Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween vs. Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

As you may have already guessed from our past few blog posts, we’re huge fans of Halloween here at GAP. As a matter of fact, most of us have had our costumes picked out for this year’s festivities well in advance this month! Perhaps it’s a coincidence or perhaps it due in part to our offices’ proximity to Salem (arguably the Halloween capital of the world), but it’s safe to say that October 31st is one of the GAP team’s favorite days out of the whole year. So, in the spirit of Halloween, (Get it? The spirit of Halloween… No? Meh, it’ll come to you later.) we thought we would put together a little blog post clearing up one of the most popular misconceptions about the holiday.

If you were to ask a group of people how Halloween started, most will argue they know the answer. However, it usually ends up that everyone has a different answer. The most common answer among the GAP team has heard from those less educated in Halloween is that the holiday began as an extension of the Mexican holiday, Dia De Los Muertos. However, contrary to popular belief, Halloween actually has its roots in the Gaelic festival of Samhain. 

Samhain (pronounced Sah-Win) is celebrated from sunset on the 31st of October to sunset on the 1st of November and is meant to celebrate the end of Harvest Season and the beginning of winter as well as to mark the time of the year in which the world of the living is connected to the world of spirits. Traditions such as dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, and making jack-o-lanterns all come from this Gaelic festival.

One of the defining characteristics of Samhain was the act of “guising.” Guising involved people going from door to door while in costume and singing to those that answered in exchange for food. It is thought that these costumes were meant to disguise the people from the spirits that were roaming around and the food offered meant to appease the sprits. From this tradition, in combination with the collecting of soul cakes on All Saints/Souls Day, the act of Trick-or-Treating was formed.

Speaking of tricking, children quickly learned that dressing up as spirits and jumping out at people was a great way to get a few laughs while they were guising.  Oftentimes, the children would take hollowed out turnips, or beets, and carve scary faces on them so that when they lit a fire inside the vegetable, there appeared to be vengeful spirits approaching. Does this sound familiar? Well, it should because this tradition evolved throughout the years into what we know today as Jack-o-lanterns.

Now at this point, I imagine you’re asking yourself, “But wait! If Halloween has its roots in Samhain, then what is Dia De Los Muertos?” Well, that’s a fantastic question and we’d be more than happy to answer that for you! You see, Dia De Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead in English, is an International holiday that takes place predominately in Mexico. The celebration of the holiday can be dated back to roughly 3,000 years ago. Contrary to what its name suggests, the Day of the Dead is actually celebrated over the course of three days. 

It begins on October 31st, goes all throughout November 1st, and ends at the end of November 2nd. The purpose of the holiday, and its corresponding celebrations, is to celebrate the lives of deceased friends and family members. These celebrations include families going to their loved one’s graves, bringing the deceased’s favorite food and drinks, and cleaning their gravestones. Parades will also be held in honor of the deceased and skeleton decorations can be found all throughout the city/town. Residents will also place shrines with flowers around the cemetery and down the streets to invite the spirits back to the area.

So, whether you’re dressing up as Wolverine for Halloween, carving Jack-O-Lanterns for Samhain or celebrating a loved one for Dia De Los Muertos we hope you enjoy yourselves over the next few days. We certainly are! Check out some of the GAP Team showing off their Halloween costumes and taking part in a donut eating contest:

Pat "Hot Rod" Vaughn came in 1st Place!


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