Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Everything you've always wanted to know about Halloween but were afraid to ask...

Tarek Amr suggested that I write a post about Halloween because not everyone is familiar with the annual celebration. So Tarek this one’s for you it may be a day late but it's the thought that counts...

The holiday we know as Halloween is one of the oldest holidays its origins go back thousands of years and has had many influences from many cultures over the centuries. From the Roman's Pomona Day, to the Celtic festival of Samhain, to the Christian holidays of All Saints and All Souls Days.

However Halloween originated with the ancient celts, but the word Halloween itself has its origins in the Catholic Church. It is derived from All Hallows Eve.It's one of the oldest holidays with origins going back thousands of years. The Celts lived hundreds of years ago in what is now Great Britain and Northern France. They worshipped nature and had many gods. The sun god was their favorite because he was the one who made the earth beautiful and gave life to the crops.

November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.
On that day the Celts believed that the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.

In order to avoid being possessed by the spirits the Celts would on October 31st would put out the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. Then they would then dress up in scary and ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood. They would also be as destructive as possible in order to frighten away the spirits that were looking for bodies to possess. After October 31st all of the Celtic tribes would relight their fires from a common source, the Druid fire that was kept burning in the middle of Ireland at Usinach.

The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the other Roman traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween. As time progressed and people stopped believing in spirit possession the celebration of Halloween became more ritualized and the practice of wearing costumes took on a more ceremonial role.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants.
The custom of trick-or-treating originated with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could speed up a soul's passage to heaven.

The Jack-o-lantern custom came from an Irish folktale.
A man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, decided to get even with Satan for tempting him. He tricked Satan into climbing a tree and then carved a cross into the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack then made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree. The devil agreed but never forgot Jack’s trick.

When Jack died, he wasn’t allowed to enter heaven because of the life he had led on earth. He was also barred from hell because of the trick he had played on the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer. The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were easier to come across than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America became a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember instead of a turnip.

Even though a lot of people now adays associate the Halloween with the worshipping of witches and evil the holiday itself was not born out of evil. It was actually born of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. Now adays here in America it’s a the time of year when kids wear their favorite costumes and go begging door to door for candy…Trick or treat. You give them a treat (candy) and the wont play a trick on you. The kids make out like bandits on this day collecting enough free candy to keep dentists all over America happy as all heck! Here in New York we have a parade to rival all parades witches. Ghouls and President Bush all walking along the parade route in Greenwhich Village.

I hope this post was informative to all of you who didn’t know the score about Halloween…I’m going back to eating my candy now , my cousin just handed me a bag of Swedish fishes… I am on a sugar rush that I won't be coming off of for days!


Posted by @ 11:54 PM
1 comment from: Blogger Emory,