written by Jen of JenniferLynnProducts
Halloween has evolved from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced “sow-in.”) These ancient people celebrated November 1, Samhain (Also known as All Saints Day) as their new year. It was marked the final harvest of the year, when people tucked in for winter.
It was believed that at this time of the year the veil between the worlds of the living and of the dead was at its thinnest and that people could commune with the dead. Bonfires were lit, and from those fires, people re-lit their hearth fires as protection during the coming winter. Costumes were worn, and it is not clear if it was done just to ward of evil spirits, or if there was a Shamanic element involved.
Between A.D. 609 and A.D. 1000, Christian influence spread to Celtic lands, and Samhain was combined with Martyrs', All Saints, and All Souls Days. All Saints Day takes place on November 1, and All Souls Day on November 2. Parades, costumes, and bonfires were featured in these festivals, just as they had been previously for Samhain. There is debate as to whether this was an attempt to replace Samhain, but all of these holidays are observed today, and there are plenty of people who celebrate several of the different versions of the it, including the modern, secular holiday.
The version most Americans celebrate today, with costumes, candy, and parties with less emphasis on spirits and witchery started in the Eastern and Southern colonies of the US. By the 1920s or 30s, the focus had shifted from superstition and spirits to parties, costumes, and candy with a more community-focused celebration. Regardless of how (or if) one celebrates Halloween, it can certainly be said that it is quite an interesting (and fun!) holiday!
There are a number of animals that we see associated with Halloween. You can see them on decorations, and people even sometimes dress up as some of these animals or wear animal masks. Here are a few, listed with some of their symbolism. (This is by no means a comprehensive list of meanings!)
Bat -dreams, intuition, inner depth, transition from one phase of life to another
(black) Cat- the human connection to Mystery, guardian, transformation, inner wisdom
Owl-esoteric wisdom, perception, wealth and status, guardian of the dead, transition, messages, secrets
Spider - mystic energy, creation, power, growth, infinity, constructing our lives mindfully
While Halloween is fun for us humans, it can be stressful and potentially dangerous for the animals in our lives. Keeping them safe while we party largely comes down to using common sense. Here are a few tips:
-Keep them inside! If you are going to be opening your door to trick or treaters, put your pets in an area of your home where they can be prevented from getting outside. That way, while you have the door open to hand out treats, you won't be distracted and won't end up having to chase Fluffy down the street. At the same time, taking them out with you as you walk around, perhaps with your kids while they trick or treat, can be very stressful for the animal. There tend to be a lot of activity and erratic movement and strange-looking creatures. This can be very stressful for a dog and may cause him/her to act out.
-No treats for Fido! (Well, OK. No human treats!) While our pets might enjoy candy as much as we do, a lot of human foods, particularly chocolate, can be deadly to dogs and cats. In addition, an animal that's gung-ho to get to the candy may end up consuming the wrapper along with it, which can also be dangerous. A nice alternative might be to make or buy some special treats for your pets. This will allow them to have a snack that won't harm them, and it also might help calm them down with all the activity that will be going on around them.
-Watch them around pumpkins and other holiday plants. These plants, while not deadly, can still cause stomach upset. Not only that, but Jack-o-Lanterns with a candle inside pose a fire/burn threat. It only takes one curious sniff or shove for disaster to ensue! An alternative might be to use lights instead of candles inside the Jack-o-Lanterns, if your animals can not be kept away from them or are overly enthusiastic.
-Make sure their I.D.s are up to date. If the very worst should happen and your pet should get away, it will be easier to make sure he/she is safely returned to you.
The most important thing about Halloween, regardless of how or if your family participates in it, is respect. Showing respect for your pets and for other people will insure that everyone has a really good time. Despite its dark origins, it's a very festive time of year, and goodness knows: We need all of the good cheer we can get as we head into winter!