Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to one and all!

I grew up in a religious household and Halloween was considered the 'devils holiday' by my church, therefore we did not celebrate or participate in Halloween festivities. Once I was older my church began hosting a 'fall festival' on Halloween for all the children in the church and any others who chose to participate. It was a night full of games, fun and treats.

I had never been trick or treating until I had my own children. My husband had to guide me the first Halloween in everything from decorating to costumes. It had just never been part of my life until then. Now it is easily one of my favorite holidays. I love the decorations, the adorable costumes, and the socialization that happens in my neighborhood between parents when walking their child from house to house. I guess I am a believer that ever holiday is what you make of it.

As the holiday approached this year I became curious about the true history of Halloween. Where it came from, how it evolved and if it really was a holiday dedicated to nothing more than devils and demons. What I found actually surprised and intrigued me. As it turns out, many of the traditions we celebrate today during Halloween are actually evolved from traditions began by the church! Here are some excerpts I found on the History Channel website as to the origins of Halloween. I hope you give it a read. You might be surprised how the holiday actually came to be!
Ancient Origins

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.
Modern Traditions

The American tradition of "trick-or-treating" probably dates back to the early All Souls' Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives.

The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as "going a-souling" was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.
Evolution Of A Holiday

As European immigrants came to America, they brought their varied Halloween customs with them. Because of the rigid Protestant belief systems that characterized early New England, celebration of Halloween in colonial times was extremely limited there.

It was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians, meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance, and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

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May your house be filled with good smells, creepy foods, delicious candy, smiling children and may you receive more treats than tricks!


Bee said...

Yeah, we were Jehovah's Witnesses so we didn't celebrate it... well I did but secretly since I'd sneak off with my friends and go trick or treating! :o)

Don't do anything I say I do or used to do. I am slightly off my rocker!

Lisa said...

I had no idea about all of this Halloween history. It primarily meant "FREE CANDY!" at our house. Actually, it still DOES. heehee.

Tracy said...

Thanks for the education LLT. It makes me sad to know that you didn't get to go trick-or-treating. I have such fond memories of going when I was little. I wish you could have had that.
I hope you enjoy taking your kids out! Live through them LLT!
Happy Halloween!

Chris said...

Bee - LOL. Thanks for the disclaimer ;-)

Lisa - I pledged I wouldn't eat any of the Halloween candy. And then My monthly friend came. I am having a very hard time keeping that pledge...LOL

Tracy - Don't feel bad! It was hard when I was a kid because it was hard being different. Today I have a lot of fun doing this with the kids and going all out on costumes :-D

Roz said...

I was surpised to learn that your church considered it the devil's holiday.

As you said in your post, we always knew it as all saints day on november 1st and the night before (oct 31st) was to celebrate

or something like that lol....