By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico
The origins of Halloween are vastly different from the holiday celebrated today in America, according to an Eastern New Mexico University history professor.
He promises to enlighten people on the holiday’s origins and myths in a noon lecture today in the Sandia Room at the Campus Union Building at ENMU.
Alex Garman will be giving the first lecture for the newly organized History Guild at the university on the history of Halloween, tracing it from its European origins to modern America.
“I’m their adviser, so I had to volunteer to be first,” Garman said of the guild. “I figured Halloween would be a good one since it’s topical.”
Garman’s area of study was ancient history and his specialty is early pre-Christian religions. He is working on a book on that topic he expects to be published in May.
Garman said despite its current-day connections to the occult and evil, Halloween was created by the Catholic church.
“Originally it was a good, solid Christian holiday,” Garman said. “It was basically a Christian holiday to celebrate the saints and martyrs.”
He said that celebration became entangled with beliefs and traditions from the Celtic Samhain celebration and the Germanic Alfablot celebration. Both were held after the harvest and involved various traditions, including animal sacrifice.
Garman said Irish immigrants who came to America during the potato famine of 1849 brought the holiday with them.
“In America, Halloween has no religious connotations whatsoever,” Garman said. “It’s about kids going out trick-or-treating and getting sick from eating too much candy.”
He agrees the holiday has taken on a life of its own in America, noting it is the sixth most important holiday in terms of retail sales.
Garman said the free program is open to the general public as well as ENMU students.
“I’ll give ‘em some hard history, but we’ll have some fun with it too,” Garman said.
A slightly different angle on the Halloween holiday will be offered at 7 p.m. at the Becky Sharp Auditorium at ENMU.
Santa Fe storyteller Nasario Garcia, professor emeritus of Spanish at New Mexico Highlands University, will speak on buried treasure, the devil, the evil eye and the bogeyman, according to an ENMU news release.
The event, sponsored by ENMU’s Hispanic Affairs, is free.
Refreshments will be served following the program.