Sunday, October 21, 2007

What about Halloween?

October 31 is known as the day the dead walk the earth, more commonly called Halloween. But where did Halloween come from and who started this long tradition of celebrating the dead?

The Celts in (500s) were the first to celebrate Halloween, but it wasn’t known as Halloween.

The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1, which to them; this day marked the end of summer and the harvest season. So on the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the dead would return to earth. On Samhain the Celts had a big celebration, where they wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

By the 800s, November 1 was changed to All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs.
On the night before October 31, the night of Samhain, was begun to be called all-hallows eve and, eventually was changed to Halloween.

America enters into the scene

The first Puritans of America wanted nothing to do with such things. But the cultural melting pot of America led to the birth of modern day Halloween including carved pumpkins. The custom had become firmly established in popular culture by 1952, when Walt Disney portrayed it in the cartoon Trick or Treat, and UNICEF first conducted a national campaign for children to raise funds for the charity while trick-or-treating. Today Halloween is a billion dollar industry.

The History of Trick or Treating

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door, receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day.

In Scotland and the North of England, it is called guising because of the disguise or costume worn by the children. Like trick-or-treating, it arose as a Halloween practice only in the twentieth century. In Scotland, the children are only supposed to receive treats if they perform tricks for the households they go to. These tricks normally take the form of a simple joke, song or funny poem which the child has memorized before setting out. However, guising is being replaced in some parts of the country with the American form of trick-or-treating where there is no “trick” involved.

What about Jack-o’-lanterns?

From Irish folklore comes the legend of the jack-o’-lantern. A drunkard named Jack stumbled home from a night of drinking at a local tavern. The Devil appeared and demanded that Jack come to Hell with him because of his evil ways. Jack convinced the Devil to climb a nearby tree to pick an apple. As the Devil climbed the tree, Jack carved a cross in the tree’s trunk thereby preventing the Devil from coming back down. The Devil demanded that Jack release him. Jack said he would if the Devil promised to never admit him to Hell. The Devil agreed. When Jack died he was too sinful to be allowed into Heaven, but the Devil would not let him into Hell, so Jack carved out one of his turnips, put a candle inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth looking for a place to spend eternity

Tid bit Fact: Jack-o’-lanterns were traditionally made from hollowed out turnips with a face carved into them, but the pumpkin has become more popular. So this is what I have found in my search of Halloween Orgins. If you have anything to add to this I would love to hear about it. Thanks Have a good Sunday.


Amazing Gracie said...

You really did your homework! Very interesting stuff.

Michele (Rocky Mtn.Girl) said...

Neat stuff... Halloween is a fun event, that's for sure.

captain lifecruiser said...

Oh, good post. Personally I think these historical facts can be repated as often as needed. It's an important part of the whole thing.

Psss. Don't forget to put up Your Oddly Ghost Post tomorrow, Tuesday, for the cyber cruise Halloween fun - or just come by and enjoy others :-D