Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy halloween

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

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.


Little Miss Muffet said...

I think Halloween is a pretty cool festival where everybody even adults can just relax and have fun...and the kids look so adoreable in their costumes!!

Shephard said...

It's a rich heritage filled with disparate influences. Like all holidays, commercialism thrives... but it's a very festive commercialism. To be candid, ole Pope Boney-Face can just bite my rump... I prefer Halloween to some stodgy saints day (mischievous wink).

R. Sherman said...

Of course, here it means grown up adult courthouse employees wearing costumes on trial days. Me? I dressed like a lawyer, thank you.


Sarch said...

Thanks for the info BK.
Years ago we stopped the Trick or Treat gig and started attending the Fall Festival at our church. No concern for the kids and candy they received that way. Now I don't even have any kiddos who are young enough to go trick or treating....when did that happen?

Been a while since I've logged in to Blogger. Sorry to hear things have been rough. I know you'll bounce back. You're a strong person and God is there to help when asked.

Thinking 'bout ya BK

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Cool stuff, Bob-Kat. Thanks for teaching me something new tonight!

Ps said...

happy halloween.We dont have that in india!

carli said...

I don't celebrate it now, but I cannot imagine childhood without it! Then again, we don't really do Boxing Day.

Here from Michele.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Yes, it's a pity that Halloween isn't bigger here in Britain.

Michele sent me.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I always thought Halloween was a lot of fun, before it got sooo damn commercial...The innocents of those times is gone, I'm sorry to say.

Sleeping Mommy said...

I love the history behind holidays. Thanks for reminding us all.

Oh and Hello, Michele sent me!

Niall said...

It's funny how we are apt to accept 'traditional'festivals as having always been with us. the origins as you so wonderfully show here are often not known.Of course commercialism is real vampire behind the shadows a few weeks it will shed it's black cloak and don a red and white one.

David said...

i am spooky enough with out getting dressed up.
this week I have not even had time to shave my face.

rashbre said...

I like the way the Brits have taken all manner of festivals from ancient times and seen them re-purposed by religions and similar. Most of the festivals seem to have ancient origins that pre-date Christianity.

Interesting that most of Europe still gets a holiday for All Saints day, whilst the Brits moved it to Guy Fawke's and lost a day off as a consequence.

gautami tripathy said...

Thanks for the update. I learnt something new from it.

Michele sent me back!

ribbiticus said...

didn't go to a halloween party this year coz i didn't feel up to it. hope you enjoyed yours, though.

passin' through courtesy of michele. ;)

utenzi said...

Michele sent me over again, B-K.

I was familiar with most of the history of Halloween that you mentioned here with the exception of Feralia. I don't think I'd come across that before.

I can understand why there'd be debate over the commercial aspects of celebrating the holiday in the way we do over here in the States. It's fun but it comes with a pack of trouble too.

Julie Schuler said...

We had a huge number of trick or treaters this year. I love it. I don't love the greedy grown-ups who come around collecting candy for floppy-headed infants. I give them a good frowning upon.