Today’s Word: Halloween (Noun)

Today’s Word: Halloween (Noun)

Pronunciation: [h-l-'ween]

Definition 1: The eve of All Saints Day on which British and North American children often run about in grisly costumes representing the dead or evil-doers and play pranks on their neighborsor offer residents immunity in exchange for treats (trick or treat).

Usage 1: Today’s word is a shortening of Allhallowmas Even (evening), the vigil of All Saints Day (November 1), the day on which all the saints are honored. However, the celebration originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain [so-win] held on the last day of the Celtic calendar to celebrate the end of summer and beginning of winter, the season of death. The Celts believed that on that night, the line between the living and the dead evaporated and the spirits of the dead returned to mingle with those of the living.

Suggested Usage: When the Catholic Church came to England, it attempted to preempt the pagan celebration with its own and chose the day of Samhain as the vigil for their celebration of all the saints. The results were the odd combination of the profane and sacred we now celebrate on October 31 and November 1. The pumpkin lantern (jack-o’-lantern) was originally a turnip lantern placed in windows on Halloween to scare away the spirits of the dead that were supposed to wander about that night. The costumes of today’s children descend from the days when kids dressed up like those spirits (e.g. the skeleton costumes) to take advantage of the beliefs of their elders for amusement.

Etymology: “Hallow” comes from Middle English “halwen,” the descendant of Old English “halgian.” It derives from the same source as “hale” as in “hale and hearty,” the somewhat dated greeting, “Hail!” both of which are cousins of “heal,” the root of “health.” “Holy,” too, belongs to the expanded family. In German and Dutch it emerges as heilig “holy” as well as heil “health, salvation” in German, a term used in the unholy salutes, “Heil Hitler!” and “Sieg Heil!” (Hail Victory!) during the Second World War.

And now, back to putting blood drops on the cupcakes…mmmm, vampire cupcake goodness….

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