What is Halloween Really?
There are so many 'versions' of Halloween that it's hard to figure out exactly what the holiday is. Is it the celebration of the devil, or death? Is it just a silly little excuse to give candy to kids? Is it a big dress up party? Perhaps Halloween is all those things. Hopefully by the end of this Hub you will know exactly what Halloween is.
Books Related to Samhain
The Celts and Hallowe'en - The Origin
Lets start by defining the word 'Halloween.' Halloween comes from All Hallows Eve, the day before All Hallows Day/All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1. All Hallows Day or All Saints day is a day in which members of the Catholic faith honour the saints. In Ireland, summer officially ended on the 31st of October and their holiday was called Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which is the Celtic New Year.
On the night of October 31st, the Celts believed that the boundary between the living and the dead became blurred and that ghosts returned to earth. They believed that the spirits caused mischief but also enabled Celtic priests called Druids to make futuristic predictions and prophecies. To commemorate the event, people gathered around large bonfires built by Druids, to burn crops and sacrifice animals. During this event, the Celts wore costumes - usually animal heads and skins.
When the Celts returns home, the extinguished their hearths to make their homes cold and undesirable, to ward off spirits and prevent possession. The reason why the wore ghoulish costumes was also for the purpose of keeping ghosts away from their bodies.
Books Related to Feralia and Pomona
The Romans' Hallow Adaption
In 43 A.D, the roman festivals of Feralia and Pomona were adapted from the traditional Samhain celebration. Feralia was held in late October when Romans observed their deceased loved ones. During Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees was honoured - which may explain the modern-day 'bobbing for apples' on Halloween.
The belief in spirit possession faded away and dressing up ghoulishly became more ritualized and ceremonial.
The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840s by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.
Christianity and Alholowmesse
In the 800s, Christianity had spread throughout the Celtic lands and in the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st as All Saints' Day. All Saints' Day was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (Alholowmesse - meaning All Saints' Day). The name Samhain was replaced with All-hallows Eve and then Halloween.
In 1000 A.D., November 2nd became 'All Souls' Day' - a day of honouring the dead, similar to Samhain with bonfires and the like. People dressed as demons, angels and saints, keeping the costume tradition alive.
Trick or Soul Cake!
Trick-or-treating is said to have possibly originated with European 'souling' in the 9th century. On All Souls' Day (Nov. 2) Christians used to walk from village to village, asking for soul cakes - square pieces of bread with currants - and the more they received, the more prays promised for dead relatives of the soul cake givers.
Christians believed that deceased ones remained 'in limbo' for some time after death. Prayer was said to free the loved one's soul and give them passage to heaven.
During All Souls' Day parades in England, the poor used to bed for food and families would give them soul cakes in exchange for prayers for their deceased loved ones. Giving out soul cakes was supposed to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for spirits that roamed the earthly realm. Even children would walk around the village and ask for soul cakes.
More Hallow Adaptations
Just as in Celtic Ireland, dressing up for Halloween in Europe was to prevent spirit encounters and possession. Europeans believed that if they left their homes and were recognised by ghosts that the spirits will occupy their bodies. As a result, people wore masks when leaving the house.
Different European customs and Native American customs were mashed together to form the American version of Halloween. 'Play parties' - public events to celebrate the harvest - was the first celebration of Halloween in American. Neighbours shared stories about the dead, sang, dance and told each other's fortunes. Ghost stories and making mischief during the night became common but by the middle of the 19th century, the modern-day Halloween still wasn't celebrated throughout the country.
During the second half of the 19th century, there was a huge increase of immigration to the US. Many of the immigrants were from Ireland - fleeing the 1846 potato famine. Under the Irish influence, Americans began wearing costumes for Halloween and walking around the neighbourhood seeking food or money - the beginnings of the trick-or-treat tradition.
Who's Jack O'Lantern?
There is an Irish folklore that tells of a notorious drunkard and trickster named Jack. Jack even managed to trick Satan into climbing a tree and then he carved an image of a cross on the trunk of the tree, therefore trapping the devil there. Jack's deal with the devil was that he could never tempt him again then he'd let him down from the tree.
When Jack died, he wasn't allowed into Heaven because of his evil ways but he wasn't allowed into hell because the devil was cross with him. Instead of letting Jack into hell, the devil gave him an ember to light his way through the cold and the dark. The ember was put int a hallowed-out turnip so that it would glow longer.
Originally, Jack's lanterns were made out of turnips by the Irish but after the Irish immigrated to America, they began using pumpkins - which were more abundant in America.
Modern-day American Halloween
In the late 1800s, Halloween became a holiday about community and get-togethers in America. Halloween parties became the most common form of celebration and parents were encouraged to take the ghoulish aspect out of Halloween. Most of the superstitious and religious aspects were gone by the beginning of the 20th century and by the 1920s and 30s, Halloween was completely centered around the community.
Vandalism became a serious issue around Halloween time and by the 50s, parties moved into the classrooms and homes to prevent town-wide chaos that will facilitate vandalism. Trick-or-treating came back and helped aid in vandalism - a negation to either supply a treat or be vandalized.
Halloween and the Occult
Halloween has become a secular celebration, therefore not acceptable to Christianity. In the view of many Christians, Halloween is still associated with evil and with the supernatural. Some Christians believe the the holiday is Satanic and should be avoided at all costs.
Other Christians still associate the holiday with All Saints Day and ignore other secular customs.
Many occult groups including Wickens and Satan worshipers see Halloween as the most important day of the year to carry on their occult deeds. Therefore, there is still a terribly dark aspect of Halloween - which continues to discourage Christians about celebrating Halloween.
So Is Halloween Evil?
Despite the light-hearted celebration Halloween has became in Western civilization, because of the many ties to the dead and to the occult, Halloween is still seen as evil. To many, Halloween is just a fun little day for the kids but for most serious Christians, Halloween is potentially dangerous because it gives greater access for evil spirits to influence children by seeming 'harmless.'
Personally, I do not celebrate Halloween nor do I care to. I've never done the whole trick-or-treating thing but I always manage to get a bag of candy from a family friend. So... that's just me. It's up to you to decided whether or not you want to celebrate Halloween.
Thanks for reading!
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