The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Halloween traditions from holiday of remembrance

    Goblins, ghouls, ghosts, cats candy, costumes. These words are commonly associated with Halloween, creeping up Oct. 31. But this wasn’t always the case.

    Halloween has evolved from a variety of customs, understood and misunderstood religious beliefs.

    Halloween originated from Samhain, an old Celtic holiday in which people honored their deceased ancestors, associate professor of religious studies Lori Rowlett said. The holiday fell on a date during the darkest time of the year, representing a time to remember the past.

    “Some people believe this is the time when there is the thinnest wall between the two worlds,” she said.

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    During the holiday, people often made offerings to spirits, said Scott Lowe, professor of philosophy and religious studies. This is where the origin of the “treats” of Halloween stemmed from.

    Jack-o’-lanterns also formed from the pagan holiday, Lowe said.

    “It’s associated with lighting the darkness,” Rowlett said.

    Lowe said the idea of witches also developed from the same pagan religion.

    The term “witch,” Rowlett said, comes from the word “wicca,” which means “wise.”

    In the early European era before Christianity, witches were the older wise women of the village. The women often practiced holistic medicine.

    “They used to be considered the repositories of sacred pagan knowledge,” Rowlett said.
    Witches were not negatively portrayed until Christianity came about, she said.

    Christians tried to use a pessimistic view to urge the European people to join their religion.

    Lowe agreed.

    “The idea of witches being demonic is an early Christian projection,” he said. “There is no historical evidence to prove (they were considered evil before Christianity).”

    Lowe said the idea of ghosts also stemmed from pagan traditions. The idea of being able to see ghosts relates to the realms of spirit and human meeting.

    Halloween is a constantly evolving holiday, he said.

    “(Halloween) has become dramatically more important for adult people,” he said. “It’s not just for kids anymore.”

    Junior Maja Petersen said she hosted a Halloween costume party at her apartment over the weekend. However, she said Halloween isn’t as important for her as it once was.

    “When I was little I went trick-or-treating,” she said. “I think Halloween was a bigger deal to me when I was a kid than it is now.”

    Some studies have found that Halloween is the most important holiday for many people in the United States, Lowe said.

    Petersen said she wouldn’t rank Halloween quite that high.

    “It’s just for fun,” she said. “It’s not a holiday where (you) spend time with your family.”

    Lowe said when he was young, few parents dressed up for the ghoulish holiday. Now, he said, parents participate more often.

    When Halloween falls on a weekday, professors from other universities claim the following day has the worst attendance of the year, including the dates before spring and winter breaks, he said.

    Through all the cobwebs and customs, Lowe said watching Halloween change is a rare occurrence.

    “It’s interesting to see a holiday evolve in our lifetime.”

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