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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... the origins of Halloween.


CURWOOD: Halloween goes back to Celtic traditions that started more than 2,000 years ago. October 31st was the last day of the Celtic year, so the holiday served the triple purpose of bidding good-bye to summer, welcoming winter, and remembering the dead. Halloween was little observed in this country until the mid 1800s, when Irish immigrants brought the celebration here. Jack-o-Lanterns are believed to have come from an Irish story about Jack, a man who was expelled from hell for playing tricks on the Devil and condemned to walk the earth forever carrying a lantern. Halloween costumes themselves are tricks. The idea is to fool the evil spirits that the costume wearer is already dead and thus should be left alone. Trick-or-treating started with farmers going door to door to solicit food for Halloween festivities. Prosperity was promised to cheerful givers and threats made against the tight-fisted ones. And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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