Halloween Origins 27/10/2017

Halloween has a long story line which dates back to the ancient Celts and to this day it is still a very anticipated time for both adults and children. Around 2,000 years ago the Celts lived in the area that is now Ireland, northern France and the United Kingdom and for them the new year began at the 1st of November, therefore, 31st of October marked the end of the year as well as the end of the harvesting season and thus the beginning of the winter, the transition of which worked as a portal to the world of the dead. That is because, the start of the winter was connected with death. On that night, they celebrated Samhain, a ceremony where, people would gather around sacred bonfires wearing costumes to stave off ghosts.  People would use the bonfire to burn corps and animal sacrifices to Celtic deities, as well as make predictions about each other's fortunes, which was a practice that was thought to be made easier by the uncanny spirits. Another reason behind costumes and dressing up, is the belief that when leaving home people will come across a ghost and to disguise themselves they would wear masks to confuse the ghosts and think of them as fellow spirits. Moreover, to ward off ghost from their houses they used to place bowls filled with food outside their house to mollify them and keep them from entering their house.

The conquest of the Celtic territory by the Roman Empire lead to a combination of Feralia and the day dedicated to Pomona - two Roman festivals - with the ceremony for Samhain. Feralia was an observance for the passing of the dead in late October while Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, whose symbol is the apple. We can see the influence of the second celebration by the "bobbing" for apples tradition which is still practiced on Halloween.  

But from where does the name Halloween come from? In 1000 A.D, the 2nd of November was established as the All Souls' Day in honor of the dead, by the church. A believed attempt to replace Samhain with a church approved holiday. The celebrations were also similar with the main difference of dressing up us angels, devils and saints instead of animas. All Souls' Day had a few names and one of them was All-hallows leading the Celts to call it All-hollows eve and eventually to what we call it today, Halloween. 

Only in the second half of the 19th century did the whole America started celebrating Halloween where millions of Irish immigrants flooded the country after their potato famine in 1846. They were the key in spreading Halloween nationally. Following their example, Americans began wearing costumes, knocking on door to door asking for a treat (food or money) leading to nowadays tradition of "trick or treat". "Trick or treat" seemed to be an inexpensive way of sharing the Halloween celebration among a community. The concept of "trick or treat" was that a trick would be played on the house or family unless they gave them a treat. Its routes however, seem to be in England during the All Souls' Day parades where families in return for a promise to pray for the dead relatives of the family, would give "soul cakes" to poor citizens begging for food. This was an action the church encouraged as a replacement of an ancient habit of leaving food and wine for passing spirits. Eventually, children started going around their neighborhood from door to door for food and money. 

Halloween is a holiday known for its unique combination of magic, mystery, spookiness and superstition. It is celebrated in many countries of the world become a tradition in more and more as the years pass by. While it used to be all about scaring off ghosts and getting ready for the winter, it now is about costumes tricks and of course, treats. So, what are you going to dress up as this Halloween?  

Fun Fact: Did you know that during the 18th century in Ireland, a cook may mix a ring into her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, in hopes that it will bring love to whoever found it?  

Have a spooky Halloween!  

Emily from StayPlanet 



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