Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Facts

 Halloween has an interesting history.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, I have copied the following information from Wikipedia.  Enjoy our pagan holiday!  Have plenty of treats on hand so the little devils won't play any tricks.  ;-)



Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise

Halloween has origins in the ancient celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in or sau-an), which is derived from Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end". A similar festival was held by the ancient BritonsCalan Gaeaf (pronounced kalan-geyf). The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half", and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year". and is known as

The celebration has some elements of a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces.

Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual. played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.
Another common practise was divination, which often involved the use of food and drink.

Origin of name

The term Halloween, originally spelled Hallowe’en, is shortened from All Hallows' Evene'en is a shortening of even, which is a shortening of evening. This is ultimately derived from the Old English Eallra Hālgena ǣfen. It is now known as "Eve of" All Saints' Day, which is November 1st.

A time of pagan festivities, Popes Gregory III (731–741) and Gregory IV (827–844) tried to supplant it with the Christian holiday (All Saints' Day) by moving it from May 13 to November 1.

In the 800s, 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 once celebrated on the same day.


A traditional Irish halloween Jack-o'-lantern from the early 20th century on display in the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.

On All Hallows’ eve, the ancient Celts would place a skeleton on their window sill to represent the departed.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 harmful spirits.  Welsh, Irish and British myth are full of legends of the Brazen Head, which may be a folk memory of the widespread ancient Celtic practice of headhunting – the results of which were often nailed to a door lintel or brought to the fireside to speak their wisdom. The name jack-o'-lanternStingy 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. The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America where pumpkins are both readily available and 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. The American tradition of carving pumpkins preceded the Great Famine period of Irish immigration and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 1800s. Originating in Europe, these lanterns were first carved from a can be traced back to the Irish legend of

The imagery surrounding Halloween is largely a mix of the Halloween season itself, works of Gothic and horror literature, in particular novels Frankenstein and Dracula, and nearly a century of work from American filmmakers and graphic artists, and British Hammer Horror productions, also a rather commercialized take on the dark and mysterious. Halloween imagery tends to involve death, evil, the occult, magic, or mythical monsters. Traditional characters include the Devil, the Grim Reaper, ghosts, ghouls, demons, witches, goblins, vampires, werewolves, zombies, skeletons, black cats, spiders, bats, and crows.

Particularly in America, symbolism is inspired by classic horror films (which contain fictional figures like Frankenstein's monster and The Mummy). Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks, and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween.
The two main colors associated with Halloween are orange and black.

Trick-or-treating and guising

Typical Halloween scene in Dublin, Ireland.

Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, "Trick or treat?" The word "trick" refers to a (mostly idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. In some parts of Ireland and Scotland children still go guising. In this custom the child performs some sort of show, i.e. sings a song or tells a ghost story, in order to earn their treats.


Hattie said...

The Devil's work. (Only kidding)
I'm working on my costume. Are you?

kenju said...

WOW. I only knew some of that. I can't believe you did all that linking!!

Looking to the Stars said...

Great post! I enjoyed it a lot. When I was around 8, I went to a door and the man said, "you have to do a trick" I didn't understand. He said I should learn the history of Halloween. His wife gave us the candy and gave him a few choice words. But I asked my foster father about it and he told me what it meant. I was ready for next time. But no one every said that to me again :)

Darlene said...

*Hattie - I was thinking of taking off my clothes and going as a wrinkled shirt. ;-) Seriously, no costume for me as no one will see me.

*Kenju - I must confess; I did not do the linking. It was in the article and I just copied it.

*Looking to the Stars - Tee Hee! We always are prepared after the fact.

Rain said...

We never have any trick-or-treaters at the farm. When I spent a Halloween of two in Tucson, I thought I'd get some, but I ended up with a lot of leftover candy as none came up our cul-de-sac. Our gravel driveway would have been even trickier, I guess. The stores seemed to have the most hitting them.

Tabor said...

I did learn some new stuff. That walking between the bonfires sounds festive...! No trick or treaters here any year. Sometimes I go up and spend Halloween with grandkids, but I think I will enjoy my aloneness a little longer this year.

Darlene said...

*Rain - I didn't have a single trick-or-treater here last year either. But I bought a bag of candy for this year just in case. Guess who will be eating it?

* Tabor - I'll bet you weaken and go spend it with the grandkids after all. Like Christmas, Halloween is for children. --Or the kid in us ;)

Baino said...

Hi Darlene. Your blog just hates sitting in my reader! Interesting stuff on Halloween. Fire cleansing is a very multicultural idea. Out aboriginal population also practice it as a method of spiritual cleansing pretty much before any important event. I think it's funny that although Halloween is a Celtic celebration, the Americans have taken it many steps further as it's barely celebrated in Europe or the South Pacific and Trick or Treating is definitely an American Twist!

Darlene said...

*Baino - I think fire and water were very important symbols for all early religions. Nature figures in somehow in most rituals.

Joy Des Jardins said...

Well thanks for all that info Darlene...I was aware of some of that; but you filled me in on quite a lot I didn't know. Hugs...

Darlene said...

*Joy - There was a lot I didn't know either.