Monday, October 10, 2011

Guest Blog with Mayra Calvani + offer of free ebooks

Bonfires of Bonefires: 
Origins of Halloween

By Mayra Calvani

Halloween is not only a colourful night of fun, frights, sweets and costumes. It is a full-blown industry, with more than $14 billion spent each year on costumes, decorations, party supplies, candy and other paraphernalia.

How did it all get started?

The origins of Halloween are quite dark, and go all the way back to 2,000 years ago, to the Celtic Celebration of the Dead, or Samhain (Sah-ween), in what is now Ireland, the UK, and Northern France. The Celtic Festival took place each year on the eve of November first, which marked the end of summer and harvest season, and the beginning of their New Year and winter, a time associated with cold and death. Samhain festivities lasted for a couple of days, until about November 2nd.

The Celts believed that on October 31st, the last day of summer and New Year’s Eve, the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred and thin, and spirits, both good and evil, roamed about on the streets and countryside and did as they wished. The Celts were especially frightened by the prospect of these evil souls harming the crops.

On this night, Celtic priests called Druids dressed in animal masks and skins and performed sacrifices to placate the gods and “ward off” spirits. Bonfires represented the sun, the power to fight dark forces. The Druids lit huge bonfires and burned animals, crops, and sometimes even humans. In fact, the word “bonfire” comes from “bonefire,” literally! (It’s interesting to note that the practice of burning humans continued as late as the 1600s).

Besides the Druids, people also performed their little “rituals.” To ward off spirits, they carved turnips and lit them with embers. To “fool” them, they wore animal masks or scary disguises. To placate them, they left fruits and nuts at their doorstep as a gift or offering, thus preventing future bad crops. This is the origin of “Trick or Treat.”

Around the 7th Century the Celebration of the Dead spread to Europe, but it became known as “All Hollows Eve,” or “Night of the Dead.” In parts of Britain and Ireland it also became known as “Mischief Night.”

Around the 800s the Christians moved to the Celtic lands and tried to eradicate all pagan beliefs and celebrations. In an attempt to placate the Celts, Pope Boniface IV designated November first as All Saints Day as an attempt to replace the pagan “All Hollows Eve.” Thus he “transformed” the Celebration of the Dead into a Christian holy day.

It is believed that later the Irish brought the tradition of carving turnips to America. However, they soon found out that there weren’t as many turnips there, and that pumpkins were a lot bigger and better to carve scary faces on.

Eventually “All Hollows Eve” came to be known as Halloween.

The traditional Halloween symbols we know today, like witches, black cats, ghosts, pumpkins and candles appeared in the US around the 1800s. Entrepreneur minds no doubt realized the marketing potential. The whole concept of Halloween gradually became commercialized.

Today, in spite of its dark origins and although some religious people consider it an “evil” festival, Halloween is mostly regarded as a spooky yet harmless, fun, family celebration.

By: Mayra Calvani

In a bazaar in Istanbul one evening, ten-year-old Alana Piovanetti sees a man standing in the shadows. He smiles, and over time she convinces herself that it was just her imagination that placed sharp fangs amongst those flashing teeth.

Twelve years later, Alana is surprised when she is chosen to manage a new restaurant opening in her home city of San Juan. She has neither training nor experience to justify her success. But La Cueva del Vampiro has the kind of ambiance she adores, for Alana has always had a penchant for horror and the dark side of life. Yet she is also plagued with dreams of dark sensuality, dreams that take on shattering reality when she meets the stunningly handsome, charismatic Sadash.

For Sadash is the man she saw in the shadows so many years before...and Sadash isn't human….

You may read the prologue and first chapter here:

Where to Buy:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About The Author:
Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. A reviewer for over a decade, she now offers online reviewing workshops. She also offers workshops on the art of children’s picture book writing. When she’s not writing, reading, editing or reviewing, she enjoys walking her dog, traveling, and spending time with her family.

Visit her website at, join her mailing list, and automatically receive the free ebooks, Reviewers Talk about Their Craft and Elements of a Novel.

To receive two free lessons of her popular Walking on a Rainbow, a Fiction Picture Book Workshop, visit

Dear Readers,

A big THANK YOU to Anna for hosting me on her fabulous blog today!

I hope you’ll enjoy reading my post about the origins of Halloween. Also, I’d like to announce the release of my paranormal suspense novel, EMBRACED BY THE SHADOWS, now available on Kindle for $2.99.

The story features a Latina protagonist and a Turkish vampire.  I hope you’ll give it a try!

To celebrate the release of my novel, I’m giving away two of my other books for free. This offer will run until Halloween night only. Of course, I hope you’ll consider supporting my work by purchasing a copy of Embraced by the Shadows, but if for whatever reason you decide not to, the two free ebooks are still yours to download. This is my Halloween gift to you!

The FREE ebooks I’m giving away are: Dark Lullaby and Cat Cellar and Other Stories and they’re available in various formats on Smashwords:

Dark Lullaby

The Cat Cellar and Other Stories

Enjoy! Happy reading and Happy Halloween!


  1. a Latina girl and a Turkish vampire? that sounds like my own personal story... minus the vampire. I'm so getting that :) And thanks for the freebies, I've been looking for something new to read!

  2. I found this post to very interesting on Halloween. Thanks for sharing the origins of Halloween. EMBRACED BY TH SHADOWS sound like an very good story. I look forward to reading it. Thanks for the freebies this gives me something new to read.

  3. Dear Hilda and Becky,

    Thank you so much for the comments! I hope you'll enjoy the free ebooks.

    I'm glad you found the article on Halloween interesting! I've always been intrigued about its origins, so I did a bit of research.

    Have a great day, ladies!


  4. Mayra, thank you so much for the free books! You are so generous. :)

    I wanted to note that I can't get the link to your new book to work. I will hunt around on the Internet for it.

    And thank you for such an informative blog post. What's interesting is that the title of my forthcoming novel, Shadow of Samhain, is not nonfiction and not about Halloween. It's a novel and, yes, Halloween is included in the story, of course, but it's about a curse that is placed on the first Druid descendant of a specific lineage born of Samhain. And there are Druid characters in the story. So it could still count as a "Halloween story" I suppose.

    Good luck with your book!

  5. P.S. I went to the Twilight Times homepage and found your book/excerpt. :)

  6. Great post on the origins of Halloween. Thanks for the generous free ebook too. It is now on my to read/review list. Blessings on the new book success.

  7. Thank you, Dawn and Terri! I really appreciate your support!

    Dawn, sorry you had trouble with the links. The links have been driving me crazy lately--sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Thanks for taking the time to look for it.

    Your book sounds fascinating! I'm definitely going to check it out. Is the genre horror? I've always been intrigued by the Druids.

    I hope you'll enjoy the books, Terri! Thanks for your good wishes.


  8. Anna:

    Thank you for hosting Mayra today. Your interest and time is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you one and all for visiting with Mayra today. Your support is appreciated.

    Best regards,

  9. Hey, Donna!

    Nice of you to drop by, too! :-)

    Thanks for putting together my blog tour. (Donna is a publicist and she's fantastic!)


  10. Thanks again for hosting me on your blog, Anna! The post looks gorgeous. I really like your color palette.

    I hope you'll have me as a guest again in the future!

    Warm regards,

  11. Mayra,

    It was a pleasure hosting you! You are more than welcome to come back.

  12. Mayra, the Druids are definitely interesting, aren't they? :) The genre is actually dark fantasy but it does have some elements of horror in the story. I'm glad it has sparked your interest. If you'd ever like a review copy, please let me know!



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