Origins of Hallowe’en

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Since Halloween (technically spelled Hallowe’en) is right around the corner, I thought typing up some facts about Hallowe’en would be fun. Hallowe’en, indeed the entire month of October, is awesome! Candy, Hallowe’en movies (especially cartoons, I love me some cartoons- don’t judge me), changing leaves, and the cooling temperatures. Not to mention my favorite fall and winter snack will be in stores soon…MIXED NUTS!!!! Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, pecans, and walnuts will be in grocery stores very soon (you know, the kind you crack open). I am excited. If you have any Hallowe’en facts you would like to share, please leave them in the comment section below! Enjoy!

  • Hallowe’en’s roots can be traced back to Ireland in the Celtic culture and the Druid religion.
  • November 1st was considered their New Year, so celebrations began on October 31st- All Hallows Eve
  • It was considered an evil night when spirits roamed the streets and villages.
  • Samhain, a Gaelic/Celtic harvest festival meaning summers end, takes place from 31 Oct to 01 Nov. This festival marked the end of the harvest as a celebration of Autumn, or the end of the lighter half of the year and the beginning of the darker half of the year. It is also represented as the pagan New Year.

  • The word Halloween came from a Middle English word- Alholowmesse, or All Saints Day.The night before Alholomesse was known as All Hollows Even.
  • Hallowe’en also came from three other festivals: 1) The Roman Feralia- commemorating the dead; 2) The Roman Pomona festival- honoring the goddess of fruit and trees; and 3) the Catholic Hallowmas period of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on November 1st and 2nd. This was put in by the Catholic church to replace Samhain in order to try to get rid of pagan traditions.
  • The wearing of costumes came from the Celtic tradition of young men dressing up in white with painted black faces or masks to impersonate evil spirits. They were attempting to appease these spirits.
  • Trick or treating came from a Middle Age practice where the poor would dress up in costumes and go around door to door during Hallowmas. They would beg for food or money in exchange for prayers. Soul cake was often given. The cake is small and round, and it represented a soul being freed from Purgatory when eaten.
  • Fast forwarding to America, trick or treat used to mean that if a person gave another person a treat, then the receiver would have to perform a trick to amuse the giver. Eventually it became known as either you give me candy or I’ll vandalize your house or play other pranks on you. Oh so nice.
  • Pumpkin carving came from the Celts to ward off evil spirits during Samhain. They would hollow out turnips, carve faces into them, and place candles inside the turnips. The turnips were either then placed in windows or carried about as lanterns.
  • Another legend where pumpkin carving came from was the Irish legend of Stingy Jack. You see, Stingy Jack tricked the devil into making a promise that he would never hassle him. When Stingy Jack died, heaven wouldn’t let him in, but neither would hell since he and the devil had a bargain. Stingy Jack’s spirit was doomed to roam the Earth forever and have no resting place for his soul. The devil gave Jack an ember to light his way on his endless travels. Jack stored it in a hollowed out turnip. Eventually, Irish immigrants in America discovered pumpkins were easier to carve and began using these instead of turnips.

  • Cats were once held in high esteem in ancient Egypt. In fact, one goddess, Bast, was represented in the form of a cat. But when the Catholic church launched the Inquisition in the 13th century, cats became unfavored because alleged pagans sometimes kept company with cats. Black cats were eventually reviled by people, because of their dark color and people started to believe that they were companions of witches.
  • Apples played a huge role in the Celtic culture. The Celts associated apples with goddesses, who were believed to control the fate of romance in people’s lives. On Halloween, young boys and girls would race to pluck an apple with their mouths from water. It was rumored that the first person to take a bite of an apple would be the next lucky one to be married. This is where apple bobbing originated.
  • Dia De Los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, is an important Mexican holiday. It falls on November 1st and 2nd every year. The first day celebrates infants and children who have died. They are believed to have a special place in heaven and are referred to as Angelitos, or little angels. On the second day, adults who have passed away are honored. This holiday is a period of celebration of lost loved ones, not mourning. It was celebrated in late July and early August for thousands of years by the Aztec Indians. When Spain conquered Mexico roughly 500 years ago, the conquerors looked upon Dia De Los Muertos as a pagan ritual. In order to eliminate it, the Spaniards moved it to the dates of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. It failed, and the Aztecs and Mexicans continue to celebrate this holiday. On this day, it is customary to have a feast with the favorite dishes of the lost loved ones. Pan de Muertos, or Bread of the Dead, is a traditional bread that is baked and eaten during this celebration. Mementos are also set out of favorite items of the ones who have passed away. Cemetery visits are also a popular tradition. It is spent in a picnic environment filled with food, music, and sometimes fireworks.

For you Hallowe’en lovers, here’s a quiz that you can take to test your knowledge: http://puzzles.about.com/od/trivia/l/bl_halloweenquiz.htm or take a quiz about monsters: http://puzzles.about.com/od/trivia/l/bl_monsterquiz.htm

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