Let's take some time to talk about Halloween. By now I am sure most of you have heard of it, however, do you know much about it outside of the movies and shows that you watch. After all, that is how this holiday has gained so much of its popularity. The scary movies, the candy, costumes, and all our spookiness. Do you know where it truly came from though?
First off, Halloween wasn't always called Halloween, it was called Samhain meaning Summer's End. It was a Gaelic festival, celebrated over 2,000 years ago. What all happened during the original festivals is a bit blurred however some traditions still take place like, carving pumpkins, dressing up and bobbing for apples. Bobbing for apples started when the Romans conquered the Celtic countries and they combined their holidays with the locals. One was the honoring of Pomona the goddess of fruit. She started to be represented by the apple, so bobbing for apples came into the holiday.
Now the Gaelic festival was filled with the belief that at the summer end's and the eve of their new year (yes their new year started on Nov. 1st) because the harvesting of crops and the dying of plants due to winter they believed that death was ever so present. The lines between the living and dead were blurred. Gaelic priests believed the most magic was on that night as did the priestesses (which are now called witches) However because the lines were blurred and the dead could come back to the land of the living, they believed bad spirits could cross over too. So they would disguise themselves in costumes and carve gourds to ward off evil spirits (today it is pumpkins and just for fun, not many know why it is done)
During this time the Catholic church was rising. They had a day on May 13th that they called "All Saint's Day" however Pope Gregory III moved the date to Nov 1st because the countries they conquered refused to give up their culture so he believed if he combined them it would be easier for the natives to convert. So Oct. 31st "All Hallow's Eve" Nov. 1st "All Saint's Day" and yes one more from Roman times Nov.2nd "All Soul's Day" (which was being celebrated in England still)
In England, on Nov.2nd the poor would walk from door to door begging for a treat called "soul cakes" in exchange for the cake the poor would promise to pray for the families dead relatives. This tradition was moved from Nov. 2nd to Oct. 31st and is now called "Trick-or-Treating" where a child goes around the neighborhood in costume knocking on doors asking for treats. In pioneer times in the USA, the person handing out treats could demand that the child perform a "trick" to receive a treat. However nowadays that is no longer done, however, it is believed that if you deny a child a treat that they will do a prank on your house, for example throwing toilet paper in the tree in the front yard perhaps.
So now you are asking how did all this make its way to the USA? Well, a small piece of it came with the people traveling from Europe in the beginning however, the traditions were strictly frowned upon in the Puritan communities and punished. Though with traveling it started being celebrated south of Maryland. However, it was still a small celebration. Then in the 19th century, the potato famine happened in Ireland. From 1845-1852 over 1 million Irish men, women and children left Ireland, taking with them their beliefs and traditions. Samhain became All Hallow's Eve then changed to Halloween.
Communities within the USA celebrate it however removing any "spooky" elements referring to ghosts, witches or death. While other communities embrace both sides for fun. Some still celebrate the date calling it Samhain and believing that it truly is a magical day.
So tell me? Will you be dressing up this year or perhaps just carving a little gourd?
Whatever you do, have a Happy Halloween!