It’s that time of year again. Time for dressing up as ghosts, ghouls, witches, kids in their favorite Batman, Spiderman or Superman costumes dosed up with sugar candy as well, but what is it all about?
What is Halloween?
As everyone knows Halloween is a holiday celebrated every year on the 31st October but what many don’t know if that it originates with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which welcomed in the harvest and ushered in the winter or dark time of the year. During Samhain, it is believed the barrier between the physical and spiritual realms opens allowing the spirits to enter the physical realm. Bonfires would be lit to try to frighten the spirits away.
By 43AD the Roman’s had conquered most of the Celtic lands including Britain and over the next 400 years their culture transformed the lives of the native Celts. This influence extended to Samhain which became combined with the Roman festivals of Feralia and Pomona. Feralia which was held in late October was when the Roman honored the passing of the dead while Pomona was the goddess of fruit and trees which may explain why in bobbing for apples is a part of the Halloween festival in some countries
Later Pope Gregory III moved All Martyrs Day from May 13th to November 1st and added saints to martyrs changing the festival to All Saints Day or All Hallows as it was known. As Christianity spread many of the pagan festivals were absorbed into christian festivals and in 1000AD the church made November 2nd All Souls Day to honor the dead and to celebrate the day there would be large bonfires just as with Samhain. The Samhain festival was therefore fully absorbed into the new Christian celebration. October 31st became All Hallows Eve and was later shortened to Halloween.
Why wear costumes
In fact wearing frightening costumes for Halloween is not a new idea and may be 2000 years old because it is believed that the Celts would dress to frighten the spirits for Samhain and All Hallows was greeted with parades of people dressed as angels or devils. These parades may be the origins of today’s Trick or Treat which is a fairly modern development from America.
Pumpkins at Halloween is another American introduction but has its origins with the Irish immigrants who made America their home. There is an Irish tale about a blacksmith called Jack who had tricked the devil and after Jack died and was denied entrance to heaven he arrived at the doors to hell but the devil also turned him away. Before Jack left to wander eternity the devil gave him a burning ember which Jack put into a hollowed out turnip as a lantern. The Irish celebrate this story by creating lanterns from turnips with scary faces but when the Irish settled in America they found the pumpkin was much easier to use and the modern Jack-O-Lantern was born.
Today Halloween is celebrated in hundreds of countries around the world although perhaps few know the origins.
Hope you have an enjoyable Halloween.