Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Haunts: New Orleans Halloween Traditions

Halloween Haunts: New Orleans Halloween Traditions
By Alexandrea Weis

The blending of cultures in New Orleans has left a myriad of different traditions ingrained in the eccentric psyche of the city. Perhaps the most profound occur around Halloween where the Catholic, Voodoo, Irish, and French influences converge. Celebrations for the dead begin days before the fall of Halloween. We have events such as the Day of the Dead Parade, numerous cemetery festivals, haunted houses, costume balls, and ghost tours to mark the creepiest day of the year. However, it’s the quieter and older traditions that are not as well known to outsiders.

The most sacred day in the city follows the revelry associated with Halloween—All Saint’s Day or All Souls’ Day. It’s a time to pay respects to the dead by visiting family tombs located in numerous above-ground cemeteries throughout the city. It’s considered an important day where family members clean and often picnic by their tomb. Since many of the vaulted crypts are made of brick, and then plastered over, the heat and humidity of the climate require they receive regular maintenance. The tradition of cleaning family tombs is French along with the architecture associated with the mini-mausoleums. The custom of “keeping up the family vault” continues to this day in the city, and many cemeteries prepare for the onslaught of visitors the morning after Halloween, usually following a mass to bless the dead. Tokens left at the tomb include wine, wreaths of flowers, along with personal items commemorating the loved one left behind.

Introduced to the city with the influx of Irish immigrants in the late 1700’s, the soul cake dates back to Medieval England and Ireland when children earned small, round cakes as they went door to door singing songs and praying for the dead. But instead of collecting candy, they would receive a soul cake for their efforts. Many believe for each cake eaten, a soul is freed from Purgatory. In New Orleans, soul cakes are part of the picnic lunch at the family tomb or consumed during the All Saint’s Day feast in memory of the dead. Many cakes sold in stores today resemble a king cake—a local carnival tradition made of cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, and sweet dough.

Another tradition is the voodoo ritual of the Dumb Supper. Recognized as a way to honor Creole ancestors, devotees participate in this Day of the Dead ritual in front of a family tomb under the direction of a priestess. The ceremony pays tribute to the powerful spirits or loas who advocate for the dead as they cross the dark waters of the Great Abyss. The Gede are the spirits who empower death and fertility, along with Mamam Brigitte— the wife of the keeper of graveyards, Baron Samedi. Offerings during the ritual include black and purple candles, sunglasses with one eye missing (to acknowledge Gede’s ability to see in both worlds – living and dead), cigars, rum, animal bones, graveyard stones and dirt, crosses, and black beads or rosaries. Devotees are often encouraged to bring photographs or other items that commemorate their deceased loved ones. 

What New Orleanians love most about their city are their traditions, and nowhere is that more evident than in the range of cultures coming together for Halloween. It’s one of the highlights of the year, and when you throw in the spooky ghost stories, and numerous hauntings which thrive throughout the older French Quarter, you’re sure to understand why the dead are very much alive in the Big Easy.  

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Alexandrea Weis is giving away 3 ebook copies of Damned: Book 1 in the Magnus Blackwell Series. Comment below or email with the subject title HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.

Blackwell Series
Book One
Alexandrea Weis

Release Date October 3, 2017

Genre: Paranormal Romance/ Supernatural Thriller

Word Count: 108,000

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Book Description:

Over a hundred years after the death of Magnus Blackwell, Altmover Manor sits abandoned.

Lexie Arden and her fiancé, Will Bennet, are determined to rescue the neglected Mount Desert Island landmark. They want to make Altmover Manor their home. But Magnus has other plans.

A spirit bound to his former residence, Magnus finds himself inexplicably drawn to the young woman. She has a supernatural gift; a gift Magnus wants to exploit.
As Lexie and Will settle in, secrets from Magnus’s past begin to surface.

Compelled to learn all she can about the former owner, Lexie becomes immersed in a world of voodoo, curses, and the whereabouts of a mysterious dragon cane.

Magnus’s crimes won’t be so easily forgotten, and what Lexie unearths is going to change the future … for everyone.

Bound to a spirit with a sinister history, a woman with a dark power will battle to rule the realm of the dead…

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Lexie awoke with a start from a sound sleep. Gaping into the blackness of the strange bedroom, she discovered the storm had abated and she detected the creaks and groans of the old house. Then a crack from the floorboards made her flinch.
It came from Will’s side of the bed. She reached out to shake him, but he didn’t move.
She received a muffled grunt.
Another crack in the floor, but this time it happened right next to her side of the bed. An odor lingered in the air.
Is that coffee?
A column of light glittering to her left made Lexie’s mouth go dry. The oddity soon took on the shape of a man.
His strong frame, long arms, and tapered hands came into view. Good-looking, despite the cruel curl of his lips, his chiseled features, and engaging eyes, made her insides tingle. But when the cut of his old-fashioned red vest, long black coat, and white ascot tie took shape, Lexie understood this wasn’t some hazy fantasy. She didn’t fantasize about men from another century.
Lexie clutched her bedsheet as a fearful scream rose in her throat.
“Please, my dear, don’t bore me with your petty shrieks,” the figure said, his tone condescending.
Like a lightbulb getting enough electricity to reach its wattage, his image brightened, bringing out his details. Lexie scrutinized the buttons on his coat, the fine craftsmanship of his high black boots, and grasped the identity of her visitor.
Then a loud pop rang out, and he was gone. It happened so fast, Lexie questioned if it had happened at all.
“Welcome to Altmover Manor, Ms. Arden.” She recognized the voice of the apparition. “I hope you enjoy your stay.”

This time, Lexie did not hold back her scream, and as she opened her mouth …

About the Author:

From New Orleans, Alexandrea Weis was raised in the motion picture industry and began writing stories at the age of eight. In college, she studied nursing. After finishing her PhD, she decided to pick up the pen once again and begin her first novel. Since that time, she has published many novels and won several national writing awards for fiction. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her bestselling books, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story memorable.

Alexandrea Weis is also a certified/permitted wildlife rehabber with the La. Wildlife and Fisheries. When she is not writing, she rescues orphaned and injured wildlife. She is married; they live in New Orleans.

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