The holiday-time of elves, witches, and ghosts is Hallowe'en. It is not believed in here except by some children, who people the dark with bogies who will carry them away if they are naughty.
Join me on a journey back to the 19th Century, where Halloween was very much a part of life - and belief. On this page we will focus on American beliefs, traditions and celebrations, more particularly relating to witches and the decor for such Halloween festivities.
Let us commence our journey.
In Colonial days Halloween (ye olde Halloween was actually spelled Hallowe'en) was not celebrated much in America. Some English still kept the customs of the old world, such as apple-ducking and snapping, and girls tried the apple-paring charm to reveal their lovers' initials, and the comb-and-mirror test to see their faces. Ballads were sung and ghost-stories told, for the dead were thought to return on Halloween.
Elves, goblins, and fairies were native on American soil. The Indians believed in evil manitous, some of whom were water-gods who exacted tribute from all who passed over their lakes. Henry Hudson and his fellow-explorers haunted as mountain-trolls the Catskill range. Like Ossian and so many other visitors to the Otherworld, Rip Van Winkle was lured into the strange gathering, thinks that he passes the night there, wakes, and goes home to find that twenty years have whitened his hair, rusted his gun, and snatched from life many of his boon-companions.
While the original customs of Hallowe'en are being forgotten more and more across the ocean, Americans have fostered them, and are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days.
All Halloween customs in the USA were borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries. All superstitions, everyday ones, and those pertaining to Christmas and New Year's, have special value on Halloween. Of course now the extent and variation of celebrations extend far beyond what one would have imagined,
Halloween is a night of ghostly and merry revelry. Mischievous spirits choose it for carrying off gates and other objects, and hiding them or putting them out of reach.
"Dear me, Polly, I wonder what them boys will be up to to-night. I do hope they'll not put the gate up on the shed as they did last year." Wright: Tom's Halloween Joke.
Bags filled with flour sprinkle the passers-by. Door-bells are rung and mysterious raps sound on doors, things thrown into halls, and knobs stolen. Such innocent antics mean no more at Halloween than the tricks played the night before the Fourth of July have to do with the Declaration of Independence.
Parties were prepared for in secret. Guests were not to divulge the fact that they were invited. Often they came masked, as ghosts or witches.
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