Despite being a summer-lovin’-gal who was born in the winter, one of my favorite times of the year is the end of October when the leaves are all ablaze in vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds… And when it’s Halloween! I’m not into gore or horror – but that’s not all that Halloween’s about! There are some deep connections to nature and agriculture that I love.
Let’s start off with a quick history of how the holiday came into being…
To the Celts, thousands of years ago, this day marked not just the harvest season, but also a time when cold darkness enveloped the land as the days shortened and winter approached. It was believed that during this time, the mortal realm and realm of the dead became so close that ghosts could travel back to the land of the living. Druids tried to make prophecies and celebrated by burning bonfires and dressing in animal skins.
When the Romans conquered this territory, the Druidic ceremonies were blended with Roman festivals. Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees whose symbol was the apple, had her own festival during this time. As Christianity spread, the day celebrated dead saints and martyrs. As time has gone on, the holiday has morphed into the trick-or-treating, costume-party holiday that we now know.
Other than celebrating harvests (do you decorate with cornstalks or hay bales?) and loving apples (apple cider is a seasonal favorite), how else does nature come into play into Halloween? Let’s look at some more historical roots.
Literal roots. The Irish had a legend of Stingy Jack, who repeatedly tricked the devil and made the devil promise that he would never collect Jack’s soul. Upon Jack’s death, God would not allow Jack into heaven, but the devil wouldn’t have him either. Jack wandered around with a burning coal to carry for all eternity. He put the coal into a carved out turnip to light his way, and became known as “Jack of the Lantern”. People carved out turnips and other root vegetables to scare away the spirit of Stingy Jack. When the pilgrims came to America, they discovered the Pumpkin, which is much better for carving than a tiny turnip!
Other than crops, fruits, and root vegetables, there are some other aspects of nature incorporated into Halloween. Do you give out little plastic spider rings, put up bat-shaped window clings, or set out fake crows for decoration?
These animals are known to be “creepy”, which makes sense in a way. Nocturnal, dark-loving bats are synonymous with drinking blood like vampires. Crows are opportunistic and don’t mind picking at dead animals. Spiders have long been feared for their venom and tricky-trapping webs. Many of these animals were believed to be bad omens if you saw one.
Despite having creepy connotations, these animals are very important to the ecosystem! Bats are valuable night-time pollinators and play a vital role in pest-management and insect control. Crows, with their carrion eating, play the part of a decomposer and nutrient cycler. Spiders not only help with insect control but they also provide nutrients for larger animals like birds, reptiles, mammals, fish and more!
This Halloween, take a little bit of time to enjoy the plentiful harvests of autumn crops, snack on some apples, carve a face into a root, and celebrate the wonderful wildlife that make this holiday so special!
Ways to celebrate Halloween Naturally:
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