Today is October 31, which means it’s All Hallows’ Eve. Along with St. Patrick’s Day — because I’m super Irish if you couldn’t tell — Halloween is my favorite holiday.
This post is going to be a couple of things. In light of the occasion, I figured I’d give a bit of a history of Halloween, just for funsies. Well, also to make this post somewhat interesting to those who aren’t really interested in hearing about my writing plans. And then I’m also going to give an update of my blog’s (soon to be website’s) recent overhaul and what I’ve got planned in the weeks and months to come.
Halloween: A Brief History
All Hallows’ Eve, also called All Saints’ Eve, is a Westernized, Christianized celebration heavily influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, possibly pagan in origin, and thought to be a reinterpretation of the Gaelic festival Samhain.
In the medieval calendar, the Celts frequently celebrated the four quarter days of the year, which fall more or less around our solstices. Samhain, which in Old Irish means “summer’s end,” was the first and most important of the quarter days. It marked the end of the harvest season and kicked off the begging of winter, or the ‘dark half’ of the year. Always the biggest and most festive of the Celtic quarterlies, the Samhain celebrations were seen as a way to bring the fertile part of the year to an official close and to give thanks for the bounty nature provided to them over the course of the season.
But it wasn’t just about the harvest. There was a mystical component to Samhain similar to Beltane and Calan Mai. This was seen as an occasion when the spirits could more easily enter the mortal world, a time when the dead were particularly active and mischievous. Offerings of food, spirits, and portions of crops were made to the spirits of dark fairies in the hope that it would placate their devilish intentions and allow the people and their livestock to survive the long, harsh winter.
There was also frequently mumming, or the performing of short impromptu folk plays, and guising, which dates back to the 16th century and involved children dressing up in disguises and costumes to go door-to-door receiving gifts of food, coin, or treats. Sometimes they’d recite songs or poems or scripture to receive their loot. Sound familiar? This is where our tick-or-treating comes from.
It was also common to hollow out turnips and carve scary faces into them so that they’d look like malignant spirits. These traditional Irish turnip lanterns (see picture above) were very popular pranks and a prelude to our jack-o’-lanterns.
It was the many waves of Scottish and Irish immigrats in the 19th century that brought many of the Halloween customs you see to the States today. Though the Anglicans in the South and the Catholic colonists in Maryland embraced it, the New England Puritans strongly opposed Halloween (and Christmas too), but they couldn’t stop the spread. Children and the young at heart have always had a particular affinity for Halloween. The holiday saw enormous growth in the mid to late-20th century, and today Halloween has a large, nearly ubiquitous following in most households.
And didn’t Google look awesome today?
Hope you enjoyed my very brief history of Halloween. Follow any of the links if you’d like to learn more.
Now for the business part of this post. As you might have noticed, I’ve been posting a lot more steadily for the past month. I’m in the process of creating my pillar content. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, pillar content is the foundation of my writing, the mostly generalized and SEO’d things that people would likely search for and would help them find me. Some of it has been fun to write, the science stuff in particular, but most of it is really supposed to generate traffic. Why? Well I’m creating my platform, and apparently readership is a big part of that.
I know I keep saying “Next week I’m setting up my domain,” but seriously, I’m really planning to have that done by next weekend. I’m still debating what I want my domain to be — my name? or should I create a name and theme for my site? — but once that detail is nailed down, I’ll get it setup and all ready to go.
For the past week or so, I’ve also been spending a fair amount of time on content mills. I know, it’s kind of like whoring myself out as a writer, but for one thing, a domain isn’t free. Promotion (of the good kind) isn’t free. Reviews by big-name reviewers usually aren’t free (unless they stumble across your content by accident and fall in love). So making some quick cash from content mills is going to balance the expense of starting, running, and promoting a site.
So that’s where I’m at now. Check back after the weekend for another sciencey post. And Happy Halloween, again.