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Halloween: A Night for Spirits and High Spirits

06 October 2011

Take a photo tour of what Americans love about Halloween.

1. TITLE: Introduction

TEXT: Halloween — celebrated on October 31 — is one of the oldest holidays still observed in the Western world. Today, it is a day for fun. But ancient Celtic peoples believed it to be the most important day of the year. On Samhain, as it was known then, the souls of the dead were believed to be set free for one night to roam the earth.

Shown here is Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. It opened in 1849 and is the resting place for several U.S. presidents and many U.S. Civil War generals. Ghosts allegedly haunt the many mausoleums.

PHOTO: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hollywood_Cemetery-9409.jpg

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Mr. Johnson

Alt tag: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia (Wikimedia Commons/Mr. Johnson)

  1. TITLE: Halloween Evolves

TEXT: With the rise of Christianity, church leaders assimilated pagan holidays into Christian ones. Samhain celebrations were incorporated into the feasts of All Saints’ Day on November 1, which commemorates early Christian martyrs, and All Souls’ Day on November 2, when all the dead are remembered. The evening before All Saints’ Day was known as “All Hallows Eve” (“hallowed” means “sanctified” or “holy”), and it is from this title that Halloween derives its name.

Here, a schoolgirl in Louisiana dresses as Mother Teresa of Calcutta on November 1.

PHOTO: AP 061101031682

Credit: AP Images

Alt Tag: Girl in nun’s costume (AP Images)

3. TITLE: Costumes

TEXT: While not an official holiday, Halloween is much beloved by children and adults in the United States. In ancient times, masked Celts representing the souls of the dead tried to trick the wandering spirits by forming a parade to lead them out of the villages of the living. Today, Americans enjoy dressing up as witches, ghosts, goblins, politicians and movie characters each Halloween. According to some estimates, 40 percent of Americans wear costumes on Halloween; 12 percent even costume their pets!

PHOTO: AP 97103101665

Credit: AP Images

Alt Tag: Youths in Halloween costumes (AP Images)

4. TITLE: Candy

TEXT: Giving and receiving candy is an essential part of Halloween celebrations. More than 72 percent of Americans handed out candy for Halloween in 2010, according to the National Retail Federation. Candy corn, a sugary confection made to look like a corn kernel with bands of yellow, orange and white, has been popular in the United States since the 1880s and is most closely associated with Halloween.

PHOTO: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Candy-Corn.jpg

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Alt tag: Candy corn (Wikimedia Commons)

5. TITLE: Trick-or-Treating

TEXT: Halloween gives children the opportunity to collect lots of candy from their neighbors. Going from house to house, the children call “Trick or treat!” — mostly a good-natured threat to play some sort of trick if they are not given a candy treat. The custom descends from “souling,” when the earliest Christians offered little pastries and breads to the poor, who, in exchange, would pray for the souls of departed family members.

PHOTO: AP 041028020000

Credit: AP Images

Alt Tag: Child in Halloween costume (AP Images)

6. TITLE: Helping the Poor

TEXT:  “Help the poor!” is an alternative call to “Trick or treat!” during Halloween house-to-house visits. And many youth actually do help the poor by forgoing candy in favor of collecting money for the United Nations Children’s Fund. American children have collected nearly $164 million this way, with the proceeds funding education, immunization and other programs in the developing world.

PHOTO: AP 071025036758

Credit: AP Images

Alt tag: Child in Halloween costume (AP Images)

7. TITLE: Carving Pumpkins

TEXT: Jack-o’-lanterns recall an Irish legend about a man who tried to outwit the devil and was condemned to wander the earth for eternity using as a lantern a lighted ember in a carved turnip. Today, Americans delight in carving pumpkins into fantastical faces, and there are even competitions showcasing this unusual art form.

Here, a “pumpkin artist” uses a Dremel rotary tool to achieve a high level of detail in a jack-o’-lantern.

PHOTO: AP 080926038284

Credit: AP Images

Alt tag: Jack-o’-lantern (AP Images)

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)