One Dark Spooky Night

halloweencity-1024x680Halloween, the second biggest revenue holiday next to Christmas. Children flock to the streets dressed in costumes looking for treats. Superheros, villians, princesses, scary figures, all interested in a little sweet treat as they knock on your door.

Decorations abound in neighborhoods, community events of all kinds pop up offering various alternatives to the traditional door to door. Halloween is a fabulous holiday and one that adults and children alike can get creative and have a lot of fun. There are all kinds of traditions around this holiday, like the jack-o-lanterns we put on our doorsteps, dressing in costume, and going door to door.

images-25I was curious this year to find out more about Halloween and where it came from. How did this holiday begin, why do we go door to door? If you think about it, it seems like a really odd thing to do, dress up and go ‘begging’ for candy. I wanted to know more.

Halloween, also called All Hallow’s Eve, stems from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, which is a festival in which they celebrated the end of the harvest season and the first day of winter. It was also believed that this transition between seasons was when the veil between worlds was the thinnest and a bridge to the world of the dead. It was when deceased would come back and wreak havoc such as sickness or damaging crops. Masks and costumes were used during the festival to mimic the evil spirits and appease them, so to protect and leave the community alone.

The tradition of going door to door in costume was first found in medevial times when the practice of ‘souling’ was done. On All Hallow’s Eve poor folks would go door to door receiving food in return for prayers for the dead, therefore protecting people and offering peace to the deceased. Fascinating I thought, instead of candy, it began with people asking for actual food.

images-27The Jack-O-Lantern was one of the most interesting. Based on the Irish folktale of Stingy Jack, who had tricked the Devil into not taking his soul, had nowhere to go when he died. As he had led a sinful life he could not go to Heaven and because he made a deal with the Devil who couldn’t take his soul, he had no place to rest and was left in darkness. Unable to see, the Devil threw him an ember from Hell to light his way. Jack placed the ember in a turnip, his favorite vegetable and wandered the Earth looking for a resting place. The Jack-O-Lantern became a symbol to keep spirits and ghosts away on Samhain.

Traditionally, all these Halloween events took place and originated in Ireland, Scotland and England as early as the 10th century, not reaching North America until 19th century, really taking off in the late 20th. In fact, during World War II, Halloween was toned down quite a bit due to sugar rationing during that time.

HalloweenHow the items given out at the door evolved from food items to candy is a mystery, and I have not been able to find out exactly why this changed. I can only hypothosize that it may have been a cheaper alternative as trick or treaters became more abundant or something along those lines.

Today, many of the Halloween traditions still hold true, though there is a strong trend to reduce the amount of candy and sugar surrounding the holiday and with anything, there is controversy on both sides whether we should or shouldn’t do so. Honestly, I believe it is a personal choice as to what you choose to do and why. Regardless, people still dress up in costumes and enjoy going door to door, parties or other events finding their ways to celebrate and enjoy the holiday.

Stingy Jack

Stingy Jack

Here are some more fun facts I discovered in my research on Halloween:

  • The colors orange and black are associated with Halloween because orange is associated with the Fall Harvest and black with darkness
  • The fear of Halloween is known as Samhainophobia
  • If you see a spider on Halloween it represents the spirit of a loved one that passed away is watching over you
  • It is believed that if you have a Halloween birthday you have a gift of communicating with those that have passed over
  • Cats, spiders and bats are not random symbols, they are associated with witchcraft
  • The pumpkin took over from the turnip for the Jack-O-Lantern when they Irish arrived in America and discovered the orange vegetable in abundance

If you have any fun or interesting facts about the history of Halloween please share them in the comments below!

Leprechaun’s, Shamrocks and More – St. Patrick’s Day Crafts for Kids

 

Chloe and Luke making their Shamrock Man

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those fun unique holidays that you can really get into if you choose to. I’ve always loved the concept of green beer, (as an adult of course), shamrocks and leprechaun’s and pots of gold. And it is the one day that you can never get too sick of the color green!

I always find holidays like this so much more fun when you can celebrate with kids, whether it be your own, nieces, nephews or children you work with. As usual there is a plethora of St. Patrick’s Day crafts that are fun and colorful to make surrounding this holiday.

I had planned to make a couple of these crafts with the kids only to find when I went to our craft supplies that we were missing a few things. No matter, tomorrow a trip to the dollar store will remedy that. We were able to make Shamrock Men, which is one of my favorite crafts due to the accordion arms and legs (I have done a similar heart man for Valentine’s Day).

Luke and Chloe enjoy making crafts and as soon as I announced that we were making one they ran into the kitchen and sat down at the table. I had precut the shamrocks and strips of paper but I let them do all the folding and glueing and Chloe even drew a face on her shamrock’s by herself. Chloe was very into it, while Luke though interested got easily distracted with trains and playdoh, but he did finish it.

Both Luke and Chloe squealed with delight when they were done and started making their shamrocks dance and sing. It was pretty cute to watch. Tomorrow I would like to make the pot of gold which will probably end in a lot of glitter everywhere, but that’s ok we can all sparkle for a while.

I love the make your own Blarney Stone idea as well (below,) but we needed to gather a few supplies to do that one and could easily get away with making it after St. Patrick’s Day. I myself, have been to Blarney to kiss the Blarney Stone, set high up in the castle of Blarney; and it is quite a unique experience. I am not going to spoil it by telling you what happens as I think half the fun is experiencing it for yourself, but let’s just say it was not what I expected! Needless to say if you have the chance go and do it, it’s worth it. In the meantime you and your little ones can enjoy your own little Blarney Stone at home.

I imagine the kids will love creating their own and will be kissing them in no time (reminds me of kissing frogs for some reason – ha ha).

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts

Pot of Gold

black and green construction paper

white glue

gold glitter

scissors

paper plate

something small and round to use as stamper to make gold coins

Draw and cut out pot on black construction paper. Glue the pot onto a piece of green construction paper, centering it and leaving enough room at the top to make the ‘gold coins’.

Pour glue on paper plate, dip stamper into glue and press it onto paper above pot. Pour gold glitter on paper until glue is completely covered. Gently tap the back of paper to remove any excess gold glitter. Tip – tap it onto another paper plate or piece of paper so you can use excess glitter for future crafts. 

St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Man

green construction paper

white paper

googley eyes

glue

scissors

black marker

Draw a large shamrock on green construction paper and cut it out. Draw 4 small shamrocks on green construction paper and cut them out (these will be for hands and feet).

Cut 4 strips of white paper about 1 inch wide. Fold the strips back and forth like an accordion. Glue 2 strips either side of large shamrock for arms, glue the other 2 at the bottom for legs.

Glue small shamrocks on the ends of each strip for hands and feet. Glue googley eyes on large shamrock and draw in mouth with black marker.

Blarney Stone

Blarney Castle, Ireland

smooth clean river rock

brush

green paint

glue

markers

glitter, sequins, jewels, bits of yarn

Make sure rock is clean and dry. Paint it green. Let dry.

Once paint is dry decorate with glitter, sequins, etc. When glue is dry from decorating draw on face using markers.

Luke folding his accordion arms

Voila! Your own kissable Blarney Stone.