Wednesday, October 31, 2007
In the UK, Halloween is not a big festival, though in the last ten years Trick or Treat has become more popular. There is much debate in this country as to whether this is a good thing or not, whether it is in fact a commercial farce with business cashing in, whether it is just fun in the community, or whether it is obtaining money with menaces. Rather than debate this though, I thought I would post the following which describes the origins of Halloween and wish my US friends a Happy Halloween. The following is summarised from History.com:
Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. The Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
Celebrations included the building of huge bonfires where animals and crops were burned as sacrifices and the Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory andtwo festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees whose symbol is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st All Saints' Day, a time to honour saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a Christaian holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows and the night before it, began to be called All-hallows Eve, or halloween.
So there you have it, Halloween is in fact an amalgamation of festivals. Happy Halloween to all of you that celebrate it, who like bobbing for apples, dressing up and getting spooky.