October is the month that begins the delirious rollercoaster ride through the frenzy of the holiday season. October holidays may begin with two of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, and it always ends with a celebration of ghosts, ghouls and goblins.
Rosh Hashanah is the holiday that celebrates the Jewish New Year, and it can fall in either September or October. The beginning of Rosh Hashanah initiates a ten day period of prayer, repentance of sins, and self-awareness. The ten days are actually referred to as Yamin Noraim which translates into either days of awe or high holy days. The traditions involved in Rosh Hashanah besides prayer and repentance involve the slowing of the shofar, which is a pipe made from a ram’s horn, as well as the eating sweet foods.
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and is considered the most holy holiday on Jewish calendar. Traditional observation is accomplished through fasting, as well as seeking forgiveness from friends, family members and peers whom people feel they have wronged over the past year. The fasting is intended to facilitate the ability of Jews to contemplate their spiritual needs over physical desires.
Columbus Day: Second Monday in October.
Columbus Day sure isn’t the holiday it used to be. Over the past few decades as awareness of the excesses of Spanish exploration of the New World has come to light and words like genocide and ethnic cleansing have replaced words like heroism and modernization to describe the outcome of Christopher Columbus’ journeys, the holiday commemorating his admitted bravery has come under great scrutiny.
While proponents of the legacy of Columbus Day avow that a special holiday deserves to be set aside for the man most responsible for introducing European civilization to the Americas, descendants of the various indigenous tribes in both North and South America counter that to honor the violent devastation that characterized this process was not only civilized, but actually served to destroy entire civilizations.
Where Columbus Day is officially recognized, mostly in cities with a heavy Italian-American population, it is observed through parades. In addition, most government offices and banks are closed, although the closure of schools is now rare.
Indigenous People’s Day: Second Monday in October.
In response to the opposition to Columbus Day, efforts have been made to counter it with a specific holiday that recognizes the contribution of the indigenous tribes that were the target of European assimilation during the Age of Discovery. Thus far, little inroads have been made as far as any nationwide widespread adoption of this day. Celebrations and observances are dependent upon the specific indigenous cultures in the geographic region in which the observances take place. This can include everything from art and crafts fairs to live performances.
Halloween: October 31.
Halloween’s origins trace back to pagan culture, specifically that of the Celtic civilization where November 1st was the start of the new year. The Celtic holiday celebration revolved around the belief that spirits of those who died in the preceding twelve months would be transported to the underworld by Lord Samhain.
Halloween was also known All Hallows Eve. November 1st was to honor the dead and, like so many Christian holidays, the pagan celebration was assimilated by the Catholic Church to make indoctrination into the new religion smoother. The Church created All Saints Day, or Hallomas, to coincide with the pagan holiday.
The tradition of dressing up in elaborate and frightening costumes traces back to the early days of the Celtic celebration when the people of the town would attired themselves in ghoulish costumes and trek throughout their villages and surrounding community making boisterous sounds in an effort to scare away the spirits they believed were searching for life bodies that they could possess.
Over the past century the holiday of Halloween has undergone some remarkable transformations. During the middle of the 20th century Halloween was almost exclusively a children’s holiday characterized by dressing up and replaying the ancient tradition of moving through the village, only this time the purpose was not to scare spirits, but to scare neighbors into giving them candy. As mostly unwarranted and unsubstantiated fears about candy tampering took on a life of its own, Halloween gradually moved out of the domain of a children’s holiday and became more of an adult celebration.
As a result, traditional trick or treating is almost a thing of the past; instead kids now may attend special events held at malls or other civic sites. The haunted house has replaced going around the neighborhood as the centerpiece of the Halloween holiday. As it has become more acceptable for adults to go out in public dressed in full costume, the candy industry that has always benefited from Halloween has been joined by an explosion in the costume business.