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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Let's be honest...Halloween is a weird American holiday!  The rest of the world celebrates something somewhat similar called Carnival.   Costumes are adorned and parties are plentiful.  So what makes Halloween different than Carnival? Well, for starters, we add the creepy, spooky element to the festivities.  Carnival usually occurs in the spring, while here in America, we often need coats or umbrellas to protect our costumes in the crisp fall when we celebrate.

Anciently, the Celts celebrated their new year during this time, marking the end of the warmer weather harvest and the beginning of the cold, approaching winter months.  They believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and dead was blurred.  They also believed that as they surrounded a big bonfire, dressed in costumes, that they could predict the future, as well as protect themselves in the upcoming year against bad fortune.

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as "All Saints Day", a day to honor all saints and martyrs, possibly as an attempt to veer Christians away from the Celtic pagan traditions.  The night before the holiday, October 31st, was known as "All Hallows' Eve" which eventually became more secular, including parades and sweet treats for the children.

Today, Halloween festivities involve community events, trick or treating, and an attempt to focus on the fun party atmosphere, rather than on the religious tones, although death and superstition are definitely still part of the mix.

Here are some Halloween words for my international friends who are trying to make sense of it all:

* apparition - an unusual or unexpected sight, a ghost

* macabre - grim, horrific, repulsive

* cackle - to laugh, especially in a harsh or sharp


* Jack-o'-lantern - a lantern made of the rind of a

pumpkin in which holes are cut to represent eyes,

nose, and mouth

* poltergeist - a noisy, mischievous ghost

* bloodcurdling - arousing fright or horror

* ghastly - terrifyingly horrible to the senses

If you're a fan of my books, then you can probably guess that I'll never write a spooky fiction novel, using any of those words!  My kids think I'm a dork because I refuse to decorate my home with creepy decor.  Instead, my Halloween decorations consist of happy harvest and smiling pumpkins.

Whether you like getting scared or not, have fun out there this year!  Wear a costume, share treats, create your own fun traditions, and be safe!   Happy Halloween!