I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween today! Please be safe in your celebrations tonight and let me know how you plan to spend the night! I know that I will be handing out candy to the children in my neighborhood with my partner. We’re even dressing up for it, which leads me to what we’ll be talking about on Thursday. My partner and I will be dressing up as Day of the Dead skulls. I, being the nerd that I am, went and did some research into the costumes and makeup and found out about the history behind the festival. I am going to share that with you all on Thursday.
In the meantime, I will enlighten you about Halloween. Here’s a quick look by the History Channel:
For those of you who want a more extended history just keep scrolling down and I’ll give you some more information on its roots.
Halloween starts with the pre-Christian Celtic festival called Samhain (or All Hallows eve) which was/is held around November 1st.
Due to a lack of records, we do not know exactly what this festival contained, but we do know that it was a communal and annual event that signaled the end of summer and harvest season. There has also been speculation as to it being a time where there was communion with the dead, though scholars argue about this. Mostly, this was more or less, a celebration of the harvest and the changing of the seasons than it was about the creepy bumps in the night. It also signaled the Celtic New Year. The only reason Samhain and Halloween are intertwined is because of the closeness in dates.
There was usually a bonfire lit to mark the end of the season and to keep the darkness of the coming winter months at bay for a while longer. It was also a way to keep evil spiritual beings at bay and confused so they could not carry out any ill intent. All fires within the households had to be extinguished and re-lit by the biggest bonfire held at Tlachtga.
Extra resources about Samhain:
The American Influence
Halloween, as we know it today, has its roots in colonial America. They used to use bobbing for apples as a way to predict who would get married. The first person to draw an apple out of the barrel, without the use of your hands, would be the first person to marry. In Canada and the US especially, by the end of the 1800s, the trick part of trick or treating was firmly established. By the 1920s, a lot of these pranks were getting quite violent, and the community leaders were strongly encouraging parents to dress up the little ones and taking them out for treats.
Christian and Irish Influence
Some Christian groups believe that Halloween is evil in nature due to its Pagan roots. However, this can be a big misconception as the Pagan community did not have a devil-like figure to worship and really didn’t even know that this type of being existed. In fact, the Samhain tradition had been vanquished by the church long before the witch hunts began.
The Christian element is what has given us the spook factor for this holiday. For example, black cats. They’re considered to be bad luck, regardless of the time of the year. Their bad reputation dates back to the Dark Ages when witch hunts were commonplace. Elderly, solitary women were often accused of witchcraft, and their pet cats were said to be their “familiars,” or demonic animals that had been given to them by the devil. Another myth surrounding these poor cats is that the devil himself would turn into them when he was conversing with witches.
The Irish have some fascinating traditions and beliefs when it comes to this time of the year and has actually influenced a lot of the traditions we see in North America. They brought over the idea of dressing up and of pumpkin carving. Here’s why they did both things.
According to who you talk to, Samhain was a time where the dead could walk among the living. As such, the carved faces into (turnips at the time) pumpkins to help guide spirits upon their path to the afterlife and to also scare bad spirits away and keep them from entering their home. As for dressing up, they would put their children or themselves in disguise to walk among the dead without them knowing. They would do this to make sure their children weren’t kidnapped by any mean spirited ghosts or fairies.
In the end, we have a fantastic reason to celebrate the end of summer, and fall if you live in Canada, and to prepare for the winter months, whether you believe in Samhain or not. It gives kids an excuse to eat an unhealthy amount of sugar and to dress up as something creepy.
Happy Halloween Everyone!