PICKENS COUNTY — Area kids and their families donned their holiday finest (and freakiest) in celebration of Halloween.
Trick-or-Treaters poured through neighborhoods on Tuesday night in search of houses with porch lights and jack-o-lanterns shining, signaling the promise of candy — just a doorbell ring away.
According to historians, Halloween traces its roots to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.
Samhain was an annual festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of Winter as days grew shorter and dusk came earlier in the day.
It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasadh and was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, states History.org.
During this celebration, which lasted from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, people would light bonfires and wear costumes to “ward off ghosts” — but not all of them.
The story goes that spirits who were family ancestors were welcomed into the home, but inviting spirits came with risk — after all, not all ghosts were friendly.
Harmful spirits were “tricked” by people wearing costumes and masks to disguise themselves and avoid harm. Friendly spirits were “treated” to a night of feasting and reunion with their families.
Get it? Ahh …
So, how did all that turn into kids nowadays begging for candy door to door? The same way the majority of our other holidays came into the mix: Christianity.
Church leaders had long since discovered one of the best ways to take hold in an area was not to eliminate the native customs, but incorporate them.
In the case of Samhain, the church melded the tradition of honoring of the dead into the Christian calendar with All Saints Day on Nov. 1, followed by All Souls Day on Nov. 2.
The wearing of costumes and masks to ward off harmful spirits survived as Halloween customs, on “All Hallows (hallowed/sacred) Eve.”
As the Irish set their eyes on America to escape the potato famine in the 1840’s, they set sail in greater and greater numbers bringing their traditions —including Halloween — with them.