BOO! Forgive me sirs & madams, I hope I did not give you a fright. ‘Tis I, Henry, the Inn at Henderson’s Wharf butler, at your service. As you may know, this weekend is Halloween! Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. Little sirs and madams are out and about with their parents dressed up in little monsters and out of the world costumes. We grow up many times with many traditions, but do you know how Halloween came about? Fear not, for I, your faithful servant shall explain.
Please bare with me on some history 101: Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, and the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.
Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors. In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft.
At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.
By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment! Halloween in Fell’s Point and all of Baltimore is truly festive.
Below are some things to do in Halloween either for you, or your family!
Planchette: October 2 – November 7 http://www.whenthedeadspeak.com
Planchette: (n.) a small triangular or heart-shaped board (usually wooden) believed to produce spirit writing when lightly touched by the fingers. Hosted by the Carroll Mansion in downtown Baltimore, Mr. Maxwell Fink, noted parapsychologist and researcher of the Ouija® Talking Board, will lead guests through a truly thrilling evening of theater, magic and mystery.
Poe’s Last Stanza: October 22 – November 1 http://www.doordiemystery.com
Poe’s Last Stanza is an interactive dinner show filled with history, poetry and laughter where Poe passes his time at the local tavern, sharing stories filled with wit and wisdom with the barmaid. The show is presented by Do or Die Productions and will be at The Grand from October 22 – October 25, October 29 – October 30 and November 1.
Titus Andronicus: October 23, 2015 - November 15, 2015 http://chesapeakeshakespeare.com
William Shakespeare’s tragedy Titus Andronicus is a tale of revenge and horror, just in time for Halloween. Written circa 1588-1593, Titus Andronicus is considered Shakespeare’s bloodiest and bleakest play, about the ability of mankind to call itself civilized while it lusts for murder. Before Game of Thrones, video games and slasher movies, there were revenge plays: The plot contains 14 deaths, a rape (**off-stage, not seen), dismemberments and cannibalism. Due to mature content, violence and blood, this play is not recommended for children.
Halloween Toddler Time & Costume Parade October 28http://www.borail.org
Join us for the year’s last Toddler Time, featuring a classic railroad story and Halloween celebration.Choo Choo Blue, the museum's mascot will lead the costume parade of children around the Museum campus to collect special treats. Kiddie train ride too through the fictional town of Choo Choo Blueville! All included with paid admission. Recommended for children between the ages of 2-5. Please note that this event promptly begins on time.
FALL-O-WEEN Family Festival! October 31, 2015 http://www.portdiscovery.org
Children ages 12 and under dressed in costume will receive 1/2 off general admission! Are you looking for a family-friendly, not-so-scary event to kick off the fall season? Put on your favorite costume and join us for our annual Falloween Family Festival and enjoy these fun activities: Make a Ghost Sound Cup: 10am - 12pm & 1pm - 3pm Miss P's Playful Monster Tour: 11am & 12pm Pop Up Science: 11am & 12pm McCormick's Cinnamon Bats: 11am - 2pm Life on Yoga Mountain: 1pm Bea-U-Tiful YOU Faces: 1pm - 3pm Schumbug: 1pm - 3pm Mr. Gabe Music Show: 1:30pm & 2:30pm FIDOs For Freedom: 2pm - 3:30pm