Halloween

Halloween (or Hallowe’en) is a holiday celebrated on October 31. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, visiting haunted attractions, carving jack-o'-lanterns, reading scary stories, and watching horror movies. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century. Halloween is celebrated in several countries of the Western world, most commonly in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Japan, the United Kingdom, and at times in parts of Australia and New Zealand. Behind the name... Halloween, or the Hallow E'en as they call it in Ireland , means All Hallows Eve, or the night before the 'All Hallows', also called 'All Hallowmas', or 'All Saints', or 'All Souls' Day, observed on November 1.

In old English the word 'Hallow' meant 'sanctify'. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherians used to observe All Hallows Day to honor all Saints in heaven, known or unknown. They used to consider it with all solemnity as one of the most significant observances of the Church year. And Catholics, all and sundry, was obliged to attend Mass.The Romans observed the holiday of Feralia, intended to give rest and peace to the departed. Participants made sacrifices in honor of the dead, offered up prayers for them, and made oblations to them. The festival was celebrated on February 21, the end of the Roman year. In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints' Day to replace the pagan festival of the dead. It was observed on May 13. Later, Gregory III changed the date to November 1.

In the ninth century, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints' Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were, at that time, celebrated on the same day. Liturgically, the Church traditionally celebrated that day as the Vigil of All Saints, and, until 1970, a day of fasting as well. Like other vigils, it was celebrated on the previous day if it fell on a Sunday, although secular celebrations of the holiday remained on the October 31st. The Vigil was suppressed in 1955, but was later restored in the post-Vatican II calendar. The Greek Orthodox Church observes it on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Despite this connection with the Roman Church, the American version of Halloween Day celebration owes its origin to the ancient (pre-Christian) Druidic fire festival called "Samhain", celebrated by the Celts in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Samhain is pronounced "sow-in", with "sow" rhyming with cow. In Ireland the festival was known as Samhein, or La Samon, the Feast of the Sun. In Scotland, the celebration was known as Hallowe'en. In Welsh it's Nos Galen-gaeof (that is, the Night of the Winter Calends.

According to the Irish English dictionary published by the Irish Texts Society: "Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalizing the close of harvest and the initiation of the winter season, lasting till May, during which troops (esp. the Fiann) were quartered. Faeries were imagined as particularly active at this season. From it the half year is reckoned. also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess). The Scottish Gaelis Dictionary defines it as "Hallowtide. The Feast of All Soula. Sam + Fuin = end of summer." Contrary to the information published by many organizations, there is no archaeological or literary evidence to indicate that Samhain was a deity. The Celtic Gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for the British, and Arawn for the Welsh. The Irish did not have a "lord of death" as such. Thus most of the customs connected with the Day are remnants of the ancient religious beliefs and rituals, first of the Druids and then transcended amongst the Roman Christians who conquered them.

Jack O'Lantern

The carved pumpkin was originally associated with harvest time in general in America and did not become specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century. The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America, where pumpkins were not only readily available but much larger, making them easier to carve than turnips. Many families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and place it on their doorstep after dark. In America, the tradition of carving pumpkins is known to have preceded the Great Famine period of Irish immigration. The carved pumpkin lit by a candle inside is one of Halloween's most prominent symbols in America and is commonly called a jack-o'-lantern.

Originating in Europe, these lanterns were first carved from a turnip or rutabaga. Believing that the head was the most powerful part of the body, containing the spirit and the knowledge, the Celts used the "head" of the vegetable to frighten off any superstitions. The name jack-o'-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old farmer. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night with the only light he had: a candle inside of a hollowed turnip.

One story says, on that day, 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. Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

Celtic's Ritual

Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires was not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic tribes could relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach. Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at the stake who was thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson to the spirits. Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth.

But just think about a bunch of frightening fantasies and the scary stories featuring ghosts, witches, monsters, evils, elves and animal sacrifices associated with it. They are no more innocent. Are these stories a myth or there is a blend of some reality?

(Taken from many sources)



Written By Tripzibit on Nov 3, 2008 | 18:39

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