Some games traditionally played at Halloween are forms of divination. In Puicn (pronounced "poocheeny"), a game played in Ireland, a blindfolded person is seated in front of a table on which several saucers are placed. The saucers are shuffled, and the seated person then chooses one by touch; the contents of the saucer determine the person's life during the following year. In 19th-century Ireland, young women placed slugs in saucers sprinkled with flour. A traditional Irish and Scottish form of divining one's future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one's shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name. This custom has survived among Irish and Scottish immigrants in the rural United States.
Unmarried women were frequently told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting cards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Episodes of TV series and specials with Halloween themes (with the specials usually aimed at children) are commonly aired on or before the holiday, while new horror films, are often released theatrically before the holiday to take advantage of the atmosphere.
Haunted attractions are entertainment venues designed to thrill and scare patrons; most are seasonal Halloween businesses. Origins of these paid scare venues are difficult to pinpoint, but it is generally accepted that they were first commonly used by the Junior Chamber International (Jaycees) for fundraising. They include haunted houses, corn mazes, and hayrides, and the level of sophistication of the effects has risen as the industry has grown. Haunted attractions in the United States bring in an estimate $300-500 million each year, and draw some 400,000 customers, although trends suggest a peak in 2005. This increase in interest has led to more highly technical special effects and costuming that is comparable with that in Hollywood films.
Around the world
Halloween is not celebrated in all countries and regions of the world, and among those that do the traditions and importance of the celebration vary significantly. Celebration in the United States has had a significant impact on how the holiday is observed in other nations. The history of Halloween traditions in a given country also lends context to how it is presently celebrated.
In North America, Christian attitudes towards Halloween are quite diverse. In the Anglican Church, some dioceses have chosen to emphasize the Christian traditions of All Saints Day, while some other Protestants celebrate the holiday as Reformation Day, a day of remembrance and prayers for unity. Celtic Christians may have Samhain services that focus on the cultural aspects of the holiday, in the belief that many ancient Celtic customs are "incompatible with the new Christian religion. Christianity embraced the Celtic notions of family, community, the bond among all people, and respect for the dead. Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a gallimaufry (hodgepodge) of celebrations from October 31 through November 5, all of which appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery."
Many Christians ascribe no negative significance to Halloween, treating it as a purely secular holiday devoted to celebrating "imaginary spooks" and handing out candy. Halloween celebrations are common among Roman Catholic parochial schools throughout North America and in Ireland. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church sees Halloween as having a Christian connection. Father Gabriele Amorth, a Vatican-appointed exorcist in Rome, has said, "[I]f English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that." Most Christians hold the view that the tradition is far from being "satanic" in origin or practice and that it holds no threat to the spiritual lives of children: being taught about death and mortality, and the ways of the Celtic ancestors actually being a valuable life lesson and a part of many of their parishioners' heritage. Other Christians, primarily of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist variety, are concerned about Halloween, and reject the holiday because they believe it trivializes (and celebrates) "the occult" and what they perceive as evil. A response among some fundamentalists in recent years has been the use of Hell houses or themed pamphlets (such as those of Jack T. Chick) which attempt to make use of Halloween as an opportunity for evangelism. Some consider Halloween to be completely incompatible with the Christian faith due to its origin as a pagan "Festival of the Dead." In more recent years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has organized a "Saint Fest" on the holiday. Many contemporary Protestant churches view Halloween as a fun event for children, holding events in their churches where children and their parents can dress up, play games, and get candy.
Religions other than Christianity also have varied views on Halloween. Some Wiccans feel that the tradition is offensive to "real witches" for promoting stereotypical caricatures of "wicked witches".
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween
"Halloween Comes to America". A&E Television Networks. http://www.history.com/minisite.do?content_type=Minisite_Generic&content_type_id=715&display_order=1&sub_display_order=2&mini_id=1076. Retrieved on 2008-11-12.
"Halloween and the jack-o-lantern". Witchway.net. http://www.witchway.net/hallows/jack.html. Retrieved on 2008-10-31.
History of the Jack O'Lantern, Pumpkin Nook
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