its popularity due to unfortunate urban legends about poisoned candy and apples containing razor blades.
Fact or fiction? Maine’s own Steven King is perhaps horror’s greatest story teller. Around the country special screenings of the film “The Shining” director Stanley Kubrick made based on King’s book take place every year at Halloween-oriented film festivals. Did you know (a) King greatly dislikes the film and (b) it is very loosely based on a true story?
Making a night of it in Portland, Maine? Check out Portland Food Map’s list of this week’s events. Trick or treating in the neighborhood tonight? Have fun! Here’s a link to a recent article with seven Halloween safety tips.Tweet
Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.
When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.
In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.